Saturday, December 31, 2005

Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists

First, a happy New Year to you and yours! Here is a news item on Science journal's naming of Darwinian evolution as the breakthrough of the year 2005 (that's funny, I thought Darwinian evolution was the breakthrough of the year 1859)! :-) My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists, The Independent, 29 December 2005, Steve Connor ... 23 December 2005 American scientists have cocked a snook at new-age creationists who peddle the idea of intelligent design by voting Darwinian evolution as breakthrough of the year. [See also BBC, Livescience, MSNBC & USA Today. Again, this is simply false to claim that that intelligent design is creationism. See my new ID FAQ: 1) Unlike creationism ... ID is based solely on the evidence of nature; 2) Leading creationist organisations recognise that ID is not creationism; & 3) Critics of ID falsely conflate it with creationism ... to ... discredit ID.]

The editors of the journal Science said several studies published in 2005 have shown beyond any doubt how evolution underpins all aspects of modern biology. [Since "evolution" is the only explanation allowed, then by definition it "underpins all aspects of modern biology"! But the real issue is whether "evolution" is true? That is, if by "evolution" is meant, "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'":

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept 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)
and if Christianity is true (which it is), then "evolution", as so defined, would then be false.]

"Painstaking field observations shed new light on how populations diverge to form new species -the mystery of mysteries that baffled Darwin himself," they wrote. "Ironically, also this year some segments of American society fought to dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution. [By "dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution" they presumably mean teaching the controversy, including teaching students "the main scientific arguments for and against Darwinian theory."]

With all this in mind, Science has decided to put Darwin in the spotlight by saluting several dramatic discoveries, each of which reveals the laws of evolution in action." [This is just hype. There is nothing "dramatic" in these discoveries-they are just normal, incremental, scientific discoveries. Quite clearly, the scientific establishment is worried that the polls (e.g. CBS, Pew, and Zogby) consistently show that the majority of the public don't accept the "the standard scientific theory" of evolution above and want both evolution and its main alternatives (including ID) taught in schools.]

In 2005, scientists decoded the genome of the chimpanzee to confirm that the chimp is our closest living relative, descended from a common ancestor. [This is hardly a "dramatic discovery"! It was confirmed in 1975 (i.e. over thirty years ago), that "the chimpanzee ... is our closest living relative, descended from a common ancestor", in that we share ~99% of our proteins and DNA:

"Both estimates indicate that the average human protein is more than 99 percent identical in amino acid sequence to its chimpanzee homolog ... the nucleic acid sequence difference of human and chimpanzee DNA is about 1.1 percent." (King M.-C. & Wilson A.C., "Evolution at Two Levels in Humans and Chimpanzees," Science, 11 April 1975, Vol. 188, p.112)
But this only confirms common ancestry, which is not necessarily evolution. And, apart from some leading IDists like Mike Behe (and mere foot-soldiers like me) accepting common ancestry:
"I want to be explicit about what I am, and am not, questioning. The word `evolution' carries many associations. Usually it means common descent - the idea that all organisms living and dead are related by common ancestry. I have no quarrel with the idea of common descent, and continue to think it explains similarities among species. By itself, however, common descent doesn't explain the vast differences among species." (Behe M.J., "Darwin Under the Microscope", New York Times, October 29, 1996)
ID theorist Bill Dembski has pointed out that "intelligent design is compatible with ... all organisms in... one great tree of life":
"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)]

Other researchers sequenced the genome of the 1918 flu virus retrieved from the frozen corpse of an Alaskan victim of the pandemic. A second team of scientists used the sequence to rebuild the virus in the laboratory in order to analyse why it was so deadly. They also found that it had evolved directly from a bird flu virus. "Understanding the evolution of last century's deadly bird flu may help us to predict and cope with the current bird flu threat," said the Science editors. [Again, this is hardly a "dramatic discovery" that a "1918 flu virus" is related to a modern flu virus!]

Other studies showed how small changes or mutations in the DNA of a species can result in dramatic evolutionary transformations, such as the creation of two species from one. "Researchers found that a single genetic change can be all it takes to turn one species into many, as in the case of the Alaskan stickleback fish that lost its armour and evolved from an ocean-loving species to a variety of landlocked lake dwellers," the journal said. David Kingsley, professor of developmental biology at Stanford University in California, said the stickleback research in 15 different species of fish showed for the first time that a single genetic mutation was responsible for evolutionary changes. [I have no problem with this if it was true, since from beginning to end it is still a stickleback fish. But the actual article (Pennisi E., "Changing a Fish's Bony Armor in the Wink of a Gene, Science, Vol 304, 18 June 2004, pp.1736-1739) does not say that, "a single genetic mutation was responsible for evolutionary changes. It says:

"This new research adds weight to a provocative idea that a little DNA-perhaps just a single gene-can control many traits that affect an organism's ability to thrive" (p.1736); "A gene or set of nearby genes is causing the loss of certain parts of the fish's armor" (p.1737); "Although the DNA sequence has not been identified, `it could well be the same gene everywhere'" (p.1738); "a change in the gene's regulation-and not in the gene itself- caused the lake sticklebacks to lose their spines" (p.1739). (My emphasis)
And the freshwater and saltwater sticklebacks are not even different species (according to the usual biological species concept definition of "species"), since they can interbreed:
"`These remarkably divergent populations have created a unique resource,' in part because freshwater and saltwater populations can interbreed." (p.1737) (My emphasis)
And finally, far from supporting "Darwinian evolution", this further discredits it:
"Since the 1930s, the prevailing view has been that evolution moves in a slow shuffle, advancing in small increments, propelled by numerous, minor genetic changes. But some have challenged this dogma, notably H. Allen Orr, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Rochester in New York. . In 1992, he and his colleagues argued that just a few genes, perhaps even one, could power long-term change" (p.1736).
"Now that "prevailing view" since "the 1930s" is of course none other than Neo-Darwinism! That this is so, is evident in what Orr wrote in "1992":
"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)
So it is either incompetence, or dishonesty, to tout these three examples, particularly the third, in support of "Darwinian evolution as breakthrough of the year".]

