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The Dover Decision

Friday was the end of arguments in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial on the teaching of “intelligent design” in the local 9th-grade biology class. We won’t see a decision in the case for a while (perhaps by the end of the year), and no one knows how broadly the judge in the case might be inclined to rule.
I don’t see how there could be much uncertainty in my position on this matter, but just in case: I think that “intelligent design” is pernicious nonsense. I understand why some people believe it, but the argument from incredulity doesn’t do much for me. If I threw up my hands at everything that seemed to complicated for me to explain, I’d be out of a job, and rightfully so. My scientific predecessors kept trying to explain mysteries – good for them! – and I’m not going to stop looking for answers, either.
Since the organization defending the ID position has said that they want to “use the courts to change the culture”, here’s hoping that they get an enormous bucket of cold water poured on them. I was a college student in Arkansas when Judge Overton ruled in McLean v. Arkansas, an attempt to mandate the teaching of “creation science”, and his opinion still makes fine reading. It put the brakes on that whole approach to ridding curricula of evolution, but eventually such selection pressure led to the spread of this latest mutation. “Intelligent Design” is clearly the scion of “creation science” – try as I might, I don’t see how anyone but a fool can believe otherwise. If it too gets struck down, we can all expect yet another variation in another few years as the anti-evolution forces continue to evolve.

56 comments on “The Dover Decision”

  1. David Denning says:

    Well stated. Pernicious nonsense is really an understatement, as so eloquently shown by Eric Rothchild, lawyer for the plaintiffs in his summary statement ( The Dover school board’s use of false accusations, mis-representations, faulty arguments, and downright lies was an echo of the tactics used by The Discovery Institute and the fraternity of ID proponents. Strangely, there has been little recognition so far in the “mainstream” media regarding the end result of the trial – captured so well in Rothchild’s summary – the “Panda Trial” was really a slam-dunk defeat of both the devious creationist Dover School Board, and of the equally devious “Intelligent Design” creationism “movement”.

  2. LNT says:

    When you come across something you can’t explain, the proper thing to do is to look at ALL possible explanations. In this case, there are two (and ONLY two) explanations — either natural causes created the universe we know, or they didn’t. I don’t think it’s such a threat to the scientific community to simply tell our kids that there is a slight possibility that something other than science has been at work sometime in the distant past. Why are you so threatened by it? Are you suggesting that my beliefs somehow make me an inferior scientist to you more “enlightened” scientists? I don’t think you are, but that’s the impression I get from your previous post.

  3. Derek Lowe says:

    LNT, my take on that is that (so far) natural explanations have been found for any number of things that were previously ascribed to some sort of divine activity beyond human comprehension. That process looks fit to continue. Adding “except, maybe, if it contradicts something in one of the various holy books” doesn’t do much for me. My whole job is based on not having to take anyone’s word on things without proof.
    I have no problem with saying that the ultimate origins of life are still obscure and the matter of much debate and research. That’s because that’s true. But the nature of lightning, the formation of diamonds, and the way the sun produces energy were once in that same category.
    Another problem I have is that ID proponents aren’t just arguing about biogenesis. They’re also arguing about speciation and about the complexity of anatomy and biochemical processes. These matters are nowhere near as obscure as the origins of life, and mixing them together is disingenuous.

  4. qetzal says:

    There’s also a slight chance that the Earth was created 4000 years ago, complete with all the features that make us think it’s billions of years old.
    Would you advocating discussing that with high school kids during a geology unit?
    I certainly do not think your beliefs make you an inferior scientist. But why should public science classes teach anything other than science? Why should they include unscientific statements whose sole purpose is to assuage someone’s religious sensibilities?
    It would be different if there was an actual scientific theory of ID, with actual scientific evidence (such as successful predictions). In that case, we’d have something of a dilemma – real science that supported a potentially religious viewpoint. I have no idea what the US legal implications would be, but in that case I would support teaching it in public schools. (Assuming the evidence was decent of course; not just one or two anomolous findings.)

  5. daen says:

    LNT, if life really did kick off around 1.5 billion years ago, it’s not really surprising we don’t have the full story yet given we’ve only had the nous to construct a scientifc framework for its explanation over the last 150 years or so. Science has made pretty good progress considering that life appears to be the most complex phenomenon in the known universe. Is a naturalistic explanation plausible? With enough energy driving a system over a long enough time, I’d bet hard cash on dissipative structures with interesting emergent properties popping up on their own.

  6. A fool says:

    “I don’t see how anyone but a fool can believe otherwise”
    I guess I’m one of the many a foolish scientists who believe in creation or at least God, many of whom were the founding fathers of many branches of the now modern sciences (including Einstein evidenced in his own original German writing). Creation sounded like fair tales to me too when I first thought about it, untill my knowledge of physical sciences inreased and I started really thinking about the alternative-evolution. How much more absurd and unbelievable that is. There’re so many aspects to this debate and I don’t even know where to begin. Bottom line is all evidence considered, to an undecided person creation is no more unbelievable than evolution.

