My Photo

« Department Of Redundancy Department | Main | OH-02 »

August 02, 2005

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e200d83424d31d53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dumbing it Down:

» Bush endorses Intelligent Design creationism from Pharyngula
It's only a small fillip on the vast rococo monument to incompetence, anti-science, and lies that the Republican party has erected over our country, but I take it personally. George W. Bush has endorsed Intelligent Design creationism's pl... [Read More]

» The reaction to Bush's statements from The Panda's Thumb
In response to George W. Bush's statement that he supports teaching Intelligent Design creationism in our public schools, I wrote my own reply, and also volunteered to collect links to other people's criticisms. It was a little bit overwhelming. My... [Read More]

» The reaction to Bush's statements from The Panda's Thumb

In response to George W. Bush's statement that he supports teaching Intelligent Design creationism in our public schools, I wrote my own reply, and also volunteered to collect links to other people's criticisms.

[Read More]

Comments

Maybe in the next generation, Bush's dream will come true: a nation of people as stupid as he is.

as i once read on Pandas Thumb:

    If these people are able to ignore geology, chemistry and physics, why do they even bother to lie about biology?

I'm not going to say this is the Dumbest Idea Ever, but it certainly makes the all-star team.

Argh. Given that the Bush administration's idea of "small government" is "bigger government" -- PARTICULARLY at the DoE (NCLB, anyone?) -- I can easily and with much disgust imagine Federal guidelines that mandate the teaching of "both theories" in American high school biology classes. At which point, I give up.

Throw Lysenkoism in there, throw in the Australian aboriginal dreamtime, toss in the four elephants on the turtle . . . just do it all. Give up any idea whatsoever of actually educating kids in biology. Just whatever you want to believe is cool, kids.

What are the chief claims of Intelligent Design Theory?

That the Bible is the literal truth. Full Stop.

All other rationales for forcing this into curriculums are disingenuous horsesh*t and we deserve a President who's not too cowardly to say so.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I see this as tragic. We have a President who is promoting scientific ignorance. There is no other way to see it.

We have a President who is promoting scientific ignorance.

We've had a president advocating scientific ignorance for a while. Look at Bush's stances on climate change, on ANWR and energy in general, on the environment, on the whole miserable Schiavo affair. What's truly disturbing is the trickle-down this causes because of the GOP's lockstep strategy: we have an entire party advocating scientific ignorance.

Personally, I agree with Bush 100%. Teachers should absolutely talk about ID alongside evolution, because it's an idea that has a lot of adherents and one that students will surely encounter in other forums. Teachers can take that opportunity to talk about the scientific method and the difference between the theory of evolution and the "theory" of ID, and compare the plusses and minuses of each.

I see where you're going with that kenB, but I think it would cause more, not less, aggrevation on the part of fundamentalists, who would (rightly, IMO) complain that the ID is not the best example with which to demonstrate scientific method as it's sure to alienate some students.

kenB--

Yeah, that sounds like a neutral, fair-minded position, but it ain't.

Teaching is all about prioritizing time--you've only got their bodies in your class for so many hours, and you've got their attention for a lot less than that. You have to make sure that you are using that time to best advantage, by giving the students an accurate picture of the discipline in question.

If you are teaching biology or science, then the accurate picture of the discipline is one that allots *zero* time to ID and the other creationist con-games. That's how large of a role they play in real science. Anything else would be like taking a week out of physics class to teach flat-earth theory.

Now: if you are teaching a course on social studies and current events, then I think your rationale gets a bit more grip:

"it's an idea that has a lot of adherents and one that students will surely encounter in other forums"

That's right: creationism and its current grip on the Republican leadership is a political and cultural phenomenon, and can be studied as such. There are some interesting reasons why the most powerful people in the most powerful nation on earth have turned their back on reality, and a course on politics could be a good venue for discussing that.

I could even see discussing the science/non-science distinction in a course on philosophy, except that high-schools don't have the time and talent to make room for courses in philosophy, either--more prioritizing.

So the rationales that you offer might show why this debate should be studied *somewhere*.

But it has no place in a science course.

kenB:

Teachers can take that opportunity to talk about the scientific method and the difference between the theory of evolution and the "theory" of ID, and compare the plusses and minuses of each.

Other than the wonders of religious belief (which should not be taught in public schools), what are the plusses of ID that teachers are supposed to compare with evolution?

p.s. -- ID is not a theory that can be compared to the study of evolution. It is a faith based belief that exists solely as a means to reject evolutionary theory. The more important question is why such people feel that their faith is incompatible with evolutionary theory such that they have to reject science. There are plenty of evolutionary adherents who do not feel their faith is threatened in any way by their science.

Bring on the Global War on Scientific Theory.

Yet another broadside by the administration against evildoing scientists and teachers.

Yet another chance for us to look like laughingstocks to the rest of the world.

Just another reason why I'm glad I don't have children to try and raise. Sigh...

Maybe I'm not up-to-date with the ID industry, but do they even have material that would take longer than five minutes in a classroom? Isn't it basically "and maybe there was an intelligent designer behind these processes"?

All of the attempts to prove problems in the fossil records would be useless to a high school teacher. Not only is it dishonest, it's boooooring.

Teachers should absolutely talk about ID alongside evolution, because it's an idea that has a lot of adherents and one that students will surely encounter in other forums.

If you wanted to discuss ID in a political science or civics class as an example of the politicization of science, I can see that. But teaching it as science just because it's popular - generally among people who don't understand evolution anyway? Science isn't a popularity contest. And for that matter, Darwinian evolution is not considered, by any stretch of the imagination, controversial. It's the basis of modern biology. ID couldn't replace it if it wanted to, because there's nothing to build off Intelligent Design. What are we going to research? What experiments are we going to perform? Are we going to launch space probes into God? There's simply no there there.