"People who believe in intelligent design argue that such major changes cannot come about through Darwinian evolution but this is obviously false, said Professor Kingsley. ["People who believe in intelligent design" would not even call these "major changes" since they are (as Kingsley himself says in this paper), within a species (Gasterosteus aculeatus):

"The threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus offers a unique biological opportunity for detailed study of the genomic and genetic basis of species differences in vertebrates. This small marine fish has undergone one of the most recent and dramatic adaptive radiations on earth Sticklebacks normally live in the ocean but migrate into freshwater streams and lakes every spring to breed. At the end of the last Ice Age, widespread melting of glaciers led to dramatic changes in sea level and land elevation. As a result of this global climate change, tens of thousands of new freshwater lakes and streams were created in formerly ice-covered regions throughout the Northern hemisphere. Ocean sticklebacks colonized many of these newly created lakes and streams, and in many cases became isolated in new environments following the end of widespread melting and subsequent land elevation. These newly established populations have diverged over the course of only 10 to 15,000 years in response to different ecological conditions in each lake and stream, including large differences water temperature, depth, color, and salinity; food sources; predators; day length; and seasonal stability of different environments. Thousands of evolutionary experiments throughout the Northern Hemisphere have since given rise to new populations of sticklebacks with marked changes in body size, body shape, feeding specializations, size and pattern of skeletal structures, presence or absence of defensive armor, salinity tolerance, temperature preference, parasite resistance, lifespan, and behavior. These differences are as large as those normally seen between different species or genuses of animals, and the divergent stickleback types were originally classified as over 40 different species. Although many of the specialized forms are known be reproductively isolated even when in contact with each other (a formal definition of species), the reproductive barriers between forms are largely either behavior or mechanical. As a result, fully viable and fertile F1 and F2 hybrids between most forms can be generated using laboratory matings or in vitro fertilization. The ability to generate crosses between widely different forms provides an unprecedented opportunity to use formal genetic analysis to study the number and location of genomic that underlie evolution of natural species differences in a vertebrate system" (Kingsley D., "Sequencing the genome of threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus)," 20 September 2005.
i.e. microevolution. Nor would they have a problem if "Darwinian evolution" could explain them, but in fact, as the Science article itself indicates, "Darwinian evolution" (i.e. "the prevailing view [since the 1930s that] ..."evolution moves in a slow shuffle, advancing in small increments, propelled by numerous, minor genetic changes") could not explain them. ]

"Sticklebacks with major changes in skeletal armour and fin structures are thriving in natural environments. And the major differences between forms can now be traced to particular genes." [Leaving aside the exaggeration of "major" - they are after all still classified as variants of the one species, Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) - IDists do not dispute that "differences between forms can ... be traced to particular genes." This is another example of the Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis, i.e. purporting to refute ID with examples that ID has never disputed, while failing to address what ID has disputed, e.g. the bacterial flagellar rotary motor, the vertebrate blood-clotting cascade. I will add a summary of the above to a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Ignoratio elenchi (irrelevant thesis, conclusion) ]

The editors of Science wrote: "Today, evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted." ... [Darwinists rarely (if ever) define what exactly they mean by "evolution", which is both a tactic making it impossible to falsify a claim like "evolution is the foundation of all biology", but also I am sure evolutionists themselves don't know what they mean by such claims! Here is another quote by Ernst Mayr, this time under the heading, "The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution', pointing out that Darwin had at least "five major theories relating to different aspects of ... evolution":

"The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution' ... Darwin's Origin of Species established five major theories relating to different aspects of variational evolution: (1) that organisms steadily evolve over time (this we might designate as the theory of evolution as such), (2) that different kinds of organisms descended from a common ancestor (the theory of common descent), (3) that species multiply over time (the theory of the multiplication of species, or speciation), (4) that evolution takes place through the gradual change of populations (the theory of gradualism), (5) and that the mechanism of evolution is the competition among vast numbers of unique individuals for limited resources, which leads to differences in survival and reproduction (the theory of natural selection)." (Mayr E.W., "This is Biology: The Science of the Living World," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1997, Sixth printing, 1998, pp.176-178. Emphasis original)
I have added this and the previous quote by Mayr to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Equivocation (fallacy of ambiguity).]

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins #2

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins, Beliefnet, 15 December 2005. The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend. Interview by Laura Sheahen.

Continued from part #1 with my comments (bold and in square brackets) on an interview with Richard Dawkins. The interviewer's questions are bold and in italics.

You said in a recent speech that design was not the only alternative to chance. A lot of people think that evolution is all about random chance.

That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous. Mutation is random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed. Natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don't survive. That's a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do-hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging-whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It's because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming. [Dawkins, after a bit of bluster, "That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous," commits the fallacy of equivocation on the word "random," i.e. "allow[ing] a key word in an argument to shift its meaning in the course of the argument":

"To commit the fallacy of equivocation is to allow a key word in an argument to shift its meaning in the course of the argument. 'Equivocation is from the Latin for, literally, "equal" (equi) "voice" (vox). A word is used univocally if it has the same meaning throughout a given context, equivocally if one or more other meanings are equally possible. ...When the change in meaning of a key word during an argument is especially subtle, the conclusion will seem to follow clearly from the premises and the argument will appear considerably more sound than it is. ... The fallacy of equivocation is especially easy to commit when a key term in an argument happens to be a figure of speech or a metaphor. By interpreting the metaphor literally we sometimes persuade ourselves that an argument is sounder than it is. ...Equivocation is not confined to figurative expressions, for the vast majority of our words have more than one meaning, any of which can occasion the fallacy. " (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York, Fourth Edition, 1990, pp.97-98).
That is, Dawkins is asked, in effect, whether "evolution" is "random" in the sense of "chance". He first defines "random" in the sense of "not anticipatory of what's needed" and then says "Natural selection is anything but random." Now natural selection also is "random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed." Remember, it was Dawkins himself who coined the term "the blind watchmaker" (emphasis his), to make the point that, "Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process ... has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all" (my emphasis):
"Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between telescope and eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," W.W Norton & Co: New York, 1986, p.5. Emphasis original).
So by Dawkins' own definition of "random," namely "not anticipatory of what's needed," natural selection is "random."

Dawkins also commits the fallacy of equivocation on the word "guided". There clearly is a vast difference between "guided" in the sense of "by [a] ... higher power" and "guided" by a "blind, unconscious, automatic process" that "has no purpose in mind. ... has no mind and no mind's eye. ... does not plan for the future. ... has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all"! I have added the above examples to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Equivocation."

Also, It should also be pointed out that, as Dawkins well knows but he rarely mentions, it is not just "natural selection" but the natural selection of random mutations. In other words, natural selection is utterly dependent on what random mutations supply it with. This is clear in another quote by Dawkins in which he explains the lack of a lens in the eye of Nautilus as due to "the necessary mutations cannot arise":

"Actually, Nautilus is a bit of a puzzle in its own right. Why, in all the hundreds of millions of years since its ancestors first evolved a pinhole eye, did it never discover the principle of the lens? The advantage of a lens is that it allows the image to be both sharp and bright. What is worrying about Nautilus is that the quality of its retina suggests that it would really benefit, greatly and immediately, from a lens. It is like a hi-fi system with an excellent amplifier fed by a gramophone with a blunt needle. The system is crying out for a particular simple change. In genetic hyperspace, Nautilus appears to be sitting right next door to an obvious and immediate improvement, yet it doesn't take the small step necessary. Why not? Michael Land of Sussex University, our foremost authority on invertebrate eyes, is worried, and so am I. Is it that the necessary mutations cannot arise, given the way Nautilus embryos develop? I don't want to believe it, but I don't have a better explanation." (Ibid, pp.85-86)
Now since natural selection (i.e. differential reproduction) is utterly dependent on random mutations, then "evolution" (the question that Dawkins was actually asked) is not "anything but random." So Dawkins is deceiving himself (or worse) and his readers, by his own wanting-to-have-it-both-ways rhetoric.]