  7. A fool says:

    qetzal and daen
    Believing in God and creation is not “unscientific”. The “science” we commonly refer to is a derivative of the First Principles, which don’t need further deduction from anything else. And this debate is sort of like on the origin of these First Principles.
    For any inquisitive mind, why exclude a devine possibility to begin with? Why refuse to examine ALL possibilities?
    Definition of “Science”:
    “Science” is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

  8. qetzal says:

    A fool wrote:
    “Bottom line is all evidence considered, to an undecided person creation is no more unbelievable than evolution.”
    All evidence considered? Are you suggesting there is scientific evidence for creation?
    P.S. If you reread the “fool” passage from Derek’s post, you’ll see he did not say it was foolish to believe in God. He said it was foolish to think that ID is not repackaged creationism.

  9. blissfulignoramus says:

    LNT, there are an infinite number of dichotomies that can be accurately applied to abiogenesis. It was caused by little green men or it wasn’t. It occurred in an ocean or it didn’t. The word Abracadabra was involved or it wasn’t.
    What’s more, the dichotomy you stated could be applied to a lot of things. Gravity, the Dover trial, and Bill Clinton either have supernatural elements or they don’t.
    There’s enough established science to teach our kids that we shouldn’t be wandering off into the infinite realm of speculation.

  10. Brahim says:

    The issue here is more than simply teaching the Theory of Evolution as a theory. It extends also the the teaching of the meaning of life. In presenting the idea of a self-creating universe, teachers link that idea to inferences about what that means in the context of cultural values.
    Developing theories about the origins of life through scientific study is important. Informing students about those studies has value. However, it’s the linkage of unproven theories to instruction on cultural values that many parents find offensive.
    That’s the point where the discussion of the origins of life ceases to be scientific and becomes religious, when it becomes a jumping-off point to say, “Well, people, this is what the origin of life should mean to you. Since there was no God involved in the process that we have found, and since much of our cultural understandings were developed by people who believed there was a God, we now must develop a new set of cultural standards for today that will apply to our view of what is right and wrong for us.”
    The idea that a system of strongly-held beliefs that denies the existence of a creator could be considered a type of religion seems to grate on those involved in public-school science teaching. They seem to want to see themselves as non-religous. However, an unbiased examination of the elements of the beliefs taught about the origins of life in the name of the Theory of Evolution and the cultural values encouraged in that context cannot be anything but a religion.
    Teaching religion is supposed to be something done outside of the U.S. public education system — at home or in a recognized religious setting, such as a synagogue, church or mosque.

  11. the fool again :) says:

    As a fellow synthetic chemist turned medicinal chemist, here’s an analogy that you may be able to relate. If I give you all the natural amino acids, equipment to generate electricity and pressure, and billions of years, do you think you can create one single live cell? I’ve run enough reactions to know another billion years of stirring aint gonna help a reaction only giving decomposition after overnight.
    And while you’re at it, explain to me EXACTLY how the aminoacids, wait, let’s make it easier, how one single atom burst into existence out of NOTHING. You may have faith that “science” one day will have the answer. I don’t have THAT much faith. I already found one explaination that I can accept beyond reasonable doubt.
    Remove all the intellectual pretentiousness and human ego, the argument is just this simple.

  12. the fool says:

    Of course DI is creation. Blame the disguise on the hostile culture towards christianity.
    There’re many models developed by credible scientists like Kurt Wise, Ken Ham and etc that can be introduced to teach DI. I admit at the end of the day it’s a very difficult teaching subject, because by definition one must go in the realm of supernatural. After all, what model can one come up with to explain “God said ‘let there be light’, and there was light.”
    That said, you’d be amazed at how much physical evidences that can be examined in class that attest the biblical account of creation.
    Romans 1:20
    For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse

  13. LNT says:

    I cannot agree more with a previous post: My knowledge of science has STRENGTHENED my believe that a designer was involved in creation. I’m all for teaching evolution in schools. But I’ll be damned if I don’t try my best to stop teachers from telling students that they must a-priori EXCLUDE the possibility that a higher power was involved.

  14. jim says:

    How can you IDiot “scientists” be so dumb? Evolution doesn’t require you to renounce the creation of the universe by God (or your mom, for that matter). But IDers want to try to invalidate evolutionary theory, ONE OF THE MOST WELL-SUBSTANTIATED THEORIES IN SCIENCE. Of course there’s questions about mechanisms–it’s science. There’s no controversy with anyone that knows what they’re talking about.

  15. RKN says:

    To the extent ID is meaty enough to be taught, I say go ahead, perhaps not in a rigid science curriculum, but maybe in a philosophy of science class. Curriculums should not be so inflexible.