A lot of people believe in astrology. Should we teach kids that there's an "alternate theory" that the position of massive balls of gas and plasma millions of light years out in space determines their personalities and futures?

Are we going to launch space probes into God?

Didn't we do that in the first Star Trek flick?

Oh, wait . . . that was V'ger. Still, it looked interesting. Especially the giant bald chick that Spock saw.

Edward,

but I think it would cause more, not less, aggrevation on the part of fundamentalists,

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Tad, I strongly suspect that science teachers already discuss creationism when the subject of evolution is presented, simply because it was the dominant view that the theory of evolution replaced. ID could be mentioned as a modern continuation of the same view -- it wouldn't need to take a week, 15 minutes would probably be enough, and IMO it could be a quite useful discussion.

The point I'm really making is that Bush didn't say that ID should be presented as being co-equal with evolution, or that it should get equal time, just that it should be taught "alongside" evolution. I'm OK with that.

Edward,

but I think it would cause more, not less, aggrevation on the part of fundamentalists,

You say that like it's a bad thing.

I'm not big on using children as pawns in political debates.

Wow, lots more intervening comments. I think you folks are being rather dogmatic about this. Every science class spends a certain amount of time on discredited theories -- it's part of the process of teaching science. And I would think that explicitly discussing ID's deficiencies, and the faulty arguments of its supporters, in the classroom would make students less likely to be seduced by ID advocates than just ignoring it altogether.

I'm not clear why so many bloggers are linking to the AP summary, which is extremely incomplete, and generally lousy. The Knight-Ridder version has more quotes.

I'm not sure that ignoring pseudo-science that is widely believed, rather than specifically teaching why it is false and not science, is the way to go, though. I'd be happy to see a mandatory bloc of teaching (whatever the pop educational term is these days) on learning about popular pseudo-science, and how to tell what pseudo-science is, and run through such topics as astrology, palm reading, telepathy, creationism, phlogistan, ID, communicating with the dead, and so on.

Hey, I can dream.

kenB: The point I'm really making is that Bush didn't say that ID should be presented as being co-equal with evolution, or that it should get equal time, just that it should be taught "alongside" evolution. I'm OK with that.

Your trust in Bush's motives is inspiring. I'm a tad bit more cynical though. In fact, I could easily see this as being an early feeler for an issue to get the Republican base fired up prior to the mid-term elections.

However, like others have mentioned previously, I'm 100% against wasting valuable class time "teaching" this. If they want to put it in a philosophy class or the equivalent they can bring it on, but short of that...no, never.

[oops!! I posted this to the wrong thread at first. How embarrassing.]

I have an idea for how to make everyone happy: someone needs to write some Intelligent Design choral music. Then it could be taught as part of a music program.

Much of the choral repertoire is already religious. This would lead to added funding for music, and the kids usually ignore the words anyway.

but do they even have material that would take longer than five minutes in a classroom? Isn't it basically "and maybe there was an intelligent designer behind these processes"?

yes, they have some stuff. it's all wrong, but it sounds good if you don't know any science to begin with; that's the problem, of course - kids don't have the scientific chops in H.S. to be able to see where many of ID's holes are.

kids don't have the scientific chops in H.S. to be able to see where many of ID's holes are.

Exactly my point. Having a HS science teacher point out the holes in ID would not be a waste of time at all IMO -- quite the opposite.

Well, if they require that ID be taught along side evolution, then the school boards would likely be required to get textbooks that discuss ID and that do so "fairly" in the eyes of the parents who attend school board meetings. Having seen first-hand what that looks like, you are going to end up with a lot of pseudo-scientific drivel masquerading as science.

Not that far too many science courses don't already produce a course of study almost, but not quite, entirely unlike science. More like Science Light (tm)-- All the Scientistic "Facts" and a Third Less Uncertainty.

Let them read Kuhn.

kids don't have the scientific chops in H.S. to be able to see where many of ID's holes are.

That's the problem. I went to a private school, so in High School Biology the teacher was able to have us do a Creationism vs. Evolution debate. Out of spite, knowing that I was a science zealot, she assigned me to the Creationism team. We won by a landslide, because we could attack the Evolution team where they were ignorant, which was just about everywhere (they really didn't get it at all.)

So, I don't think it's a bad thing for the kids to be doing, whether it's appropriate or reasonable in Public School I have no idea.

Teachers can take that opportunity to talk about the scientific method and the difference between the theory of evolution and the "theory" of ID, and compare the plusses and minuses of each.

Well. Perhaps, in passing, it might be a decent idea to point out ID as an example of bad science, kind of like epicycles.

But only, mind you, in passing. I'd give it five minutes or less, on one occasion. Hell, people spend more time than that glued to What Not To Wear.

Maybe, if you lump ID in with the musings of Von Daniken and Velikovsky, you could give the whole idea of pseudoscientific tripe, and how to tell it from actual science as much as ten or fifteen minutes.

Come to think of it, if you're going to give ID equal time, I demand that you also give the theories espoused in Worlds In Collision equal time as well.

Could be good for some laughs, I guess.

I demand that you also give the theories espoused in Worlds In Collision equal time as well.

What!!! No Chariots of The Gods?

Maybe, if you lump ID in with the musings of Von Daniken and Velikovsky, you could give the whole idea of pseudoscientific tripe, ...

Now there's an idea for a course: History of Pseudoscience. Didn't Asimov write some material on this topic (I vaguely recall)? Perhaps a collection of columns from Scientific American could be gathered into a text book.

I did mention von Daniken, but there's only so many minutes in the school day.

"Perhaps a collection of columns from Scientific American could be gathered into a text book."

And from The Skeptical Inquirer, and James Randi, and....

There's no shortage of existing material.