There are intelligent people who have been taught good science and evolution, and who may choose to believe in something religious that may seem to fly in the face of science. What do you make of that?

It's certainly hard to know what to make of it. I think it's a betrayal of science. I think they have a religious agenda which, for reasons best known to themselves, they elevate above science. [Note that neither the interviewer, nor Dawkins, defines what this "something religious that may seem to fly in the face of science" is. Both she seems to, and Dawkins the atheist does, take it for granted that the "something religious" is false and the "science" that it "seem[s] to fly in the face of" is true. But of course if Christianity is true (which it is) then it is the task of science and scientists like Dawkins to adjust itself to that truth, e.g. that the twin philosophical pillars underpinning Darwinism, namely Materialism (i.e. matter is all there is = there is no God) and Naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is = there is no supernatural= there is no God), are false . If science and scientists don't adjust to that truth, that is a "a betrayal of science" due to an anti-" religious agenda which ... they elevate above science"!]

What are your thoughts about the despair some people feel when they ponder natural selection and random mutation?

The idea of evolution and natural selection makes some people feel that everything is meaningless--people's individual lives and life in general. If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. [No doubt there are some people who have felt "despair" when they "ponder[ed] natural selection and random mutation," but I never have. As I stated in my webbed testimony:

I would have no problem even if Darwinian evolution was proved to be 100% true, because the God of the Bible is fully in control of all events, even those that seem random to man (Prov. 16:33; 1Kings 22:34). Jesus said that not even one sparrow will die unless God wills it (Mat. 10:29-30), which means that God is fully in control of natural selection. But if the Biblical God really exists there is no good reason to assume in advance that Darwinian (or any form of) naturalistic evolution is true!
And of course the same answer applies to Dawkins and his atheistic ilk in respect of Christianity being true: If it's true that it causes [some] people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth"!]

The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it. However, I don't think it should make one feel depressed. I don't feel depressed. I feel elated. [I have read somewhere, words to the effect, that it is all very well a rich and famous Oxford professor, married to a beautiful, titled, actress, as Dawkins is, to "feel elated" at a meaningless universe, but a Third World peasant with he and his family and friends caught in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, hunger and disease, might think differently about this life being all there is. And while the "universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation ... [or] a nice warm feeling inside" (how could it?) that does not mean that the Creator of the universe cannot give His free gift of "consolation" (Rev 7:17) to those who will accept it (John 1:12), which gives me (and hundreds of millions of Christians like me) "a nice warm feeling inside," that is based, not just on ephemeral feelings, but on objective fact (1 Cor. 15:12-20)!]

My book, "Unweaving the Rainbow," is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be-in a funny sort of way-rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life--these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. It makes my life worthwhile to study them. [This is the same Dawkins who has just admitted that "everything is meaningless," and wrote that, "there is, at bottom ... no purpose":

"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: `For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.' DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music." (Dawkins R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, p.155. Emphasis in original)
who is trying to smuggle spirituality, inspiration and worth back into his meaningless materialistic universe. But then it is the same Dawkins who exulted over "apparent design":
"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." (Dawkins R., "Interview," in Campbell N.A., Reece J.B. & Mitchell L.G., "Biology," [1987], Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, p.412)
as a substitute for the real thing, like a man dying of thirst in a desert exulting over a mirage of a lake! Quite frankly I feel sorry for Dawkins, prevented by his materialist philosophy from affirming real spirituality and real design. Maybe that is why, instead of mellowing with age towards religion in general, and Christianity in particular, Dawkins' "attention has swung from writing about science for a popular audience to waging an all-out attack on Christianity":
"In the meanwhile, Dawkins went on to produce a series of brilliant and provocative books, each of which I devoured with interest and admiration. ... Yet the tone and focus of his writing changed. As philosopher Michael Ruse pointed out in a review of The Devil's Chaplain, Dawkins' "attention has swung from writing about science for a popular audience to waging an all-out attack on Christianity." [Ruse M.E., "Through a Glass, Darkly," American Scientist, Vol. 91, November-December 2003, pp.554-556] The brilliant scientific popularizer became a savage anti-religious polemicist, preaching rather than arguing (or so it seemed to me) his case." (McGrath A.E., "Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life," Blackwell: Malden MA, 2005, pp.8-9)
That is, Dawkins is frustrated that in his sixties, he has found that his scientific materialist `god' has failed to meet his deepest needs, so he takes out his bitterness and rage on what he subconsciously recognises as the God that could!]

[Continued in part #3]

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

`Intelligent design' movement dealt a blow, but not mortally wounded

Further criticism of Judge Jones' flawed ruling in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) trial. Some of this is getting a bit stale because of the Christmas break. My comments are bold and in square brackets. There are hundreds of articles that slavishly follow each other in claiming that Judge Jones has proved that ID is religion, not science. None of these journalists seem to consider that Judge Jones is, after all, just a lawyer. So whence came Judge Jones' infallible understanding of ID, science and religion, such that he can infallibly pronounce that ID is not science, but religion? It seems that all those philosophers of science who over the last several decades have reached a near-consensus, that it is impossible to define in a principled, objective, way what is, and is not, "science", have all wasted their time. All they need now to do is ask Judge John E. Jones, and he will infallibly rule on their questions! :-) So I propose to ignore those wishful thinking, `follow the herd' articles since they will inevitably run out of steam and then their authors will start to notice that their reports of ID's death have been greatly exaggerated and indeed ID is very much alive!

Evolution debate moving to new battlegrounds: `Intelligent design' movement dealt a blow, but not mortally wounded, MSNBC, Alan Boyle, Dec. 20, 2005 Mainstream science groups hailed Tuesday's "intelligent-design" ruling as a slam-dunk for evolution. The judge in the case took extra pains to lay out a legal view of science vs. religion, saying he hoped it would head off the "obvious waste of judicial and other resources" on yet another court challenge. But even Darwin's staunchest defenders acknowledge that the legal battle over intelligent design, or ID, is shifting to new grounds. ID's proponents are already reshaping their arguments as a case of academic freedom vs. an overreaching "activist federal judge." [On "overreaching "activist federal judge" see John West's excellent blog posts:"Dover in Review, Part 1: Is Judge Jones an activist judge?" and "Dover in Review, pt. 2: Did Judge Jones read the evidence submitted to him in the Dover trial?" I expect that when the dust has settled, it will not just be IDists who consider that Judge Jones overreached himself in presuming that he could infallibly define what is "science" and "religion" and then decree that ID is the latter. I would not be surprised if he comes under criticism by philosophers of science and his own legal profession, as the next article points out. As for "activist federal judge", Judge Jones himself expected that criticism, "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge"!]