    I agree with some here, I can’t get my head around stirring an abiotic muck charged with RNA for a billion and a half years and expecting humans (nay, even a single prokaryote) to be product favored. Yes yes, I’ve read Kauffman’s books (even worked for him briefly); I know of genetic programming, flocking behavior, curiosities of self-organization, emergent order and all the rest, but I’m also aware of Gibb’s free energy, barriers to activation, and yawning gaps in the fossil record (I’ve worked in the field).

    Does that make me religious? No. An IDer? No. But it sure does make me damn skeptical of the prevailing theory of how life came to be. Let’s also remember that many theories turn out to be wrong, to one extent or another.

    In the end, what difference does it really make to a lot of us how we got here? As I’ve pointed out before, most of us in the life sciences want to know how things work. How they got here has very little bearing on that as far as I can tell.

  16. jim says:

    “Of course DI is creation. Blame the disguise on the hostile culture towards christianity.” Are you kidding? Gee, maybe one day the president will be an evangelical Christian who panders to his “religious” base. Oh wait…

  17. fool says:

    “ONE OF THE MOST WELL-SUBSTANTIATED THEORIES IN SCIENCE. Of course there’s questions about mechanisms”
    To paraphrase yourself–of course evolution is true, we just can’t figure out how it all happened.

  18. fool says:

    “most of us in the life sciences want to know how things work. How they got here has very little bearing on that as far as I can tell.”
    RKN: Well said and honest! Precisely why people like “jim” accuse us as being pseudoscientists–their lack of understanding of the difference of these two concepts; wait, let’s just say their misunderstanding of what “science” really means.

  19. jim says:

    “That’s the point where the discussion of the origins of life ceases to be scientific and becomes religious, when it becomes a jumping-off point to say, “Well, people, this is what the origin of life should mean to you. Since there was no God involved in the process that we have found, and since much of our cultural understandings were developed by people who believed there was a God, we now must develop a new set of cultural standards for today that will apply to our view of what is right and wrong for us.””
    what fantasy world is this?!? What a comical straw man you have set up.

  20. qetzal says:

    Brahim & LMT,
    I agree: no public science teacher should be telling students that science rules out God. It doesn’t. Nor should the theory of evolution or hypotheses of abiogenesis be linked to ethical norms and cultural values.
    If and when that happens, it’s every bit as bad as a public teacher telling students that they should conform to Christian (Muslim, Buddist, etc.) teachings.
    The fool (again),
    The theory of evolution is entirely distinct from the origins of first life. Evolution is about how life descends from earlier life, how new species arise, etc. If it were proved beyond doubt that God created the first living cell, evolution would still be the best scientific explanation for how that one cell led to the diversity of life we see today.
    Your analogy is about abiogenesis, not evolution. Science doesn’t have a theory of abiogenesis. So far, we only have some interesting experiments of debatable relevance, and some interesting hypotheses. I’m ambivalent on whether these ideas deserve any discussion in a high school science class, but they certainly should not be presented as well-supported scientific theory.
    You’re right about one thing. I would be quite amazed if you could point to even a small amount of credible scientific evidence that supports the biblical account of creation. Perhaps you could describe a couple of the most compelling pieces, or provide a link?

  21. milo says:

    I don’t know if this has been brought up yet… but I just found this little news bit regarding the Vatican’s take on evolution

  22. jim says:

    An IDer questions my understanding of science–HA!
    Thank you for the laugh. Selective quoting is also fun. Here’s another theory for you: we don’t know everything about how opioids work, so I’m rejecting receptor theory and arguing that God wants rats to feel comfy.
    And please tell me “how” ID works, since that’s what matters. Invisible God rays? Can you observe them? Thanks.

  23. daen says:

    I can’t get my head around stirring an abiotic muck … for a billion and a half years and expecting humans (nay, even a single prokaryote) to be product favored.
    I have to say, seeing as we’re reverting to incredulity here, that I find any explanation involving an intelligent designer even more unsatisfactory than you find the notion of abiogenesis : if you have to invoke supernatural forces, you must assume the existence of something more complex and unlikely than the thing you’re trying to describe. How does that help?
    I’m also aware of Gibb’s free energy, barriers to activation …
    Sure, but in a world bathed in solar radiation and strafed by lightning, that’s much less of a problem.
    You dismiss Kaufmann’s research quite brusquely, but self organization has had some very useful things to say about key processes in biology : protein folding, lipid membrane formation and so on. Is it possible that it might be used to answer some even more fundamental questions?

  24. fool says:

    I admire your fair-mindedness. You really do know “evolution” means. But unfortunately evolution is being intentionally or unintentionally made to be responsible for origin.
    Here’s a link to a credible site
    You can also check out Kurt Wise’s books. He got his Ph.D in paleontology from Harvard, and is a major figure in defending creation. His approach is to first assume the biblical account to be true and then examine if the evidence or any model is consistent with it. I think this approach is logical and provides a practical way for one to approach this matter.