Evolutionary geneticist H. Allen Orr wrote a great article on ID for the New Yorker a few months ago. Definitely worth a read.

Ral:

Back in the day, Asimov had a regular science column in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine (I think that was the one). It was filled with his low-key somewhat self deprecating sense of humor.

The columns I remember best were the ones where he'd debunk the theories of the flat-earthers and their ilk.

There were a few collections of these columns in paperback form, but I doubt that they're still in print.

"Back in the day, Asimov had a regular science column in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine (I think that was the one)."

Correct; for about 40 years, from November 1959 to February 1992. 399, altogether, I believe.

Of course, he also had a variety of other columns, and wrote hundreds of other such books, as well.

"There were a few collections of these columns in paperback form...."

If "a few" means "many."

See here and here.

Slarti--it might be a decent idea to point out ID as an example of bad science, kind of like epicycles.

But epicycles were not bad science. They served their purpose quite well up until technology paved the way for a new paradigm. Teaching epicycles as "bad science" is why science classes are bad science. We do not teach science as process, we teach current paradigm as gospel, which is just wrong-headed.

For starters, intelligent design still hasn't proposed a hypothesis that can be proven false -- a basic requirement of a scientific theory -- much less proposed a test that might be used to falsify that theory.

You ought to run this argument by the many scientists who seem to feel that they have, in fact, PROVEN FALSE various assertions made by ID theorists. (I.e., there are any number of articles, available on the Internet, purporting to disprove Michael Behe's examples of irreducible complexity, or Bill Dembski's mathematical theorems, etc., etc.)

If something like Behe's or Dembski's ideas can be proven false, it is ridiculous to claim that ID offers nothing that can be proven false. ID cannot be both: 1) Proven false, and (2) Incapable of being proven false.

But epicycles were not bad science.

I gave that one some thought after I posted it, and didn't retract. And I'm still not going to retract: epicycles were bad science, up until the paradigm that had been stretched past all utility was abandoned in favor of a new one. Epicycles were an overcomplication of the model to make the data fit, which is what science should avoid. Probably not the most egregious example, and probably more of a model of what happens before good science, but still a decent and prominent case in point. Epicycles are what happens when you try to model a system without understanding the interaction between components.

Gary, thanks for the links. I have some shopping to do now..

You ought to run this argument by the many scientists who seem to feel that they have, in fact, PROVEN FALSE various assertions made by ID theorists.

Um, proving an assertion false doesn't equate to proving an entire theory false. I can claim a theory of gravitation identical to Newton's, while claiming that snakes can fly.

Literacy, Mr. SBF:

The original post said: "For starters, intelligent design still hasn't proposed a hypothesis that can be proven false . . . ."

To which the obvious answer is: Huh? ID has proposed quite a few hypotheses that can be proven false (and have been so proven, according to the many scientific opponents of ID).

Um, proving an assertion false doesn't equate to proving an entire theory false.

This is my main problem with ID (other than my knee-jerk reaction to keeping religion out of public schools). It's central assertion can't be proven or disproven.

If something like Behe's or Dembski's ideas can be proven false, it is ridiculous to claim that ID offers nothing that can be proven false. ID cannot be both: 1) Proven false, and (2) Incapable of being proven false.

specific claims that ID proponents make can be (and have been) proved false. but, the basic idea behind ID/creationism (ie. God Did It) cannot be falsified.

even worse, there is no single overall Theory of I.D. to knock down, there is only God Did It and a bunch of smaller things people propose to try to knock down Evolution.

Besides, falsification isn't always a good criterion for distinguishing between science and non-science. No one can possibly disprove the multiple universes hypothesis, for example, but that seems to be accepted as scientific in some sense.

just that it should be taught "alongside" evolution. I'm OK with that.

I'm not OK with that, but if intelligent design must be taught alongside natural selection, KenB's approach is the next best thing. Science teachers should take that opportunity to talk about what science is, to point out the fallacies of id and other kinds of pseudo-science, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Teachers should do that, of course, but that doesn't mean they will. They'll be less likely to do so in some parts of the country than in others. But then, them's the breaks of growing up in an intellectual third world country.

But he said students should learn about both theories

Will anyone who voted for this guy admit to being even slightly embarassed when you read this?

For starters, intelligent design still hasn't proposed a hypothesis that can be proven false . . .

Implicit in the requirement for a falsifiable hypothesis is that the hypothesis be actually relevant to the theory in question. The statements that Behe and Dembski have made that have been contradicted aren't statements of fact about ID.

functional: One cannot prove either true or false the assertion "God did it". The proposal that things are as they are because "God likes it that way" (which is the central idea of 'intelligent design') is not a proposal that can sensibly be examined by science, or taught in a science class.

This might be something it's worth teaching in a science class, I suppose. But it would be more sensible to teach it in a current affairs class on the political strength of certain sects of Christianity in the US, if that was allowed, or in a history class outlining the various religious objections to scientific theories down the centuries.

Or, if that were allowed in US public schools, in a comparitive religions class: after all, not every sect of Christianity requires its adherents to believe that the (ahem, favored English translation of) Bible is literally and boneheadedly true, and it is the belief that the six days of Creation cannot possibly be considered metaphorical that is the boneheaded source of "creationism", of which "intelligent design" is an offshoot.

errr... let me amend:

even worse, there is no single overall Theory of I.D. to knock down; there are young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, people who believe in micro-evolution but not macro-evolution, etc.. all of them claim an intelligent designer, but each has very different ways of assaulting our current scientific knowledge base. the falsifiable things are little specific bits that aren't even trying to support the overall claim of God Did It.

BTW, I'm not opposed to the idea that God did it, I simply don't think that's either a theory per se or anything that contributes to understanding. God did gravity and material properties as well, perhaps, but saying that doesn't do a thing for the bridge designer.