"Let no one think this debate is over. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that this debate is never over," said Casey Luskin, an attorney at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which came in for criticism in the ruling from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III. [Which is interesting since Discovery Institute itself was not even a party to the trial having publicly called the Dover policy "misguided" and requesting its "withdrawal".]

...The defenders of evolutionary theory gushed over the opinion during a celebratory news conference in Harrisburg, Pa. "This decision is a major victory for science, and a major victory for science education," Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, told reporters. The judge could have issued a much narrower opinion, finding merely that the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania acted with a religious purpose when it required biology teachers to refer to intelligent design. While that was indeed part of the ruling, much more of the 139-page opinion was devoted to the proposition that intelligent design was repackaged creationism rather than science. [Judge Jones is simply wrong on that. Creationism is based on the Bible but ID is based solely on the evidence of nature. Historian Ronald L. Numbers, an authority on creationism. admits that "the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement. But ... its `the easiest way to discredit intelligent design'!]

At times, Jones sounded more like a biology professor than a judge - for example, when he countered the view that some biological mechanisms were irreducibly complex by referring to "exaptation," the idea that a mechanism that was developed for one purpose could be adapted to another [Which goes to show that Jones had his own strongly preconceived ideas about evolution and ID and so the expert witness testimony of Mike Behe, Stephen Fuller and Scott Minnich was simply a waste of time-Judge Jones had his mind already made up before the trial started! It is not up to Judge Jones to offer his own off-the-cuff explanation of an "irreducibly complex" system as an "exaptation". It is the scientific community's task to make that counter-explanation - if they can. As Mike Behe noted in The New York Times:

"That was a real drag," said Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University who was the star witness for the intelligent design side. "I think he really went way over what he as a judge is entitled to say." Dr. Behe added: "He talks about the ground rules of science. What has a judge to do with the ground rules of science? I think he just chose sides and echoed the arguments and just made assertions about our arguments."]

.... "In my opinion, this decision is unconstitutional," Luskin [said] interview. "The government has no business telling people how they should perceive evolution and religion." [Agreed. The First Amendment says that Congress shall not establish a State religion. It is absurd to twist that into a school board requiring the reading of a 1-minute statement before an evolution class, informing students that there are problems with the theory of evolution and there is ID material in the library for any student who is interested in an alternative, is Congress establishing a religion!]

A statement from John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, struck a similar tone: "The Dover decision is to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work." [If the emphasis in on stop then the Darwinist (and I include Judge Jones as a Darwinist) tactics won't work. But such tactics can slow ID's progress, as in fact the ACLU admits below.]

.... "It is our hope that today's decision will slow other school districts who might be thinking about moving forward" with ID-friendly policies, said Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania. [Since polls (e.g. CBS, Pew, Zogby) consistently show that the majority want alternatives to evolution (including ID) taught in schools, the ACLU is using the tactics of legal intimidation to deny Americans their First Amendment right to free speech.]

Eric Rothschild, another member of the plaintiffs' legal team, noted that through the years, the legal challenges to evolution education have been mounted in the name of creationism, then creation science, then intelligent design. "We expect another change in labels," he said, "whether it's 'sudden appearance,' or this 'teach the controversy' thing." [Rothschild is deluding himself (or worse). ID is not, and never was, "creationism" or "creation science", irrespective of what the ACLU, NCSE, Judge Jones, and their Darwinist ilk, claim. Therefore there will be no change of ID's name.]

With the Dover case done, the political spotlight is now likely to shift to Georgia, where a suburban Atlanta school district is challenging a federal ban on textbook stickers questioning evolution; and Kansas, where the state school board recently endorsed ID-friendly curriculum standards. But new legal frontiers could well open up in the months to come. [Indeed, since Dover was just a District Court case, it is not binding on any other State, and other legal cases could ignore or dissent from Judge Jones' ruling. In fact, so unexpectedly favourable was Judge Jones' ruling to the ACLU/NCSE, they may be reluctant to challenge ID anywhere else for fear of getting a less favourable ruling.]

Luskin [said] that the Discovery Institute would prefer to focus in the future on public-school teachers who want to bring up intelligent design, rather than on school districts who want to force intelligent design into the science curriculum. In fact, the institute has tried to distance itself from the Dover case for that reason. "Discovery's policy has always been that we don't think intelligent design should be mandated. We've always opposed what the Dover school district did," Luskin said. "We do think intelligent design should be preserved as a constitutional right. I don't think this decision is going to stop teachers outside the Central District of Pennsylvania from teaching intelligent design." In his written statement, West said "the institute strongly supports the freedom of teachers to discuss intelligent design in an objective manner on a voluntary basis." [There is an important difference between where teachers want to teach ID and where it is forced on them, as in Dover. The ACLU/NCSE are really going to look like the bullies they are if they try to use legal intimidation to stop teachers who want to teach ID from doing so.]

... One case has already attracted some attention: the case of Michigan's Gull Lake Community Schools, where two teachers are thinking about filing a lawsuit alleging that the district is interfering with their right to refer to intelligent design. Past judicial opinions have made clear that there are limits to a teacher's free-speech rights in public schools, particularly if the teacher appears to advocate a particular religious view. Scott said Tuesday's court ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover only reinforced those limits. "I think it would be exceedingly unwise for anyone, given the court record of the Kitzmiller case, to argue something like the Gill Lake position where teachers have a constitutional right to teach bad science to their students," Scott said. ... [Again, note the implied threat of legal retaliation. Clearly Scott and her Darwinist ilk don't care a fig for "a teacher's free-speech rights in public schools"! It really is amazing that Americans, who have historically stood for the right of free speech around the world, allow the ACLU/AUSCS/NCSE to ride roughshod over their civil rights at home.]

Intelligent design case may rouse supporters: Advocates say the judge went over the line in his criticism, which may lead to an outpouring of support, The Wichita Eagle/AP, Dec. 22, 2005, Rachel Zoll ... A federal judge's ruling that intelligent design is faith masquerading as science is being viewed by all sides involved with the issue as a setback, though not a fatal blow, for the movement promoting the concept as an alternative to evolution. [It is a "setback" in the sense that if Judge Jones had correctly rule that ID is not "religion" (he did not even have to rule on whether ID was "science") and therefore it was not unconstitutional to teach ID in science classes, then it would be a major step forward for ID. But it is not as though ID was being taught in schools (one can hardly call a 1-minute statement advising students in one high school that there is an ID book in the library as teaching ID, irrespective of the ACLU/AUSCS/NCSE's paranoia!). The ID movement's Teach the Controversy strategy is not affected by Dover, and if anything, this will strengthen the hand of the Discovery Institute against those like the Thomas More Law Center who try to hijack ID for their own (however worthy in their own right) causes.]