  25. fool says:

    There’s no doubt about it–faith is required to believe in God, as it is required for evolution. The question is which you find more believable. Personally, I don’t have much faith in man and his theories.
    According to himselm, God said “I am that I am”. He’d always exsited and doesn’t need further explaination, THE first principle you will. If this sounds illogical to you, bear in mind that no matter what you believe started this universe, you’ll always end up with something or being that doesn’t need further explaination.
    You were confused with the concept of science again. As I said, science is merely a product of the physical laws. The subject is the origin of these first principles, and not the consequences of them.

  26. Derek Lowe says:

    Kurt Wise is certainly an interesting case, and he’s certainly one of (probably the most) scientifically credible of the creationists.
    But the problem is, his beliefs are not founded on the evidence. He’s admitted (in a collection called “In Six Days”, reviewed here) that:
    “Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.”
    So, unfortunately for his use as a scientific example, it seems to me that Wise is a creationist in spite of his scientific education. He begins by assuming that the Bible is the word of God, which is a religious exercise if anything is. No amount of evidence can change his mind, and that’s not the mindset of a scientist.
    I happen to think that evolution is a pretty accurate theory, but a single well-documented anomaly could put a huge hole it its side. (A fossil rabbit from the Precambrian would do the trick, to use an example from J.B.S. Haldane.) Scientists have had to sit down and eat many (most?) of their most cherished theories eventually because new data invalidated them.
    Perhaps evolution will join that list. But new theories that come along first have to explain why the old ones worked as well as they did (Einstein taking over from Newton is an excellent example.) So anything that comes after evolution will have to also show why so many huge, heaping piles of evidence point to evolution. Somehow, I don’t think that next paradigm, if it comes, will be much consolation for religious believers.

  27. PandaFan says:

    “most of us in the life sciences want to know how things work. How they got here has very little bearing on that as far as I can tell.”
    You need to look harder. Evolutionary theory provides the best unifying structure for our biological knowledge. Because of this, evolutionary theory is a powerful generator of biological hypotheses.
    In contrast, a non-natural being who can change the natural rules at will or go outside of them equally freely is scientifically useless as a foundation for hypotheses — because such a concept can do anything, it fails to be useful for building models of reality.

  28. fool says:

    You know what Derek, these exact remarks of Wise that you quoted have been used against him by a well-known evolutionist (I guess he is) to imply that Wise would ignore anything to continue to believe in creation.
    I have two comments regarding this:
    1). Switch “creation” and “evolution” in the 2nd half of your post, you’d have explained Wise’s thinking yourself 🙂
    2). A more important one. There is one element being left out in the accusation of Wise’s honest thinking as being anti-scientific—that is the acceptance of man’s inadequacy. To accept that man simply cannot and were not given the intellectual capacity to understand ALL of God’s ways. Being confined in the material cosmic box, how can man understand or come up with a theory on how light came to be when God said let there be light (assuming it were true for a second).
    Isaiah 55-8,9:
    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

  29. RKN says:

    I didn’t “brusquely” dismiss Kauffman’s research, I pointed out that I’m aware of his ideas by way of his books, and to a lesser extent via my association with his dotcom enterprise, as a way to pre-alert readers of my familiarity with these ideas.
    re: solar radiation and lightening,
    Mix glucose, phosphorous, and your favorite source of nitrogen in a reducing reagent and place it the sun or an electrical storm, or both, wait a while and assay for RNA. Think you’ll see it? (Plus, radiation and lightening would be just as expected to be destructive as constructive).
    Protein folding is a most curious phenomenon. Nobody really has a good hypothesis as to what guides proper folding, i.e. proper for the protein’s function. How it’s regulated, yes, but not how it’s guided. I don’t recall anything specific from Kauffman’s work helping out here, but it’s been a while since I read him. Something might ultimately come from his work, but for now I think it’s mostly boutique science. That is not in any way a criticism of Kauffman, I happen to like him and I’ve enjoyed some of his books, but I just don’t think they’ve been very useful in furthering our understanding of the things we’re talking about here.

  30. fool says:

    According to the biblical account, God does not “change the natural rules at will”–the physical laws have stayed pretty much the same since their inception, haven’t they. But, God did and does bend the rules HE created occationally to accomplish certain purposes, which is entirely logical.

  31. daen says:

    Well, God would certainly explain the evidence for us being here. But that would be true whatever the circumstances, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, perhaps God is also subject to evolution? Would we have to create a new taxon above Kingdom? Kingdom of God, perhaps?