Functional wrote:

"Besides, falsification isn't always a good criterion for distinguishing between science and non-science. No one can possibly disprove the multiple universes hypothesis, for example, but that seems to be accepted as scientific in some sense."

As long as it is called a hypothesis then yes it can be accepted as scientific in some sense. Depends on the hypothesis of course.

Remember in science:
Hypothesis --> theory --> law

but saying that doesn't do a thing for the bridge designer

yup.

if the answer to any question is just God Did It, wouldn't it then be heresy to dig any deeper ? any thoughts on that one, Galileo ?

wonder how many IDers are atheist... certainly it's possible to believe a supernatural being created the earth and everything on it, but that that being doesn't interfere with how things play out, and won't take requests to do so.

The proposal that things are as they are because "God likes it that way" (which is the central idea of 'intelligent design') is not a proposal that can sensibly be examined by science, or taught in a science class.

That's nonsense on several levels.

ID's central idea is not that "God likes it that way." That's not even a good caricature.

To sum up ID in a nutshell: We can detect intelligently-designed actions in a wide variety of contexts. Investigators can detect that a gambler is cheating. If scientists heard a radio signal from outer space that spelled out pi in Morse code, they would know that it had been sent from somewhere. If you come across writing in a strange script, linguists can make a pretty good guess as to whether it is a genuine language or whether someone just scrawled it at random. And so on, and so forth. Everywhere you look, people are able to tell that things were designed by someone.

ID says, Why can't we apply this design-detecting ability in biology as well? Certain biological structures or forms give every appearance of being designed, and there's no plausible mechanism for them to have arisen otherwise.

Now the evolutionary response is obvious: Yes, indeed, there is a plausible mechanism for them to have arisen, and here's what that mechanism looks like.

But that response amounts to saying that ID is false in its main contention -- i.e., that certain biological features had to have been designed. The various respondents here -- as well as the original post -- are clearly wrong in claiming that ID can't be falsified. It can, and it HAS been falsified (if you believe innumerable evolutionary scientists).

ID's central idea is not that "God likes it that way." That's not even a good caricature.

I don't think anyone here was confused about what "God did it" meant, Functional. Other than you, I mean. It's not as if this is the first time this topic has come up, and we sometimes have our own peculiar shorthand.

ID's central idea is not that "God likes it that way." That's not even a good caricature.

sure it is. you can't have ID without a D. so, ask an IDer who The Designer is. if they don't answer with the name of their favorite deity, they're probably being disingenuous.

ID is creationism dressed up in scientific trappings, trying to kill Evolution by blurring the lines between science and theology.

my wife is a high school biology teacher. over the last 17 years, she has experienced varying degrees of pressure to "expose" the kids to creationism. it is always presented to her as "an open discussion of ideas", which is very democratic sounding and it certainly seems like a reasonable educational goal, this "openness to ideas". she has always been able to politely decline these pressures, despite the fact that she herself is a person of deep faith and a sunday school teacher. she has been able to say the bible belongs in the social studies department, without much serious opposition.

three years ago she decided to teach in a different town, at a much smaller school and loves it there. once she got there she discovered that this science department voluntarily engages a local christian school to have an annual debate (in the public school only) of creationism vs. natural selection by the teachers in front of the class. over the years they have seen the creationist argument morph from a young earth bible story to ID. this year for the first time the christian school allowed my wife and another teacher to make a presentation to their school as well. they wisely choose a positive approach to darwin, rather than a negative "tearing down" of god. my wife now uses ID to teach what is a scientific theory is and isn't and as a refresher on the scientific method.

some thoughts:

ID when presented the way the discovery institute presents ID to school boards and text book committees, has real political legs, some of you are seriously underestimating the creativity of the ID approach in this very old debate. you will be hearing more over the years from these guys, they are well funded and really believe they are correct.

i am not worried about science in the classroom, there are too many good teachers and they will not wear blinders, i fear in the long run they will bring more harm than good to christianity. they lead kids to believe that natural selection and god are mutually exclusive and then hand them an empty repackaging of the watchmakers problem, leaving disillusionment in its wake.

"ID says, Why can't we apply this design-detecting ability in biology as well? Certain biological structures or forms give every appearance of being designed, and there's no plausible mechanism for them to have arisen otherwise."

Well, if they were designed then who designed them according to ID?
ET? Little green men from Mars?

And a serious question.
(I´m a German so I don´t know that much about ID.)
What biological structures or forms "give every appearance of being designed"?
And when were they designed?
Right at the beginning of life?
Or did "The Designer" intervene several times during earth history to "insert" new complicated biological structures?

functional:

"and there's no plausible mechanism for them to have arisen otherwise"

here is the crux of the ID position, same as the watchmaker, same as the shaman explaining the origin of lightning. we don't know it, it can't be known, it is created!! only now we can through statistical analysis at it (dembski) or irreducible complexity (Behe), except for every irreducible example Behe gives thoughtful scientists like Kenneth Miller and others find plausible mechanisms.

http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html

I have nothing to add except the repeated bashing of my head against my desk

--Bucky
a Brown Bag Blog

Detlef and others: I'm not defending the merits of ID. ID may be false. THAT'S the point. And if ID is false, then it is absurd to claim that ID is incapable of being proven false.

This is one of the most elementary principles of logic. Something can't be A and not-A at the same time. ID can't be both proven false and unable to be proven false at the same time.

(My peripheral argument was that various people don't seem to have any idea what ID's central point is in the first place. Yes, of course, ID theorists believe that God was the designer. That doesn't make ID unfalsifiable: The whole point of ID is that there is EVIDENCE for the I (Intelligent) part of the equation. The sort of evidence that ID theorists bring forward is most definitely falsifiable. There's no honest question about that.)