Intelligent-design advocates say the judge's lengthy, pointed rebuke of the concept Tuesday in a case out of Pennsylvania may energize supporters, many of whom view his opinion as part of a broader pattern of hostility by courts and the government to religion in public schools. [What I hope it will do is focus IDists on ID itself, i.e. only on 1) positive evidence and arguments for design in nature; and 2) negative arguments against the denial of design in nature (e.g. Darwinism), rather than issues peripheral to ID, such as Biblical literalism, etc.]

... "This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission .... "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung." [It is not so much Judge Jones' decision that is his problem in "advancing up the judicial ladder" but the injudicious and sloppy way that he reached it. I am sure that there would be many among his legal colleagues who, even if they disagreed with ID, would be highly critical of Judge Jones' `hatchet job' modus operandi. See for example, Chicago Law School Professor Albert Alschuler's (who appears not to agree with ID) strong criticism (in part 1 and part 2 of what will be a 3-part critique) of Judge Jones' judgment, and in fact of Judge Jones himself:

While professing to offer no opinion concerning the truth of intelligent design, the court consistently reveals its contempt for this theory. Most of the Dover opinion says in effect to the proponents of intelligent design, "We know who you are. You're Bible-thumpers." The opinion begins, "The religious movement known as Fundamentalism began in nineteenth century America as a response to social changes, new religious thought, and Darwinism. Religiously motivated groups pushed state legislatures to adopt laws prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution, culminating in the Scopes ‘monkey trial' of 1925." When the Fundamentalists (the court often capitalizes the word) found themselves unable to ban Darwinism, they championed "balanced treatment," then "creation science," and finally "intelligent design." According to the court, the agenda never changed. Dover is simply Scopes trial redux. The proponents of intelligent design are guilty by association, and today's yahoos are merely yesterday's reincarnated. If fundamentalism still means what it meant in the early twentieth century, however -- accepting the Bible as literal truth -- the champions of intelligent design are not fundamentalists. They uniformly disclaim reliance on the Book and focus only on where the biological evidence leads. The court's response - "well, that's what they say, but we know what they mean" - is uncivil, an illustration of the dismissive and contemptuous treatment that characterizes much contemporary discourse. Once we know who you are, we need not listen. We've heard it all already.]
"This galvanizes the Christian community," said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that promotes intelligent-design research. "People I'm talking to say we're going to be raising a whole lot more funds now." [I hate to disagree with Bill Dembski, but `galvanizing the Christian community', is not necessarily in ID's best interests. The problem is that the Christian community finds it very difficult to separate out design as an empirical scientific theory from Christian-specific issues, e.g. reconciling the Bible and science, etc. This very Dover debacle was caused by a no doubt well-meaning Christian organization, The Thomas More Law Center, with a worthy mission of "Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians", jumping on the ID bandwagon to advance its own agenda, and giving a free kick to opponents of ID who claim it is just Biblical creationism in disguise. It needs to be made crystal clear to "the Christian community" (and I speak as an evangelical Christian Old-Earth creationist) that while their support is welcomed, ID is a secular scientific theory that, while it has Christian implications (as Darwinism also has), it is not in itself necessarily Christian or even religious.]

From a legal perspective, the decision's immediate consequences are very limited. The school system is not expected to appeal, because several board members who backed intelligent design were voted out of office in November and replaced by candidates who reject the policy. [It will be interesting to see if the new Dover board does get hit with $1 million plus legal costs. If it does, it might yet consider an appeal, so the Darwinists might be afraid to get such a favourable ruling overturned. But OTOH, they would want to deter any other board from considering mentioning ID. My guess is that they will make it less on the understanding that the new board does not appeal, but still enough to deter any other board.]

The court defeat also comes at a time when movement leaders are failing to win support even among scientists sympathetic to their religious worldview. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an association of more than 100 U.S. schools, said its members have a wide range of approaches to the issue. In fact, most conservative Christian colleges are far from embracing intelligent design. The John Templeton Foundation, a major funder of projects that aim to reconcile religion and science, has given none of its $36 million in annual science-related grants to intelligent-design research, said foundation spokeswoman Pamela Thompson. "We do not consider it a hard science," she said. "We feel that it is not something that's important to universities." Dembski, of the Discovery Institute, formerly taught at Baylor University, a Baptist school in Texas, but left following opposition on the issue from other faculty members. He now leads the Center for Science and Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Uko Zylstra, a biologist and dean for natural sciences at Calvin College, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., said intelligent design is not catching on at his college and others because it is based on philosophy, not science. "We don't think this is how the problem should be articulated," Zylstra said. "The strength of intelligent design is as an apologetic -- that God is the creator, but not a scientific explanation." [But this is just the point - ID is not based on a "religious worldview"! If it was, then there would not be so much opposition from those with a "religious worldview" axe to grind. It is in fact evidence that ID has carved out for itself its own unique `ecological niche' that both atheists and many theists are opposed to it! The bottom line is that ID can just ignore them (i.e. not waste its time and energy trying the convince those who, for various reasons, will never be convinced) and get on with developing its own evidence and arguments. If ID is right (as I firmly believe it is) then the evidence for design in nature won't go away and the Darwinists (and Christian `theistic Darwinist' compatibilists) will have more and more problems trying to explain it away.]

Michael Cromartie, an evangelical and vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington institute that addresses religious issues, said it was important to remember that the movement is "very, very young." He said it was too new to be judged a success or failure. "There are all kinds of smart, young scientists who are emboldened by the literature they read in the intelligent-design movement and they're going to become important professors," Cromartie said. "Dover wasn't a Supreme Court decision. It's a local decision. Local decisions are very important, but they don't end the conversation." ... [A very important point. As Kuhn observed, it is in fact the norm that major scientific revolutions take at least a generation to overcome the prejudices of those "whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to" it:

"Equally, it is why, before they can hope to communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift. Just because it is a transition between incommensurables, the transition between competing paradigms cannot be made a step at a time, forced by logic and neutral experience. Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once (though not necessarily in an instant) or not at all. How, then, are scientists brought to make this transposition? Part of the answer is that they are very often not. Copernicanism made few converts for almost a century after Copernicus' death. Newton's work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on. The difficulties of conversion have often been noted by scientists themselves. Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of his Origin of Species, wrote.. `Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume .... I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine. ... [B]ut I look with confidence to the future,-to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.' And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that `a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'" (Kuhn T.S., "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," [1962], University of Chicago Press: Chicago IL, Third edition, 1996, pp.150-151)]

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

Monday, December 26, 2005

If ID is a theory equivalent to evolution ... #1

repack rider

Thanks for your comment. I have decided to respond to it in a blog post, since it is long and may be of more general interest. To distinguish your words from mine, I prefixed them with "RR>" and bolded them. Because of its length, I have split my response into three parts.