  32. RKN says:

      You need to look harder.
    That is, “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it?” 😉
    Seriously, of the scads of biomedical research published in the last 20 years, how many papers have rested their conslusion, in part or in whole, on evolution being true? I’m currently pursuing a PhD in biomedical research at a major U.S. university, and while I haven’t visited every lab here, I can pretty much tell you that the majority of the research being conducted doesn’t depend in any way on evolution being true.

  33. Derek Lowe says:

    Fool (you should pick a new name, since you’re clearly not one): You say that we have to
    “. . .accept that man simply cannot and were not given the intellectual capacity to understand ALL of God’s ways”
    The problem here for me is, that if I believed in God, or even did in the same way that you do, this would make more sense to me. As it is – and I know that this seems downright perverse to someone with religious faith – I don’t. Not the God of the Bible, which I regard as just one of uncountably various “Holy Books” throughout human history.
    But rather than argue that point – which we’ll surely never come to any agreement on – I agree that it may be that there are some things in the universe that are too complex to understand. We just don’t know, yet. But thus far, applying the evidence of our senses and our reason to the natural world, and testing the hypotheses we generate, has been very useful and productive.
    The evidence of our senses, applied to biology and paleontology, is strongly toward descent with modification, a.k.a. evolution. The idea has had great explanatory power, and fits in wonderfully with later discoveries that Darwin could have had no idea of. I think it, like quantum mechanics, like relativity and many other theories, is the best thing we currently have going in its area.
    There’s not a biologist in the world who doesn’t deal daily with evolution or its consequences. To give up on the whole idea, to toss away all the evidence we’ve accumulated and all the results we’ve obtained, on the basis of a chapter in a four thousand year old book is (to my mind) downright perverse.
    Your opinion surely varies. But then, you have religious faith, and I don’t.

  34. Derek Lowe says:

    RKN, you say:
    “I’m currently pursuing a PhD in biomedical research at a major U.S. university, and while I haven’t visited every lab here, I can pretty much tell you that the majority of the research being conducted doesn’t depend in any way on evolution being true.”
    I would adduce the following:
    1. Homology between proteins of different species, and the usefulness (or at times, lack of) that this brings to assay development.
    2. The elucidation of biochemical pathways through the study of less-complex organisms, like C. elegans, Drosophila, Xenopus, etc. It’s almost as if all living organisms on Earth were somehow related. . .
    3. The change in organism populations in response to environmental factors – development of antibiotic resistance in microorganisms, for example.
    We may be all talking past each other here, though. You may be trying to say that none of these observed facts “depend” on evolution being true. But they all seem to point in that direction, which is something a scientist should notice. And if evolution is not the explanation, then there’s a Nobel and world fame waiting for anyone who can tie things together as neatly without it.

  35. Timothy says:

    on the basis of a chapter in a four thousand year old book
    A four thouseand year old book written by nomadic middle-eastern sheep hearders at that.

  36. fool says:

    These are commonly used to support evolution. Let me dare offer a different creationist’s perspective. And please point out the inconsistancy if any.
    1. “Homology between proteins of different species…”
    So presumably our DNA is 99% homologous to monkeys (or apes or whatever). Let me ask you: are we 99% alike? How homologous are you to a monkey in what defines you and it? Rather than looking at this as remarkable efficient design, an evolutionist chooses to look at “evidence” for evolution.
    2. “The elucidation of biochemical…”
    Same as above.
    3. “The change in organism populations in response to environmental factors – development of antibiotic resistance…”
    This is nothing more than a function already “hardwired” (biologists like to use this phrase as if someone designed it ^_*) in its genes–again remarkable design!
    In general, most of pro-evolution arguments are merely “change over time”, which creation has no problem with (but might differ in time frames). And yet, origin by evolution, which is entirely a different concept, is “inadvertently” lumped in and drilled into the public’s subconscious collective mind.

  37. fool says:

    “Not the God of the Bible, which I regard as just one of uncountably various “Holy Books” throughout human history’
    Show me another “holy book” that offers all the answers in a bullet proof and consistent package, e.g. how we got here, why we’re here, and where’re headed. The Bible is a book of prophecy, for example over 300 on the birth of Christ alone hundreds of years before his birth (in Psalms, Isaiha, etc). Also look at the nation of Israel.

  38. Timothy says:

    Clearly you havn’t read the book 🙂 The Bible was written by 40 some authors within about 1600 years. These authors range from shepherd (you’re right on this one ^_*) like Amos to Kings like David and Solomon.

  39. fool says:

    Oh yeah, and they all claimed that they were writing down what God told them to. It’s easy to dismiss it, but read it for yourself and make up your own mind. Accept or reject it, at least you know what you’re rejecting.