3legcat --

You alone seem to understand the point. Kenneth Miller is one of the many scientists who claim to be able to disprove the EVIDENCE to which ID theorists have pointed. Obviously, if Miller's responses can DISPROVE the need for "intelligence" to "design" biological mechanisms, then ID is something that can be disproven. QED.

The whole point of ID is that there is EVIDENCE for the I (Intelligent) part of the equation.

Er . . . there isn't even evidence for the D, let alone the I. In fact, if one were to assume arguendo the D, one would have to conclude that the designer was rather dumb.

The sort of evidence that ID theorists bring forward is most definitely falsifiable.

Which kind of evidence is that? The god-of-the-gaps theory or the argument from incredulity?

At the same time, 3legcat, you have to admit that ID is a little more sophisticated than that. They do more than say, "We don't know it and it can't be known." They also say things like, "We are able to know that this or that thing bears all the positive marks of design, such that if this DNA code were found written out on a piece of paper, no one would doubt that an intelligent being had written it out." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point (I hope).

Again, the obvious response from evolutionists is something like, "But here's a naturalistic way that the DNA code would have been written out on that piece of paper."

Which is to say, they believe they have DISPROVED the contentions of ID. Which means that ID is falsifiable.

This really isn't that confusing.

Phil --

If you're new to the ID issue, 3legcat has just above reproduced a link to essays by Kenneth Miller. Miller is responding to arguments put forward by ID theorists. That would be a good place to get acquainted with the evidence that Miller (and other evolutionists) is rebutting.

sure it is. you can't have ID without a D. so, ask an IDer who The Designer is.

More importantly, ask what intelligence designed the Designer. Then ask how to test that, and what predictions that bit of information allows us to make about the observable world. Then, note that ID is simply religion, and relegate it to whatever role religion plays in your life.

detlef,
"What biological structures or forms "give every appearance of being designed"?"

ID theorists point to complex structures and processes like the multi-step molecular process involved in blood clotting and then argue "how could natural selection evolve a process that requires each step in a 16 step process to work in order for the whole thing to work, without someone understanding what the final goal is?" or another famous one is the rotating axle (flagellum) in a bacteria. this is a multi part machine of which each part on its own is useless so how did natural selection create it.

I'm not new to it, Functional. Just aware that most ID "theory" I've seen so far reduces to something like, "This structure looks like a little wheel, therefore it must have been designed like a wheel, therefore it must have been designed!" Which is pretty much the approach that Miller is criticizing, only in more -- and more intelligent -- words. (I own and have read Miller's book, Finding Darwin's God.)

here is the crux of the ID position, same as the watchmaker, same as the shaman explaining the origin of lightning. we don't know it, it can't be known, it is created!!

I agree, which is why I disagree with those who are asserting that ID is nothing more than disguised religion. It may be that for some, but it also reflects a more general problem where the inability to think of an explanation leads to the belief that no explanation is possible. Chomsky's innateness hypothesis is much like this -- language is so complex and the learning environment so limited that there's no way a child could learn it from scratch, so linguistic knowledge must be hardwired in our brains. In this case, instead of shoving the problem over to God, he's shoving over to neurobiologists, but I think it reflects the same sort of failure of imagination.

Phil -- refer to the last post by 3legcat for another example.

In principle, ID theory is no different from someone who finds a Shakespearan sonnet written in the sand on a desert island. If the person says, "Hmmm, there must be someone else on this island," that isn't a "person of the gaps" argument, nor is it an "argument from incredulity." (Implying that the person should be credulous enough to think that Shakespearan sonnets get written in the sand all the time just by the natural process of oceanic waves.) No, it is a logical inference from the positive characteristics of what the person sees.

Now in the case of biology, evolutionists claim to have identified a plausible naturalist mechanism that can account for the complexity that we see in living organisms. If they are correct, they have DISPROVEN the notion that certain biological structures bear the characteristics of design. And then, ID having been disproven, the only possible conclusion is that ID must be the sort of thing that is possible to disprove.

functional

"you have to admit that ID is a little more sophisticated than that"

Oh i do, and that is exactly my point above, the approach is very sophisticated and as such has real political legs. but in the end it is still empty scientifically, though very thought provoking... for example Dawkins, Miller and others start with the premise "life (dna) wants to be" but they never answer why life wants to be.

In principle, ID theory is no different from someone who finds a Shakespearan sonnet written in the sand on a desert island.

Um, no. It's more akin to someone who finds some marks in the sand that look like something that might be systematic, purposeful writing, then concludes that, because it looks like purposeful, systematic writing, it must be purposeful, systematic writing, and that there must therefore be on the island a purposeful, systematic writer.

f they are correct, they have DISPROVEN the notion that certain biological structures bear the characteristics of design.

No, they have disproven that they were designed, not that they look like they were. Lots of things that appear to have been designed were not.

Either you don't understand the difference between being designed and appearing to be designed, or you are conflating them on purpose. Using "a Shakespearean sonnet" rather than "some marks in the sand that appear to be writing" sort of indicates the latter.

Functional,

You're right, this isn't that confusing, so I'm having a hard time figuring out why you seem so confused. When IDists say that, for example, the blood-clotting cascade must have been designed by an intelligence, they are making the specific claim that this is the ONLY way it could have come about, and so therefore god must have done it. Evolutionists say no, a non-intelligent design process such as natural selection is fully capable of assembing such complex constructs. This is not the same as disproving the conclusions of ID (i.e. that such structures were intelligently designed), but is only refuting the specific claim used to support the conclusion (i.e., that evolution is incapable of creating such structures). Intelligent design itself is impossible to disprove, as it makes no testable predictions. If you're under the impression that it does, perhaps you could tell us what they are. There is, AFAIK, no research program anywhere in the world that uses ID as a theoretical basis for published biological research. If you're aware of any, please point us to them.