Please don't interpret this as an invitation to debate-it isn't. As my very first post to this blog says:

Since 1994 I have been debating creation/evolution/design on the Internet. ... and after over a decade of debates I find most debates largely a waste of time"
which is why I terminated my list (CED) and started this blog (CED). My attitude to comments is summed up in this quote, "The word comment for weblogs implies that the author does not need further participation to reach a goal-comment if you want":
"Weblogs and Message Boards both allow for responses from the community- new topics can be responded-to by others. Weblog topics have comments and message board topics have replies. This subtle difference in syntax reveals a difference in the roles. The word comment for weblogs implies that the author does not need further participation to reach a goal-comment if you want. Reply, on the other hand, implies that participation is explicitly requested by the poster. A discussion is not a discussion without a reply. ... The order and presentation of topics across message boards and weblogs relate another difference. Weblogs are consistently arranged with the most recently posted topics at the top of the page, regardless of new comments. With a message board, the posting of replies can govern the presentation of the originating topic-topics with new replies are often presented at the top ... This illustrates the relative importance of replies in message board discussions. Replies can keep a discussion alive and at the top of the page for months or even years in some cases. ... weblogs do not depend on responses to provide value." (LeFever, L., "What are the Differences Between Message Boards and Weblogs?," Common Craft weblog, August 24, 2004. Emphasis in original)

----- Original Message -----
From: Repack Rider
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Monday, December 26, 2005 1:23 AM

Subject: It's Over in Dover, But Not For Intelligent Design

RR>If ID is a theory equivalent to the theories of gravity. electromagnetism, or evolution, then all its adherents need to do is test it in the same manner that other such theories are tested.

Intelligent Design (ID) is the scientific theory that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature. ID does not claim it is "a theory equivalent to the theories of gravity [or] electromagnetism" which concern phenomena that are occurring in the here and now and can be experimentally tested to many decimal points of accuracy. The theory of evolution, on the other hand, cannot be experimentally tested in its all-important macroevolutionary sense, because "[macro-]evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible" and "Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution":

"Mutation is a basic physiological process which is studied experimentally, with the aid of physical and chemical methods. On the other hand, it is manifestly impossible to reproduce in the laboratory the evolution of man from the australopithecine, or of the modern horse from an Eohippus, or of a land vertebrate from a fishlike ancestor. These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved, which far exceed the lifetime of any human experimenter. ... Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution." (Dobzhansky T.G., "On Methods of Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology, Part I, Biology," American Scientist, Vol. 45, No. 5, December 1957, p.388)

Indeed, there is no such things as the theory of evolution (at least in the purely scientific sense (see below). The late Ernst Mayr noted that "Darwin's `theory' of evolution was a whole bundle of theories" and that Darwin wrongly "referred to ... `my theory,' as if common descent and natural selection were a single theory":

"IN BOTH SCHOLARLY and popular literature one frequently I finds references to `Darwin's theory of evolution,' as though it were a unitary entity. In reality, Darwin's `theory' of evolution was a whole bundle of theories, and it is impossible to discuss Darwin's evolutionary thought constructively if one does not distinguish its various components. ... One particularly cogent reason why Darwinism cannot be a single monolithic theory is that organic evolution consists of two essentially independent processes, as we have seen: transformation in time and diversification in ecological and geographical space. The two processes require a minimum of two entirely independent and very different theories. That writers on Darwin have nevertheless almost invariably spoken of the combination of these various theories as `Darwin's theory' in the singular is in part Darwin's own doing. He not only referred to the theory of evolution by common descent as `my theory,' but he also called the theory of evolution by natural selection `my theory,' as if common descent and natural selection were a single theory." (Mayr E., "One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought," Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991, p.35-36)
Darwin in fact had at least nine evolutionary theories and Mayr partitioned these into five major theories:
"Discrimination among his various theories has not been helped by the fact that Darwin treated speciation under natural selection in ... the Origin and that he ascribed many phenomena, particularly those of geographic distribution, to natural selection when they were really the consequences of common descent. Under the circumstances I consider it necessary to dissect Darwin's conceptual framework of evolution into a number of major theories that formed the basis of his evolutionary thinking. For the sake of convenience I have partitioned Darwin's evolutionary paradigm into five theories, but of course others might prefer a different division. The selected theories are by no means all of Darwin's evolutionary theories; others were, for instance, sexual selection, pangenesis, effect of use and disuse, and character divergence. However, when later authors referred to Darwin's theory they invariably had a combination of some of the following five theories in mind: (1) Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant nor recently created nor perpetually cycling but rather is steadily changing and that organisms are transformed in time. (2) Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. (3) Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by `budding,' that is, by the establishment of geographically isolated founder populations that evolve into new species. (4) Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. (5) Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about through the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation. For Darwin himself these five theories were apparently a unity, and someone might claim that indeed these five theories are a logically inseparable package and that Darwin was quite correct in treating them as such. This claim, however, is refuted by the fact ... that most evolutionists in the immediate post-1859 period-that is, authors who had accepted the first theory-rejected one or several of Darwin's other four theories. This shows that the five theories are not one indivisible whole." (Mayr E., "One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought," Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991, pp.36-37).
Now ID itself has no necessary problem with any or all of the above five theories of evolution, at least as Mayr presents them. An IDist who is also a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) would have a problem with (1) "the theory that the world is not ...recently created" and (2) "the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor and that all groups of organisms ... ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth", but his problem is as a YEC, not as an IDist. This is evident in that an IDist like Mike Behe (and me) who accepts "that the universe is ... billions of years old" and "that all organisms share a common ancestor" have no problem with (1) and (2):
"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)
As for the other three theories of evolution: even creationists would accept (3); not all evolutionists would accept (4); and (5) is so vague that few if any creationists (let alone IDists) would reject it (note that Mayr does not say that "evolutionary change comes about" only "through the abundant production of" random "genetic variation in every generation").

As I wrote in response to questions by a journalist, "ID is only necessarily opposed to "evolution" when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism)":

As for "ID versus evolution," ID is not necessarily opposed to evolution if by "evolution" is meant microevolution, such as insects becoming resistant to insecticide, changes in the frequency of light and dark moths in a population, or the lengths of the beaks of finches on the Galapagos islands. ID is not even necessarily opposed to universal common ancestry. One of ID's leaders, Professor Michael Behe, has stated, "I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it"[3]. Another ID leader, Dr William Dembski, has pointed out that, "intelligent design is compatible with ... the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life)."[4] I myself accept universal common ancestry.[5]" ID is only necessarily opposed to "evolution" when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism), as in the title of leading Darwinist, Professor Richard Dawkins' book, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design" (Norton, New York, 1986. My emphasis).
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." (Crick F.H.C., "What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery", [1988], Penguin Books: London UK, 1990, reprint, p.138).