  40. Derek Lowe says:

    Fool, as for the 99% argument, clearly some of those stretches of DNA are much more important for the final form of an organism than others. This isn’t a linear process. The homeobox genes, for example, can cause huge changes in the development of an organism, although they’re not a huge percentage at all of its DNA.
    For a non-biochemical analog, I invite readers to consider the difference between different bowls of chicken noodle soup, various examples of which have had one per cent of their contents replaced by distilled water, a live tadpole, Tabasco sauce, or tetrodotoxin.
    To pick a closer analogy to the letters of DNA, I invite readers to consider a long mathematical expression which has had one per cent of its specified numbers altered. The solutions to the equation will be changed each time you do this, and very drastically changed indeed if you happen to switch the values of an exponent.
    I just thought of that one, actually.

  41. fool says:

    Derek, again remarkable design.

  42. peej says:

    I think that if we seriously want to teach intelligent design in schools, we have to give credence to the possibility that there are multiple designers. They could be competing for the best design category – or maybe have been assigned to a kingdom.
    Maybe earth is like some huge sim game, run by 14 year old designers competing against each other. The guy who did the platypus has lost, but the insect kid has done really well.
    Its a legitimate theory – and as our president says, we really should “teach the controversy”.
    I bet, though, that the school board would not approve of this type of teaching though, would they? And that shows the real motivation behind ID.

  43. Viji says:

    Wow! all these discussions about intelligent design/or creation science ideologies with their inherent disconcert with the general scientific process — religious faith and foundations utmost important as to preserve cultural/moral values while blaming the advancement of science and knowledge to be incapacitating moral values — all these very mind boggling — All of us have our opinions, seems there is no end to it
    Oh well.. I might as well join in .. here’s my alternative, particular philosophy/religious (?)teachings that seems not to contradict my science-rooted rationale and reason so far…
    for those who have patience and time to spare, an enlightening audio recording
    But if patience and time is a premium, but still curious…
    Just skip the long winded sections, fast forward to these “controversial” bits (given in minutes)
    13:00 Buddhist’s take on scientific process
    16:20 Science as it should be VS. science dogmas
    33:52 Abnormality and its relationship with science
    39:23 Self? Soul? Buddhist view
    43:50 Gene cloning for Buddhists
    IMO, pretty much solves the dilemma aforementioned religion VS. science; morals VS. objectivity
    happy listening!
    P.S. apologies from me if this upsets people from certain faiths and beliefs
    As for origins… Not a problem, Ithink it is said that there is no beginning and no end, everything that exists, exists as natural cycle, hence no Chicken egg dilemma

  44. Derek Lowe says:

    Fool, you’re trying to have it both ways, I’d say. First you talk about the inconsistencies of my arguments and my evidence. Then when I point out that they actually make sense, you decide that they’re clearly evidence of intelligent design. Heads you win, tails I lose: no way to conduct a debate.
    You’ll have to try to believe me when I tell you that I can look at these same lines of evidence and see no need for design at all. The same “remarkable design” you see in the DNA examples I quoted cuts in other directions. Changing a single letter of DNA doesn’t always do much. But sometimes, a single letter substitution means death in agony for an uncomprehending infant, or wasting brain disease in an all-too-comprehending adult. Remarkable, indeed.
    By just responding to counterarguments with “remarkable design”, you end up defending a God that seems to have set things up so that millions of reasonable and intelligent people could carefully study His handiwork – and conclude that he didn’t do it.

  45. RKN says:

    A final comment or two on your reply. (A provocative post, btw. Funny how this kind of post never disappoints the comment counter).
    You mention homology of proteins being an “observed fact,” that you believe “leads [one] in the direction” that evolution is true. But if I were an IDer I might say the homology could also be evidence of re-use in design. Software designers are well familiar with this concept. For instance, why reinvent a new hydrophobic helix everytime I need to situate a transmembrane segment in a lipid bilayer? A decent designer wouldn’t, she’d employ reuse, and consequently you’d see these reuseable motifs appearing in your alignments. Same with metabolic pathways –“Hey, the TCA cycle worked well in the worm, let’s reuse it in the fly and the frog.” Etc.
    Same evidence, different conclusion.
    Would this interpretation also then be evidence of a design[ER]? Absoulutely not. But it would be consistent with the inference of design which, so far as I can tell, is the primary claim of IDers, in particular Behe.
    And I did mean “depend” in a literal way. Ask yourself: are you personally going to stop assaying for useful drugs if evolution were disproved tomorrow? I doubt it, and I doubt the thousands of researchers who work in other labs would be any different.
    For the record I’m not an IDer myself, tho I am a rational skeptic of evolutionary theory, which probably explains my willingness to give ID a more patient review than some others do. In the end, though, all this gets a philosophical shrug from me, I’m practically unconcerned with how I got here.