In this case, instead of shoving the problem over to God, he's shoving over to neurobiologists, but I think it reflects the same sort of failure of imagination.

Nice connection.

Dawkins, Miller and others start with the premise "life (dna) wants to be" but they never answer why life wants to be.

I dunno... it's been a while but as I recall, it seemed to me like Dawkins answered that pretty well (or started to, anyway) in The Selfish Gene.

Phil:

No, they have disproven that they were designed, not that they look like they were.

That's a useless distinction. Evolutionists have disproven that certain biological mechanisms needed to be designed -- and that is precisely the point that ID theorists had been trying to prove (that certain biological mechanisms needed to have been designed).

Larv:

When IDists say that, for example, the blood-clotting cascade must have been designed by an intelligence, they are making the specific claim that this is the ONLY way it could have come about, and so therefore god must have done it. Evolutionists say no, a non-intelligent design process such as natural selection is fully capable of assembing such complex constructs. This is not the same as disproving the conclusions of ID (i.e. that such structures were intelligently designed), but is only refuting the specific claim used to support the conclusion (i.e., that evolution is incapable of creating such structures).

So what? The only real purchase of ID is in the latter claim, i.e., when ID claims that evolution is incapable of creating such structures. If evolutionists respond and DISPROVE such allegations, then so much the worse for ID. And -- THIS IS MY WHOLE POINT -- it would be IMPOSSIBLE for evolutionists to do that if ID never made falsifiable claims.

Intelligent design itself is impossible to disprove, as it makes no testable predictions.

You're getting two different issues confused: Falsifiability, and predictive ability. I've been talking about the former. The latter is irrelevant, and I'm not interested in it. (Literacy, folks: I'm not defending the merits of ID.)

There is, AFAIK, no research program anywhere in the world that uses ID as a theoretical basis for published biological research.

So what? That's irrelevant. (Something doesn't have to be used as a research program in order for it to make factual assertions that are disprovable.)

Teaching ID next to evolution in high school classes--stupid.

A "History of pseudo-science" course would be fun, but don't mention Scientologists--they tend to sue you. Which reminds me of my favorite "Millenium" episode (I am still bitter that they split up the Millenium/X-files duo and left Millenium stranded). It talks about a cult religion called "Selphosophy". One of my favorite lines ever from a TV show (though please realize I only saw the episode once, eight years ago so I may be getting the exact phrasing wrong) is uttered in this episode when the murderer is fleeing from police on the rooftops. He has jumped across many rooftops, but has finally been cornered on a roof which is too far away from the next roof. He gets ready to jump and is warned that he can never make it. "Not with that attitude I won't!" right before he leaps toward the next roof, and falls to his death. Seems like the classic illustration that it isn't all about the mind.

kenB: It may be that for some, but it also reflects a more general problem where the inability to think of an explanation leads to the belief that no explanation is possible.

No, I wouldn't say that's true, whichever side of the argument you intended that to apply to.

Science does not presume that "the inability to think of an explanation leads to the belief that no explanation is possible". Not being able to come up with a hypothesis that explains all the facts does not lead to the belief that it is not possible to come up with such a hypothesis.

Religion, of which "intelligent design" is a rather cracked part, does not suffer from "the inability to think of an explanation": rather it suffers from the ability to think of an explanation ("God did it") that leads to the belief that "God did it" is a satisfactory explanation. Which it may be for some people.

Religion and science are not in conflict, unless rather cracked religionists choose to set up a conflict. There is no reason why, if you are a religious person, you cannot believe that God made the universe and all the universal laws.

But there is no need to believe that the writings of people living in Mesopotamia a few thousand years ago precisely describe how God made the universe.

From the ridiculous belief that the Grand Canyon was "made" by the Great Flood to the rather more logical belief that God made the earth 6000 years ago and made it look as if it were several billion years old, complete with fossil layers and dinosaurs and everything, to the absurdities of "This biological function looks like a very intricate design, therefore it must have had an intelligent designer", the one thing the whole heap of creationist thinking does not suffer from is the inability to think of an explanation.

larv,

"Intelligent design itself is impossible to disprove, as it makes no testable predictions."

agreed, in the end, ID dresses up "scientific evidence" in tweed but the underwear is still velvet robes. IDers claim to "discover" evidence of the designer through observation by pointing what is not yet understood fully, then claim to be following the model of physicists.

the discovery institute has decided to publish alternative scientific journals, yikes. just a little scary

http://www.discovery.org/

Evolutionists have disproven that certain biological mechanisms needed to be designed -- and that is precisely the point that ID theorists had been trying to prove (that certain biological mechanisms needed to have been designed).

but they haven't disproven every single one, and probably never will. as long as there's something that's unknown, ID can plant its flag there and say God Did This. doesn't matter to ID at what point the chase ends -if it can find a spot where evolution can't touch it, ID is safe. can't prove there's no God, so you can't prove he didn't make this thing we can't explain.

Just looked it up, the official lines are:

FRANK
Hey, don't try it! You'll never make it.

SMOOTH
Not with that negative attitude I won't!

Even better than I remembered.

One of the problems with the Intelligent Design discussion is the rather loose use of the word theory. A theory is an organized body of fact derived from experiment. A theory can be used to predict things.

Hypotheses can be derived from theories to test what is the case.

Hypotheses are useless when not embedded in a theory. Intelligent Design is not a theory. It is a dangling hypothesis tied to none of the facts. Therefore, useless.