RR>First they must show how it explains the observations. We know things fall to earth when dropped, which is an observation. The theory of gravity is the explanation of that observation. No one claims that an invisible entity pushes things to earth when we let them go, which would be the gravitational equivalent of ID. Newton's theory of gravity stood unchallenged until Einstein showed that it was not completely accurate, and that the theory of relativity was a better explanation of the observations.

ID only seeks to "explain... the observations" of the evidence of design in nature, which even Darwinists agree appears to be there, but whichdismiss out of hand, on naturalistic philosophical grounds, as an illusion, e.g.:

"The difference is one of complexity of design. Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design. " (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.1. Emphasis original)
"It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life...The simplest interpretation is that the Universe was designed by a creator who intended that intelligent life should evolve. This interpretation lies outside science." (Smith J.M. & Szathmary E., "On the likelihood of habitable worlds," Nature, Vol. 384, 14 November 1996, p107)
"Although the idea that the universe has an order that is governed by natural laws that are not immediately apparent to the senses is very ancient, it is only in the last three hundred years that we have discovered a method for uncovering that hidden order-the scientific-experimental method. So powerful is this method that virtually everything scientists know about the natural world comes from it. What they find is that the architecture of the universe is indeed built according to invisible universal rules, what I call the cosmic code-the building code of the Demiurge. Examples of this universal building code are the quantum and relativity theory, the laws of chemical combination and molecular structure, the rules that govern protein synthesis and how organisms are made, to name but a few. Scientists in discovering this code deciphering the Demiurge's hidden message, the tricks he used in creating the universe. No human mind could have arranged for any message so flawlessly coherent, so strangely imaginative, and sometimes downright bizarre. It must be the work of an Alien Intelligence! ... One of the odd features of the cosmic code is that, as far as we can tell, the Demiurge has written himself out of the code-an alien message without evidence of an alien. ...Whether God is the message, wrote the message, or whether it wrote itself is unimportant in our lives. We can safely drop the traditional idea of a Demiurge, for there is no scientific evidence for a Creator of the natural world ..." (Pagels H.R., "The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity," Simon and Schuster: New York NY, 1988, pp.156-157)

RR>Ever since Darwin, scientists have observed that organisms evolve, and that one species can evolve into another. The first thing the design proponents need to do is show how their "theory" explains this observation.

See above on the multiple meanings of "evolve". There is no need for ID theory to dispute "that organisms evolve, and that one species can evolve into another." All that design proponents need to do is show how their theory explains the observation that life not only appears to be the result of intelligent design, but it actually is, at least partly, the result of intelligent design:

"[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)

RR>Next, they must show how their "theory" can be used to make predictions that can be tested. In 1859 Darwin said that in order for his theory to be true, there must be a physical substance that transmitted heredity. It was not until nearly 90 years later that this substance, DNA, was identified and its mechanics studied, but Darwin's prediction turned out to be accurate, a profound example of the usefulness of the theory of Evolution, since testing it led to an entirely new branch of science, a branch which has turned up massive amounts of new data that support the ToE.

See above regarding your error in assuming that "Darwin" had a single "theory" of evolution and that there is a single, scientific theory called "the theory of Evolution". There is indeed, a single "standard ... theory of Evolution", however it is not scientific but metaphysical and in fact theological namely, "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process" (my emphasis):

Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept 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)
And Darwin was in fact wrong on his evolutionary theory of "a physical substance that transmitted heredity", namely "pangenesis".

In fact all Darwinists (and indeed all evolutionists) were wrong in that they assumed the actual "heredity" transmitted was "physical", but in fact it turned out to be information:

"Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. ... These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term `reductionism.' You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms, because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can't do that with information and matter. Information doesn't have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn't have bytes. You can't measure so much gold in so many bytes. It doesn't have redundancy, or fidelity, or any of the other descriptors we apply to information. This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms. The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message. Maintaining this distinction between the medium and the message is absolutely indispensable to clarity of thought about evolution." (Williams G.C., "A Package of Information," in Brockman J., "The Third Culture," [1995], Touchstone: New York, 1996, reprint, p.43)
As for "ID proponents must show how their theory can be used to make predictions that can be tested," in my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, I have a section PE 5.3.5. "Evolution fails its own demarcation criteria ... Predictability" in which among the points I make is that it was in fact its lack of predictability that led Karl Popper to "regard Darwinism as metaphysical" and "not testable":
"I now wish to give some reasons why I regard Darwinism as metaphysical, and as a research programme. It is metaphysical because it is not testable. One might think that it is. It seems to assert that, if ever on some planet we find life which satisfies conditions (a) and (b), then (c) will come into play and bring about in time a rich variety of distinct forms. Darwinism, however, does not assert as much as this. For assume that we find life on Mars consisting of exactly three species of bacteria with a genetic outfit similar to that of three terrestrial species. Is Darwinism refuted? By no means. We shall say that these three species were the only forms among the many mutants which were sufficiently well adjusted to survive. And we shall say the same if there is only one species (or none). Thus Darwinism does not really predict the evolution of variety. It therefore cannot really explain it. At best, it can predict the evolution of variety under `favourable conditions'. But it is hardly possible to describe in general terms what favourable conditions are except that, in their presence, a variety of forms will emerge." (Popper K.R., "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography," Open Court: La Salle IL, Revised Edition, 1982, p.171)
I also quote Dawkins from a TV debate that I saw him have with physicist Paul Davies. When Dawkins was asked what was effectively a prediction that evolutionary theory would make "If you wiped our life and started again". But Dawkins could not even with certainty predict "plants, animals, ... parasites, ... predators, ... flight, [or] ... sight":
"PD: ... The question that we have to ask is if the earth was hit by an asteroid tomorrow and everything but simple microbes were destroyed and we came back in another 3 or 4 billion years, would we expect to find homo sapiens here again. Well, of course not. RD: Of course we wouldn't! PD: No, of course not. But the question is would we expect to find any intelligent life and I think most biologists would say no. McK: Richard Dawkins, I know you're bursting to say something there. RD: Yes. It is not in my view sensible to invoke fundamental laws of physical improvement for the biological improvement of complexity or running speed or anything else. If you wiped our life and started again-no, you would not get homo sapiens. I tell you what you would get, you would probably get a great diversity of living form . You'd probably get plants, animals, you'd probably get parasites, you'd probably get predators, you'd probably get large predators, small predators. You might well get flight, you might well get sight. There are all sorts of things that you can guess that you might get. You would certainly not get a re-run of what we've got." (McKew M., "The Origin of the Universe," Interview with Richard Dawkins & Paul Davies, Lateline, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 19 June 1996, in Australian Rationalist, No. 41, Spring 1996, pp.72-73)
Only the other day I quoted Dawkins admitting that .the question, "where are humans headed?" is "the question he's most often asked" yet he says it is "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade":
"Scientists are fond of running the evolutionary clock backward, using DNA analysis and the fossil record to figure out when our ancestors stood erect and split off from the rest of the primate evolutionary tree. But the clock is running forward as well. So where are humans headed? Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says it's the question he's most often asked, and "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade." But the question is being raised even more frequently as researchers study our past and contemplate our future." (Boyle A., "Human evolution at the crossroads: Genetics, cybernetics complicate forecast for species," MSNBC May 2, 2005)
I wil now added another quote to that section, where Ernst Mayr admits that "The theory of natural selection ... cannot make reliable predictions, except through such trivial and meaningless circular statements":
"The Problem of Prediction. The third great problem of causality in biology is that of prediction. In the classical theory of causality the touchstone of the goodness of a causal explanation was its predictive value. This view is still maintained in Bunge's modern classic (1959): `A theory can predict to the extent to which it can describe and explain.' It is evident that Bunge is a physicist; no biologist would have made such a statement. The theory of natural selection can describe and explain phenomena with considerable precision, but it cannot make reliable predictions, except through such trivial and meaningless circular statements as, for instance: `The fitter individuals will on the average leave more offspring.' Scriven (1959) has emphasized quite correctly that one of the most important contributions to philosophy made by the evolutionary theory is that it has demonstrated the independence of explanation and prediction." (Mayr E.W., "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist," [reprint of Mayr E.W., "Cause and effect in biology," Science, Vol. 134, 1961, pp.1501-1506], Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1988, pp.31-32)
So it is hypocritical (but par for the course) for evolutionists to demand of ID standards that evolutionary theory itself cannot meet.

[Continued in part #2]

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

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Who do you say that I am?"

May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy, healthy and safe Christmas!

Here, without comment, is something I read the other day in an excellent book by Douglas Groothuis contrasting the New Age `Jesus' with the real Jesus.

Jesus of Nazareth. No other name has inspired greater devotion, evoked greater reverence, or ignited greater controversy. ... In a cover story entitled "Who Was Jesus?" Time observed that "if the furor surrounding Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ proves one thing, it is that in any era, seismic emotions are involved when people probe the nature of the man who is worshiped as God by well over a billion souls." Seismic shocks are seldom absent when deity is debated, and Jesus, whom John's Gospel calls God in the flesh (Jn 1:14), has triggered more intellectual, emotional and social earthquakes than any other historical figure. The evidence of his influence is everywhere, as esteemed historian Jaroslav Pelikan has observed:
Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray."

Yet the crucial question remains, "Who was Jesus?" ... Jesus himself, according to the canonical Gospels, displayed considerable skill in eliciting the opinion of others toward him.

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt 16:13- 16)
Notice how Jesus deftly moved from the general to the personal, beckoning Peter from the opinion poll to the confessional. After one of his frequent "hard sayings" many half-hearted disciples deserted Jesus. He then asked the Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" And Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:67-69).


Recent Gallup polls reveal that the large majority of the American public highly esteems Jesus in one way or another, and few, New Age or otherwise, actively oppose him. ... When asked if Jesus was God or just another religious leader like Mohammed or Buddha, seventy per cent affirmed that he was God. When asked, "In your own life, how important is the belief that Christ was fully God and fully human," eighty-one per cent responded that this belief was either "very important" (fifty-eight per cent) or "fairly important" (twenty-three per cent). Some ninety-one per cent believe that Jesus existed as an historical figure. After reviewing an impressive array of statistics regarding Americans' evaluation of Jesus, Gallup concludes that "virtually all Americans are, in some measure, drawn to the person of Christ."

The actual nature of the magnet, however, seems a bit fuzzy in many minds, and so the resulting religiosity is amorphous at best. This ties in with Gallup's further observation of widespread biblical illiteracy: Only forty-two per cent of respondents knew that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount; only forty-six per cent could name the first four books in the New Testament; and only seventy per cent knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The lack of knowledge also betrays a lack of commitment. Gallup says that despite our religiosity as Americans, "probing more deeply through surveys indicates that even if religion is an important force in our lives it is not the center of our lives. It does not have primacy. Interest may be high, but commitment is often low."

The Jesus of the New Testament is the avowed enemy of all vague religiosity and superficial spirituality. He called for decision, claiming for himself spiritual primacy and ultimacy-like someone who had reality down pat and wasn't afraid to say so. Before commissioning his twelve disciples he instructed them, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Mt 10:32-33). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaimed, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me" (Mt 5:11). For Jesus discipleship is not a psychological hobby or an interesting social activity, but a radical commitment to serve and obey him-even to the knife-point of persecution. Neither is self- denial optional for Jesus' followers: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23).

In light of the Gospel record Jesus should be an issue of debate, dialog and discussion. He himself was a controversialist, but not in the sense of stirring controversy for controversy's sake. Rather, Jesus engaged in controversy for the sake of truth. As John Stott points out:

He was not "broad minded" in the popular sense that He was prepared to countenance any views on any subject. On the contrary ... He engaged in continuous debate with the religious leaders of His day.... He said that He was the truth (Jn 14:6), that He had come to bear witness to the truth (Jn 18:37), and that the truth would set His followers free (Jn 8:31-32). As a result of His loyalty to the truth, He was not afraid to dissent publicly from official doctrines (if he knew them to be wrong), to expose error, and to warn His disciples of false teachers (Mt 7:15-20; Mk 13:5-6, 21-23; Lk 12:1). He was also extremely outspoken in his language, calling them "blind guides" (Mt 15:14; 23:16, 19, 24, 26), "wolves in sheep's clothing" (Mt 7:15), "whitewashed tombs" (Mt 23:27; Lk 11:44) and even a "brood of vipers" (Mt 12:23; 23:33).
If these records are correct and Jesus is who he said he was, religious neutrality is impossible. Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Mt 12:30). We must choose sides. "Who do you say that I am?" remains the question of the hour.

(Groothuis D.R., "Revealing the New Age Jesus: Challenges to Orthodox Views of Christ," Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, 1990, pp.9-15)

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

"One may not know all sorts of things and be none the worse for it, but if God really lived on earth as a man and said and did the things that the Gospels report, then not to know these sayings and deeds, or to disregard them, is to be missing the one key that is capable of unlocking everything else. That is why it is of supreme importance that the good news must be made available to everyone, whether or not they choose to believe it. The most devastatingly negative judgment must be made of any educational system which insists, as the schools of most nations do now, that students should not be taught the information they need to give an informed answer to the question posed by Jesus: 'Who do you say that I am?'." (Johnson P.E., "The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2002, p.173)