  46. bcpmoon says:

    Fool: “Derek, again remarkable design.”
    Just as Derek said, this way everything can be accommodated to creation. What was the name for this again? “Last tuesdayism”? I recall that there was a book, “Omphalos”, where this argument was elaborated upon.
    RKN wrote about the re-use of old designs, again an old argument and at least something resembling a theory. But the problem is the same, quoting again Derek:
    “By just responding to counterarguments with “remarkable design”, you end up defending a God that seems to have set things up so that millions of reasonable and intelligent people could carefully study His handiwork – and conclude that he didn’t do it.”
    And on the other hand, if you attribute the mechanisms of evolution instead to “the way god works”, then you deny the omnipotence of god.
    The ID/Creationist “reasoning” leads nowhere scientifically, because it is simply not necessary to introduce a deity and on the other hand it reduces god to a mere mechanic, slavishly following the rules and natural laws.

  47. Magnus says:

    The paradoxical thing about science is it’s name. Science cannot be science until we hold all the possible observations.
    We make suppositions, develop constructs, collect data, make observations, and postulate conclusions and theories. Everything we “know” is still subject to challenge. Yet we, in our child-like wonder only know the world through our experiences – a terribly trite subset of all information. And we proudly proclaim that we have revealed the truth. We see the fruit, but know not the root.
    Equating ID with creationism by the one true God shows ignorance. ID is nothing more than feel good spirituality. ID beholds the truth but cannot see it.
    So why is ID, or yet GOD, a problems for our inquiring minds. As long as we believe we can become equal to our Creator, we continue to deny that we are but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

  48. PandaFan says:

    RKN’s argument on homology might hold up for individual pairings. What it utterly fails to explain is why the small deviations from homology all tend to point in similar directions. One can pick a great number of different proteins & get identical (or nearly so) trees of their relationships, and these trees largely recapitulate the trees developed from anatomic & developmental characteristics. The fact that you can reproduce largely consistent species trees from many different proteins implies that they all retain information from a common history.
    There are other hints that life has been shaped by something much less than an omnipotent creator. For example, Serine can be coded by 6 codons which are in two regions of the genetic code — and you cannot move between those by a single mutation. As would be expected from a common descent explanation, essential serines from homologous proteins are encoded by the same codon family. Of course, a designer could have designed it this way — but such a designer could have done anything. This is the fundamental scientific vacuousness of ID — the explanation that can explain anything predicts nothing.

  49. fool says:

    “Fool, you’re trying to have it both ways, I’d say.”
    I wasn’t trying to have it both ways. What I was trying to say is that the same facts can be interpreted differently according to one’s world view and yet still be consistant.
    Another important point to bear in mind is that one shouldn’t approach this subject from the viewpoint of “how I think God did it”, but rather “how HE said he did it” which is revealed in the bible. Also since sin entered, the entire creation was cursed and drastically changed, for example now the plants had thorns. What that meant on the genetic level I don’t know.

  50. Brahim says:

    Gee, all these wonderful comments. It’s such a fruitful discussion. There’s just one problem with this lengthy dialogue: It completely misses the point.
    The discussion concerns a court case that tries the legality of teaching a certain set of ideas to children.
    It would seem that the vast majority of this discussion is about the veracity of the evolutionary theory versus that of intelligent design. That is an incredible distraction from the issue in the case, which is how shall public schools teach other people’s children?
    One commenter bluntly wrote off my earlier comment as a straw-man. Perhaps for him it is. However, for parents, it’s no straw man. It’s the core issue. In this case, will the Federal government, through the courts, dictate what children learn?
    Historically, education has been the concern of local school boards, which are elected by members of the local community. Given our federal system, even a state government should have more direct standing over the education of children in their jurisdiction than the Federal government.
    Lastly, I wish to reiterate my earlier point. It is important to consider that the teaching of evolution has predominantly been a spring board for the promotion of a broad range of social studies. If the teaching of evolution was limited to its purely scientific aspects, I seriously doubt that many would become concerned.
    However, that is certanly not the case. Evolution is widely used as a method to introduce to public school students the idea that there is no God. If you would take some time to read about Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s Bulldog, you would see that the original motivations were anything but scientific. The discussion of the existence of God should remain at home, not in the public school.
    Finally, I would ask why. Why is it necessary for elementary and secondary school students to be taught these things? What is the point of spending time discussing the science of evolutionary biology with people who are preparing for the working world or preparing to study in college?
    For goodness’ sakes, my children complain about the relevance of algebra in their studies. “When am I ever going to use this stuff, Dad?” they ask. Surely algebra is quite a lot more relevant in the preparation and disciplining of a young mind than unproven theories about the origins of life. Children do not have the maturity — even high school seniors — to evaluate these theories objectively.
    The study of these theories should be left to those who choose to pursue them on their own, in college or through self study. The study of biology in elementary and secondary school should be limited to the facts and not extrapolations of what might have been some assumed millions or billions of years ago based on unproven and unprovable testing methodology.