Well if I pretend to believe that an intelligent being deliberately designed such complex phenomena as eyes, do I also have to credit the being with intentionally designing the Amazonian parasitic catfish that lives in the urinary tracts of mammals, painfully debilitating, but never quite killing, the host? Is the being responisble for designing liver flukes and Guinea worms? Does the Being hate us? I never have understood why people want to put a being in charge of micromanaging everything since such a being would have so much horrible stuff to answer for.

jeremy-"I dunno... it's been a while but as I recall, it seemed to me like Dawkins answered that pretty well (or started to, anyway) in The Selfish Gene."

too long ago for me too, but i recall having a problem with molecules wanting to be protein sequences and the motivation of enzymes. perhaps it is just a short coming of language and the knotted stomach i get when i sight the edge of my imagination.

miller says god is an evolutionist, so does my wife.... she is good at cards too.

Detlef and others: I'm not defending the merits of ID. ID may be false. THAT'S the point. And if ID is false, then it is absurd to claim that ID is incapable of being proven false. This is one of the most elementary principles of logic.

This is massively, completely and in virtually every way incorrect. It is entirely possible for a statement to be false without it being possible to prove it false. The example par excellence is "God exists"; even if it is false, it may never be proven so. Other candidates include "All men are mortal", "Some human being will eventually stand on the sun" or any other sentence involving some form of qunatification over unbounded sets.*

And that's leaving aside Godel's First Incompleteness Theorem and Tarski's Theorem on the Undefinability of Truth, both of which tell you, in no uncertain terms, that you are wrong.

To the topic at hand: the problem with ID is that it's really three theories in one. On the one hand you have the positive claims that purport to show evidence of a designer; these claims can, and have, been shown to be false. On the other you have the negative claims that purport to show that such objects cannot have arisen as a result of specific processes, e.g. Dembski or Behe; these claims have also been shown false, usually by showing that the arguments made by the IDers do not apply to the case at hand.

There is, however, a third form of ID and it is this variant -- virus, more properly -- that is not falsifiable and therefore not disprovable: the claim that there are things for which evolution cannot provide an adequate answer, and therefore (witness the God in Gaps right about... now) they must have been designed. As long as this umbrella theory is kept sufficiently vague -- and as long as its proponents are sufficiently ignorant, dishonest or disingenuous -- the ID virus can live on, secure in the knowledge that although individual claims might get disproven the truth of the "true theory" can never be challenged.

[And for those of you keeping track at home, note again the fundamental use -- or rather, abuse -- of an unbounded existential quantifier.]

To be really clear: the specializations of ID to particular structures can, and have, been shown to be false. The umbrella theory, of necessity, cannot; and it is in this sense that ID is not falsifiable and is therefore not a scientific theory. Until the umbrella theory is discredited as a form of science, I'd prefer to keep as bright a line between the two as possible.

* Don't ask me to get technical here, 'cause I will.

So what? The only real purchase of ID is in the latter claim, i.e., when ID claims that evolution is incapable of creating such structures. If evolutionists respond and DISPROVE such allegations, then so much the worse for ID. And -- THIS IS MY WHOLE POINT -- it would be IMPOSSIBLE for evolutionists to do that if ID never made falsifiable claims.

Seems to me the ID people are not making predictions about nature, but rather about other people: "You will not be able to come up with a convincing [to you] evolutionary explanation of such and such an observable." Or even: "You will not be able to convince me of that explanation."

That's a far cry from "If you look at this place in the sky on this date, you will see a comet" or "if you look at the light of a star near the sun during a total eclipse, you will see it displaced by x."

Now, I'm not taken with the standard naive-Popperian view of science (your theory is worth pursuing so long as its predictions are not refuted). I prefer either Lakatos's from The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes or Hacking's from Representing and Intervening.

Lakatos says, roughly, that a theory (more properly, a series of theories) is worth pursuing so long as it makes surprising predictions that are confirmed (and are derived from the main postulates). Thus Halley's comet is a confirmation of the Newtonian programme. (That programme was, by the way, attacked in the same way that evolution is by IDers: it failed to explain the precession of Mercury's perihelion, and even the orbit of the moon. According to Lakatos, the French Academy offered a prize for refutations of Newton and awarded it some number of times. Eventually they gave up, though long before Einstein explained the orbit of Mercury.)

Hacking has a nice phrase: "it's real if you can spray it". Science posits entities: electrons, positrons, wavicles, epicycles, etc. It's always a question of whether those are real or just calculational conveniences. After a conversation with an experimental physicist, in which the physicist described spraying a niobium ball with positrons, Hacking decided you might as well call positrons real. More generally, real scientific entities are those that can be used as a tool to allow science to do more of what science does - for example, by allowing hypotheses to be tested in new ways.

It will be interesting to see in what ways the IDers can spray God.

Don't ask me to get technical here, 'cause I will.

You're going the right way for a smacked bottom.

Anarch:

Your first point is interesting, but completely irrelevant if I add one word to my sentence:

And if ID is [PROVEN] false, then it is absurd to claim that ID is incapable of being proven false. This is one of the most elementary principles of logic.

There now.

No, they have disproven that they were designed, not that they look like they were.

That's a useless distinction.

Au contraire -- it's an absolutely crucial distinction, as so much of ID relies on the proposition, "It looks something else that we know was designed, therefore it was designed."

Functional is right that ID proponents have made falsifiable claims and that they have been shown false. A good place to learn about this is at http://www.talkorigins.org/ which is a web archive of FAQs from the newsgroup talk.origins (the Obsidian Wings of creation/evolution debate). Lots of good stuff. Digging around the above website and its sibling the University of Ediacara (http://www.ediacara.org/) is a pocket education in evolution and its attackers. Absolutely invaluable. Ain't the web grand?

Thanks, Andrew C., for understanding this issue.

Functional is right that ID proponents have made falsifiable claims and that they have been shown false

maybe i'm missed it, but is anyone here disputing that ?