  51. Anonymous says:

    “Lastly, I wish to reiterate my earlier point. It is important to consider that the teaching of evolution has predominantly been a spring board for the promotion of a broad range of social studies. If the teaching of evolution was limited to its purely scientific aspects, I seriously doubt that many would become concerned.
    However, that is certanly not the case. Evolution is widely used as a method to introduce to public school students the idea that there is no God.” Brahim, if you are still around, please provide some sort of evidence for this remarkable statement. Without opposing evidence, I feel quite comfortable with my straw man assertion, thank you (as blunt as it may be).

  52. jim says:

    forgot to sign that one, not that there would be a question

  53. RKN says:

    You know I could accept that my argument is an “utter failure,” except that I didn’t make an argument. I merely acknowledged an observation (protein sequence homology), closed my eyes and asked myself, “What if natural selection operating against hereditable mutation wasn’t true [gasp!], what else could account for this observation?” That’s all.
    As I learn more about Proteomics I may draw different conclusions, or not.
    Another assumption that seems prevalent among those hostile to the idea of design inference is that the design in living things should be expectedly optimal, that is, free of flaws. Why should this be? I can’t thing of a single designed thing that’s flawless or doesn’t break from time to time.
    This nicely reveals the difference between optimal vs intelligent design. Well it’s something to think about anyway.
    Lastly, I don’t think one must conclude from design inference a supernatural designer. Could simply be extraterrestrial, no? We know from astronomy there’s a whole lot of space out there. To think we’re the first creatures to be mucking around with DNA in ten billion years (estimated age of universe) smacks a bit of human arrogance.

  54. Brahim says:

    Jim: There are many places to go to provide evidence for my statement that evolution is a spring board for teaching that there is no God. For example, here is a Web site containing a report about the quality of biology teaching in public schools:
    The main thrust of the report is to describe the appearance of the teaching of creationism in a large number of schools around the country. This is a factor that the organization finds objectionable.
    However, the article says, “When the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) established its “Fund for Freedom in Science Teaching” in the 1970s to combat the anti-science campaigns of creationists, many members of NABT were outraged. According to Nelkin (1982: 158), “letters poured into” NABT’s national office decrying “vicious scientific attacks on the creationists” and attempts to “promote atheism and agnosticism in the schools”.”
    One could cynically say that the letter writers were ignorant boobs who were just following the instructions of mean-spirited religious leaders. On the other hand, one could accept the testimony of the letter writers as parents who intelligently analyzed their children’s biology instruction and objected by writing letters.
    Moreover, the article goes on to admit that “states’ and science education organizations’ standards for teaching evolution have not changed the fact that evolution is often taught poorly — or not at all — in biology classes.” In the context of the earlier citation of parents’ complaints, it’s easy to see that teaching evolution poorly means promoting atheism and agnosticism during that instruction.
    Here is another link:
    This is a transcript of a debate between several experts and teachers about the very topic at hand. While adherents to one side of this issue or the other will find both comfort and the lack of it, the fact is undeniable that a part of the discussion is whether the teaching of evolution promotes atheism.
    Here is a quote from the transcript:
    “MARGARET WARNER [moderator]: All right…. Mr. Witwer, do you think that a belief in evolution and a belief in a divine creator are necessarily exclusive? I mean, are they always going to be in conflict, or could they be reconciled?
    “MARK WITWER [High School Earth Science Teacher]: I think it’s important for students to understand that any kind of an explanation of ultimate origins … it’s just loaded deep with philosophical implications … students need to understand that much of what drives some of the evolutionary thinking, not all of it, … is naturalism, belief that nature is all there is, and so necessarily we must be able to find natural explanations for everything. We can and we must.”
    There are just a couple of the many, many examples that can be found. I chose these two in particular because they are some of the many statements made by adherents to evolution, not opponents.

  55. jim says:

    I have to actually do some work today, so I’m getting to this slowly, but the first article, at least, doesn’t seem to support your claims at all. Rather, as you state yourself, it seems that if anything the problem (according to this article) is science teachers not teaching evolution. I find zero support for your assertion that “poor” teaching in this case equates to promoting atheism. I’ll get to the others shortly, I hope.

  56. jimi says:

    OK, I read the other one, and I feel very vindicated. I was almost ready to give you credit for actually finding some evidence–until I read it, that is. What I can’t tell is whether you are being dishonest or stupid. For instance, the quote you give above is from a teacher who subscribes to the design theory! He’s simply making a more subtle version of the argument you are, not providing evidence for it! Part of the confusion in the way you’ve presented it in your post is your selective quoting, which seems to be a theme among ID proponents.
    Furthermore, the evolution-defenders, if you will, are both quoted as saying that religion and evolution are not incompatible. This is plainly contradictory to your assertions! Even the booklet they refer to in the second article makes this case.
    So, as a summation, S-T-R-A-W-M-A-N

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