To take the metaphor given above, what we have with ID is someone who desperately wants to believe (and convince others) that there is someone else on the island, carefully examining every square inch of sand hoping against hope that some sign of a sonnet can be discerned.

It's too much to expect science to be completely disinterested, I suppose, but surely we all recognize that the conclusions of ideologues require extra scrutiny. And the scientific pronunciations -- or educational pronunciations -- of the President surely require yet more.

maybe i'm missed it, but is anyone here disputing that ?

Once again, basic literacy would help here. Read the original post, for starters, and all the other people who disagreed with me.

and all the other people who disagreed with me.

it looks more like people are disagreeing with you on various questions of logic w.r.t. ID's "chief claims" (ie. what its chief claims are, and are they affected by the demolition of minor claims made in the name of ID), but not whether or not ID has falsifiable claims or not.

basic literacy would help here

i agree.

No, the only thing that can help is Giblets!

Anarch: excellent. There's a reason I love logicians ;)

I'm with functional and I think one or two other people on this--ID as presented by Behe does make specific claims and they've been proven wrong. I don't think it's silly for ID to try and prove an intelligent designer did such and such--if we ever find a large black monolith buried in Tycho I'm sure there would be some discussion about whether this could have been produced by geological (or whatever the appropriate word is for lunar) processes. Similarly, you look at the machinery of the cell and it's entirely plausible that someone built it--the someone could be God or some alien intelligence or whatever. But since biologists have had a fair amount of success explaining complex systems with Darwin's theory, there's no need to invoke an intelligent designer. You can't disprove the broadest form of ID, but you can disprove the claims of Behe and also the claims of Cuvier and other 19th century scientists.

In that sense I think it's perfectly appropriate to discuss ID in the classroom, because it's part of our history, just as any decent astronomy class ought to spend some time on Ptolemy's theory, in part because students should understand what the solar system looks like from an earth-centered perspective. (BTW, the claim that epicycles were bad science is bad history of science--epicycles made good sense and it's a myth that epicycles were piled on top of epicycles until the whole structure was ready to topple over.) Students could be told of the various creationist theories (there were at least two different schools of thought on this, btw) in the 19th century that Darwin had to face, and they could also be told about what Behe claims and then given reasons why he is wrong.

Incidentally, in his book Genetic Takeover, Cairns-Smith (the guy who said that the first living things were made of clay) talks about irreducible complexity and how Darwinism accounts for it. He just doesn't use that term, because he was writing in 1982. So that's another reason why ID should be refuted in biology classes--any good teacher would try to think of cases which seem hardest for the theory to explain and then show how Darwinism explains them. And then the teacher would mention that there are still people in the US making these arguments.

I think Anarch's point is good, but from a tactical standpoint it's better for evolutionists to ignore the umbrella theory and stick to science as defined in terms of falsifiable predictions, an area in which ID falls flat on its face. This forces the ID proponents to be explicit about the umbrella theory, which is simply God Of The Gaps, as Anarch points out. If the creationists are forced into defending GOTG, that's fine - science can't address this area except by shrinking the gaps. The plus side is that GOTG is obviously not scientific, therefore not suitable for teaching in science classes. Obvious in this case refers to sensible people, which may or may not include members of school boards in certain states. At some point we have to admit we're beaten, at least as far as setting the curriculum goes. For the true believer, GOTG is compelling evidence. There's no way to avoid having GOTG taught in schools where true believers dominate. As the gap shrinks there is a chance of undoing some of the damage. We don't have to convince everyone, just enough people to avoid having faith-based national health policy. Pessimistic? - Yes. Realistic? - Sadly, Yes.

There seems to me to be an objection to intelligent design as science on grounds of epistemology. That its methods are not sufficiently scientific. That there are not reproducible experiments, so it is philosophy by nature. Intelligent design theorists are searching for evidence of design in nature; the fact that they haven’t found it doesn’t discredit the method as science. Physicists postulate the existence of black holes by observing nature and extending our understanding of the universe, the fact that they (black holes, not physicists) can never be seen, felt, flown past, or disproved by observation, doesn’t make us believe that physists are lying quacks. If we found a long sequence of prime numbers or a really funny knock, knock joke in our DNA, I, for one, would reconsider my view of the universe. Of course, the big credibility problem comes when the ID community asserts that they have already found this design, when they haven’t. Worse still, is the fact that they have not so secret support of fundementalists and politicians, refuse to participate in peer review and seem to be by passing the system and going straight to text book. In fairness to ID, the discovery institute has conceded that they are not ready for prime time and should not be placed into curriculum yet. They just want to undermine natural selection for now and exploit the common language ambiguity of the word “theory”, till they find god’s fingerprints.


As far as teaching the controversy is concerned, the problem is there isn’t a scientific controversary, just a political one. But for me that is good enough. ID theorists bring up sufficiently interesting and engaging questions to make it “good stuff” for high school kids. Anything as exciting as this should be explored by kids, and it is a great way to define scientific method and theory. I doubt whether many high schools have a social studies teacher up enough on their life sciences to engage this topic, so it is up to the biology teachers. It should not be in text books, or on standards tests.

By the way, according to my wife, the biology teacher, she has comes across biology teachers who are not allowed to teach Natural Selection!!!!! particularly teachers from Texas. It is good to remember where most of this country is; otherwise you end up looking like an out of touch blow hole from Massachusetts.

I'm sure that if I think hard enough, I could come up with a knock knock joke with only four letters, but it might involve some computing that would take me forever.

But yeah, finding a funny knock knock joke in human DNA would throw me for a loop. Especially if it were in King James English.

oh and Cleek thanks for recomending Andrew Bird, it is a really great CD

See also fafblog.

Yep, just part of the GOP's Global War On Reality.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast