JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2008/04/discriminating.html (30 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1208482749-591031  LabRat at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 01:39:09 +0000

You know, PZ Meyers drives me NUTS, the same way that Dawkins does. The guy has an intellect like a diamond-edged buzzsaw, but he allows a few idiots to reinforce his entire bigoted, ill-thought position on religion.

So I'm forced to side with him, against Ben Stein, who I used to like a lot.


jsid-1208483769-591034  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 01:56:09 +0000

What is it that turned you off to Expelled?

jsid-1208483883-591035  Kevin Baker at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 01:58:03 +0000

Sarah, surely you jest.

jsid-1208484880-591036  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 02:14:40 +0000

No, I don't jest.

Based on what little I know about ID, I'm not convinced it's all that compelling as a scientific endeavor. If that's what the movie was about, I'd probably give it a pass, too. But from the review on Libertas and my own reading about the movie, that's not what it's about. It's supposed to be a look at the aggressive anti-religionism that passes for "free thinking" in academia, and the stifling of certain ideas.

Libertas gave it a moderately positive review. There are some detracting points, but overall it appears to be a compelling statement on freedom of inquiry.

jsid-1208486618-591037  LabRat at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 02:43:38 +0000

The problem is first that intelligent design itself is not science and offers absolutely no utility as a scientific theory. It invokes supernatural intervention from which nothing can be inferred or predicted. Abiogenesis theory is currently lacking a lot, but if you have a biochemical education that lets you understand a bit more than "CRYSTALS LOL!", it's not half as ridiculous as the Libertas (or the review) makes it out to be. "ID" may belong in theology, philosophy, or any "current important issues" forum, but science it isn't.

The second problem is that the Intelligent Design movement has ALWAYS been first and foremost structured around discrediting Darwinism. Its leaders can't even agree on which- the cell, the created kind, what- was the oiriginal Irreducibly Complex organism set down on the earth. The Libertas review comes off as either ignorant in naive in not knowing that already. The part of the movie they claim as "weak and unnecessary" has always been the overriding thrust of the movement's narrative.

THAT is why professors are afraid to talk about it. They're not afraid of inquiry, they're afraid of being associated with the ID *movement*- which has a long and ugly history of both intellectual dishonesty and political campaigning over scientific inquiry.

jsid-1208486790-591038  Stephen Rider at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 02:46:30 +0000

Kevin, I know you're an atheist, as am I....

But are describing the belief that God **might have** reached down with heavenly finger and stirred life into a soup of inorganic chemicals as "out there"?

As an atheist, I of course believe that it is *false*, but belief in God itself is hardly "out there" -- it is in fact massively mainstream. From that starting point, it is only a small step to suggest that the Almighty being might have had *something* to do with getting life going on this ball of dirt.

jsid-1208488062-591041  Kevin Baker at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 03:07:42 +0000

From Libertas' review:

"We hear a lot from atheist Richard Dawkins who suggests we sprang from an alien race who seeded the Earth. But best of all, we’re guided through this journey of anti-intellectualism by Ben Stein who dryly cuts through the nonsense with a Jack Benny stare or common sense questions, like this one in response to the Dawkins' alien idea: 'Well, isn't that a form of intelligent design?'

"And therein lies the dilemma for a scientific community hostile to creationism who are finding as they burrow deeper into our cellular and genetic make-up, many more questions than answers. Darwin started with a single cell under the belief it was as simple an organism as a ‘56 Chevy. Today we know a single cell is more like the space shuttle. Where did it come from? Hell, if the crystal theory’s true, where did the crystal come from?"

And where did the Intelligent Designer come from?

We used to believe that all matter was made up of four irreducible elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Now we believe that there are more than 100 elements, but those are made up of what we thought were irreducible protons, electrons, and neutrons. Today we are searching for the "God particle" - the Higgs Boson, the last of 40 elementary particles in the "standard model" of particle physics. Science always turns up "many more questions than answers." If the experiments run at the Large Hadron Collider don't turn it up, is the proper answer "God must have done it," and we can never experiment further?

Because that's the argument ID makes.

The problem with Intelligent Design, Sarah (and we've had this discussion in these pages before) is that at some point the proponents of ID say "X is irreducible and unexplainable, and thus X must be the product of Intelligent Design."

The example I'm familiar with is the bacterial flagellum, which was central to the Kansas ID court case. I'm sorry, but that's not science. You can say "we don't know." You can even say "We may never know." But to state that some "intelligent designer" must be responsible is not SCIENCE.

ID isn't science because it can't make testable predictions. It isn't science because it slams the door on further investigation.

Libertas further states in his review: "When it’s pro-inquiry and free speech the film’s terrific and I highly recommend supporting it and especially bringing along with you any children over the age of discernment. They need to know schools and universities are afraid of something and outright suppressing it." They're not afraid of it, they're ensuring that non-science doesn't get taught as science.

I'm certain LabRat - the biochemist - is far better at this than I am. She's certainly spent enough time here in the comment threads trying to explain it.

Sure, I'd enjoy watching Dawkins get made to look like a fool, but personally I'm all for keeping people out of teaching science if they cannot understand that ID IS. NOT. SCIENCE.

jsid-1208496806-591043  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 05:33:26 +0000


What was the biggest problem with the Beltway Sniper case?

jsid-1208501236-591045  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 06:47:16 +0000

I know enough about the crystals argument to know that it's not as laughable as the Libertas reviewer paints it. But it's a little unfair to expect a movie director to have the necessary level of understanding to evaluate this. At the same time, it serves to demonstrate how implausible these arguments sound to scientific laypeople -- crystals and aliens! -- just as theological arguments -- big bearded guy in the sky! -- sound implausible to theological laypeople.

I'm not sure what long and horrible history you're talking about, LabRat. There are the young-earth nutbars, but you can't hold everyone who believes in intelligent design responsible for the ravings of people like that. Militant atheists are deliberately setting up the strawman when they take up the most ridiculous and indefensible arguments against atheism. The mistake is that they deliberately (in my mind) conflate the honest and sound arguments for forms of intelligent design with the YE people, but those are totally different arguments.

Kevin -- Do you understand that Newton and Einstein believed in a form of intelligent design? Even the great astronomers who are desperately wishing to be atheists are having problems with the latest developments in physics. Newton is considered to be the greatest mind in science ever. In the middle of working out gravity, he stops to create an entirely new branch of mathematics so he can continue his work. He's an incredible intellect, and he had no doubt in his mind that there was an intelligent being behind the design of the universe. Do you think he's a fool for believing this? Einstein also believed in an intelligence behind the universe, even though he was opposed to religion. Would you say that either of these great intellects are idiots? They looked at the order of the universe and said there is no doubt that there is a creative mind behind this, something caused it.

Take a contemporary physicist like Paul Davies -- who is not, to my knowledge, a religious man, and has declared himself to be "a fierce opponent of so-called Intelligent Design," but who nonetheless said, "The big bang was not evidently any old bang, but an explosion of exquisitely arranged magnitude. ... the impression of design is overwhelming."

You can trace the contemporary Godless argument back to Bertrand Russell who, in his book Religion and Science, wrote: "Before the Copernican revolution it was natural to suppose that God's purposes were specifically concerned with the earth, but now this has become an unplausible hypothesis." This reminds me of Francis Bacon: "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." In other words, there's nothing more dangerous than a little knowledge. So to people who think in superficial ways, since the earth is no longer the physical center of creation, there obviously isn't a God who is concerned with the universe. You get all these people who were powerful and influential in universities in the early part of the century up until the 1960s looking at what was then the latest development in science (Copernicus) and thinking, since we're not the center of the universe, how can you argue that there's a God that takes our fate as important? We're just an accidental speck of dust flying through an indifferent universe that has always existed. Up until the 1960s, everyone believed the universe to be infinite and unchanging. People like Russell throughout the first six decades of 20th century are the ones who educated and shaped the people who are currently professors in universities. So what has happened, is that all the scientific discoveries of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, particularly the developments with the big bang, have been lost on them, and the ground under Russell and others has completely erupted. The old attitudes of Russell are holding over and not making way for the latest discoveries, which are perfectly consistent with an intelligent designer. This prejudice against intelligent design is mostly a holdout from the first half of the 20th century.

The big bang is causing ripples in the astrophysics community, and so far it's only there that there's any awareness of what's going on and the far-reaching implications. The universe had a definite beginning, and came into creation because of forces outside of our universe (i.e. greater than our universe). The implications of the big bang are absolutely an act of creation, which begs for a creator. Either the creator is conscious or unconscious -- those are the only two choices. You'd have to be unforgivably incurious not to look for evidence either way. I'm not convinced that the current movement calling itself "Intelligent Design" is suited to this, but knowing what we know about the origins of the universe, how can you claim that looking for clues as to the nature of the creator is unscientific?

The position of atheists is very pathetic. Their argument against a creator and the anthropic argument (which is very powerful) is to counter with multiverses, an infinite number of universes, each one with different basic relations and constants. How convenient that with an infinite number of universes, it becomes a statistical inevitability that we arrive at our universe which is precisely tuned for life. Let me ask you, which requires more faith? Belief in one intelligent creator, or in an infinite number of universes, that you can never see or prove exist? The onus has switched from design proponents to multiverse atheists, because the idea stretches credulity far greater than the idea of one designer creating the universe.

If the experiments run at the Large Hadron Collider don't turn it up, is the proper answer "God must have done it," and we can never experiment further?

Scientifically, there is a point where we can't go any further. There's a limit to what our physical sciences can do, and the IDers are right about that. We cannot go past the moment of creation. We can push back our understanding to some ultimate point, but that's as far as we can go. Whatever created the universe -- whether it's God or multiverses -- is outside of, and greater than, the universe, and as physical creatures we can't understand it. Undoubtedly, there is a limit to what we can learn experimentally.

So whatever this creative force is, if you believe that it's unconscious, then the anthropic argument is so powerful that the existence of our universe is like winning the lottery a hundred times over. It's pretty darn suspicious. To make mathematical sense, you're backed into the multiverse idea. Again, which takes greater leap of faith: a belief in one universe created by an intelligence and set perfectly? or an infinite number of multiverses? Which is scientifically superior?

They're not afraid of it, they're ensuring that non-science doesn't get taught as science.

So who is the arbiter that decides what is science and what is not? If it's not science, you should trust people to see it. You don't need to suppress it.

Ironically, your standard for what constitutes science would have probably stifled what has become the greatest scientific discovery of all time. The father of the big bang, Georges Lemaitre was a priest and mathematician, and came up with the big bang idea because of his religious beliefs. The discovery of the cosmic background radiation in the 1960s pretty much proved him right. The most important scientific discovery of all time started as a religious idea.

Physics itself owes its heritage to religious belief. Christianity introduced the idea (borrowed from Judaic tradition) that time is linear. Prior to this, the vast majority of cultures believed time to be cyclical. This was entirely reasonable, given that pretty much everything observable in nature is cyclical -- the tides, moon phases, the motions of the heavens, seasons, migrations, etc. So you had all this emphasis on horocopes, since the only thing you could do was determine your place in the current cycle. People don't realize what an enormous intellectual leap it was to go from cyclical time to the seemingly very irrational belief in linear time that progressed from a beginning onward. This idea was accepted because of Christian tradition, and it was only then that modern science emerged. But, according to your standard, its basis was totally unscientific.

People who argue against ID are really arguing against the implications of the big bang. They are arguing Russell's Copernican viewpoint, and haven't caught up with the developments of the last 40 years. So what we have is a particular worldview that's trying to insulate and protect itself by saying the matter is settled -- just like the climate change people are trying to do -- and it's not settled. From what I can tell, this is the point of Stein's movie.

The interesting thing, Kevin, is that I have heard highly-educated academic liberals make precisely the same argument you do, only in favor of excluding the conservative viewpoint. They claim that conservatism is fundamentally irrational and anti-intellectual, so this justifies the overwhelming liberal bent of universities. I've actually had academics tell me there isn't room for consideration of the conservative viewpoint, because it's a non-viewpoint. You and I know that it's really because these people can't tolerate any competition. Don't you think there's even a chance Expelled makes the same point?

jsid-1208526464-591048  geekWithA.45 at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 13:47:44 +0000


This is where our team tends to step in it.

>>So who is the arbiter that decides what is science and what is not?

That's embedded in science itself. If a statement does not conform to the criterion of science, which are well known and well defined, it is not science.

Being "not science" is different from being "not true", however.

How do we know what is true? This is the study of epistemology, the study of justified belief. There are many ways in which belief can be justified, and science is ONE of those ways.

Mathematics is another, and direct experience yet a third, and there are some others that have survived the rigors of time and logic, including logic and semantics.

Ironically, meta contemplation of the nature of truth is a philosophical endeavor, which is distinct from science.

Science reliably claims to be able to identify those truths that are within its scope, which it implicitly acknowledges as a subset of all possible truths. Science remains silent on matters that are beyond its scope.

That last point, where science is silent, is poorly understood and frequently abused.

The scope of science is described in 5th grade science textbooks, and reiterated in high school and college. Briefly, it is empirical, involving issues of falsifiability, observation, repeatability, hypothesis, systematic experimentation, and so on.

Science has been wildly successful.

As such, it brings with it a certain gravity of credibility.

As with any successful idea, it is common for people to seek to acquire the gravity of credibility to validate their ideas by cloaking it in the the mantle of whatever that successful idea is, be it god, (who is clearly on the side of our local sports team, and not the team from the town over) or science.

For example, I, the geekWitha.45, publicly assert the factual existence of God. My basis for this is direct experience: I've directly met God in a vision. (Ironically, I'm never asked about this by people who profess great interest in god, as their religious beliefs are already settled in some orthodoxy or another that cannot tolerate latter day prophets upsetting their applecart. Note that I do not claim to be a prophet, and am grateful that God did not call me to be such.)

Since this experience is neither repeatable nor fungible nor observable, as a responsible scientist, I will not even try to wrap that claim in the mantle of science.

Science, philosophy, and theology all have their place. Sometimes, science snips off a bit of dogma.

Relax, folks. This is perfectly OK. Science can't kill God, but it can clear away some of the crap that holds us back.

Science, like out intellect, is one of God's many gifts.

jsid-1208526917-591049  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 13:55:17 +0000


Do you understand that Newton and Einstein believed in a form of intelligent design?

What someone believes doesn't matter. The question here is "How do they investigate what they believe, and what they know and don't know".
There's a scientific method, and there are many, many, many others.
As long as Newton and Einstein proceeded down their path of discovery with the scientific method, it doesn't matter their religious convictions.

In fact, Einstein's most well-known mistake was to ignore "science", and insert a constant because, well, he thought there must be something else there.

The problem with "Intelligent Design" as it's now called, is because it's completely at odds with the scientific method.

The most important scientific discovery of all time started as a religious idea.

That's great, and irrelevant. What's important is as a scientific theory, the "Big Bang" is falsifiable.
As a religious idea, it's not.

Physics itself owes its heritage to religious belief.

You seem to be taking this personally, and missing the point - religion isn't at issue, but the shutting down of inquiry.
"That's far enough! No farther! Everything else, that's god, stop looking!"
Which is what the Amish have done - they've just picked a earlier starting point than the current ID proponents.
The early ID "irreducible" examples have all by now shown to be.. reducible even more. So they've moved the goalposts back.

That's not science.

The position of atheists is very pathetic.

This is rude and argumentative for very little reason, and I think it detracts from your overall point. It certainly makes me respect you less.
I don't understand how you can believe in a God. I've never felt the Spirt or heard The Voice. I know people who have - and I try not to belittle their beliefs, even if I don't agree/follow.

Let me ask you, which requires more faith? Belief in one intelligent creator, or in an infinite number of universes, that you can never see or prove exist?

Neither. Barring the intelligent creator demonstrating its presence (and thus rendering scientific investigation and scientific laws and any constants null and void), the two would require an identical amount of faith.

jsid-1208530738-591052  Kevin Baker at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 14:58:58 +0000


The Geek and Unix-Jedi have answered your questions as well or better than I could. I will take one exception to U-J's response:

I don't understand how you can believe in a God.

I DO understand how you can believe in God. What I don't understand is why you refuse to recognize Intelligent Design for what it is, and what I'm most alarmed by is your comment, "Scientifically, there is a point where we can't go any further. There's a limit to what our physical sciences can do, and the IDers are right about that. We cannot go past the moment of creation."

Intelligent Design isn't about the Big Bang - it's about evolutionary biology - right now. Are you telling me it's making massive inroads into astrophysics as well?

Great - scientifically we can't go past the instant of the Big Bang. What caused the Big Bang is forever veiled from us. I can accept that.

It does not then logically follow that there had to be a creator, and that the creator is the one you worship as a Lutheran.

That's faith, not science.

The point of Ben Stein's movie - you remember the movie? This was a post about his movie. - is that "Big Science has expelled smart new ideas from the classroom." This first postulates that there is something known as "Big Science," which as far as I can tell is professional biologists who actually know something about genetics and see Intelligent Design for what it is. And the "smart new ideas" are anything but "smart" or "new." Ask John Scopes.

And I don't want them taught in science classrooms either. If you want your children to be exposed to these ideas, do it yourself or in Sunday schools.

Sarah, you know what I think about Dawkins and his ilk - like LabRat said, I'm forced to side with the Anti-theists on this one, however much I dislike it.

jsid-1208531809-591055  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 15:16:49 +0000


I don't take exception to your exception.

I think we're in a very similar mind set and place - and we got there through very different paths.

I don't meant to insult Sarah, or other believers, when I say that - I don't understand.

But I do realise that they believe that, and it's not a mental fault or defect that they do. They've gotten to that point in a manner that's just totally alien to my way of thinking - and I try not to judge them because I've arrived at a different place.

I think if I really understood it - I'd be a believer, of course. :)

I just wanted to make sure that the quote Kevin pulled wasn't seen as an insult (since that was part of why I replied to Sarah in the first place.) - I don't understand. I've tried to understand, I've never been able to, and thus I've arrived at where I am now.

It is His gourd! We will carry it for you! Master! Master?

jsid-1208532281-591058  geekWithA.45 at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 15:24:41 +0000


Run away! Run away! And make sure to follow the shoe! I mean the gourd, I mean, oh, nevermind. Figure it out for yourself.


jsid-1208532912-591059  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 15:35:12 +0000


I'm not taking it personally. I'm quite amused by all of this, actually. But I do get passionate about certain points, especially that religious thought, which is not "rational," has always been an active part of modern science. The supposition of a creator has led not only to the greatest scientific discovery ever, but to modern science itself. Yet people want to divorce science from religion. Unless a person is anti-religion, I can't see how he can take this evidence and still argue that religion has no place in science.

In fact, Einstein's most well-known mistake was to ignore "science", and insert a constant because, well, he thought there must be something else there.

He stuck a cosmological constant in one of his equations completely ad hoc, because his theory predicted something that was philosophically unappealing: a universe that changes. He called it his greatest blunder. But it turns out he was right. Not only is there a cosmological constant, but it's the most significant factor in the development of the universe. Again, something is arrived at in a non-rational way turns out to be correct and very important. (The astro community is quite amused by this.)

People make the mistake of thinking that science is a purely rational endeavor. Far from it. People conjecture and go down certain paths for very non-rational reasons. The rational, scientific-method part comes in when you try to decide whether or not an idea is workable. This is what I don't get with all the opposition to ID. Let them get as far as they can with it. The peer-review process is ruthless, and eventually the bad ideas get weeded out naturally. So let them try it. If they fail, then it will have naturally worked itself out and there will be no need to suppress ID.

The problem with "Intelligent Design" as it's now called, is because it's completely at odds with the scientific method.

I know very little about the Discovery Institute's ideas, but if you start with the premise that the universe is created (the best evidence says an emphatic yes to this) and then hypothesize that the creative force is intelligent, then how is investigation of this at odds with science?

...religion isn't at issue, but the shutting down of inquiry.

Strange, because I thought that was the point of Expelled.

The position of atheists is very pathetic.

This is rude and argumentative for very little reason...

Sorry, that did come across rudely. I had in mind anti-theists like Dawkins when I said that. And I meant from a philosophical point of view -- I find the arguments against God to be rather weak. I don't fault people or think they are pathetic because they haven't been called by God. But I do fault them for not being open to the idea when there are good reasons not to dismiss it.

Contemporary atheistic figures like Steven Weinberg -- who is described as the greatest theoretical scientist alive today -- accept the existence of the supernatural. Logically, you cannot do otherwise if you accept the big bang, and these guys know it. I listened to Weinberg give an impassioned speech a couple of months ago about multiverses. He very strongly believes this idea, and right now, it's the only alternative to God on the table. I'm not appealing to authority to prove my point, but rather suggesting that since the greatest minds in science accept either God or multiverses, you should feel compelled not to dismiss either. Kevin has made the argument before that he doesn't believe in God, because then God would have to be very complex and would require an explanation. But with multiverses, instead of believing in one unseen intelligent force, you have to accept the existence of infinite numbers of unseen universes. From a complexity point of view, God is a much simpler proposition.

For better or worse, I defend my dissertation in three weeks and am buried in work, so it's unlikely I'll comment any further. I plan to see Expelled this weekend, and will post a brief review on Fudge.

jsid-1208533287-591060  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 15:41:27 +0000


My use of "ID" is probably confusing. I use it broadly to mean the idea of an intelligent designer, not the Discovery Institute per se.

ID doesn't need to make inroads into astrophysics, because astrophysics very naturally goes in this direction on its own.

Great - scientifically we can't go past the instant of the Big Bang. What caused the Big Bang is forever veiled from us. I can accept that.

It does not then logically follow that there had to be a creator...

Yes, it does logically necessitate a creative force. Absolutely it does. The question is whether that creative force is unconscious (e.g. multiverses) or...

...the one you worship as a [Christian].

jsid-1208534402-591061  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:00:02 +0000


I defend my dissertation in three weeks

Good luck wih your defense - I understand your priorities. :)

I'll await your review, I don't know if I want to see it or got...

I guess.. I'm pretty agnostic on it. :)

jsid-1208534486-591062  Sarah at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:01:26 +0000

One last point. There is a sort of Big Science, which is where the vast majority of grant money goes and where the good tenured research positions are. I got a job at a small liberal arts university, and was warned by my colleagues before I accept the position that I should know that no significant research occurs at that level, because the funding simply does not make its way there, and it's not for lack of trying.

I've been in the midst of Big Science for the last seven years, and this is how it works. The money goes where the sexy, exciting stuff is happening -- and to people who are safe bets. I got funding for my work, because it has enormous appeal and I have access to the world's best facilities. That won't be the case once I leave the Big Institution that's granting me my degree.

I don't think Big Science is evil and conspiratorial, but it works the way any dominant entity does to protect itself and resist anything that messes with the status quo.

jsid-1208535075-591064  geekWithA.45 at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:11:15 +0000

There certainly are some points to be taken on the topic of the influence of money on Big Science. All too often, what is funded as science...actually isn't science, in that too many crap studies play fast and loose with data and the analysis.


I also point out that there's plenty of room for hunches, intuition, and creativity in science. "Science" per se cannot create. All it can do is measure, observe, repeat and validate.

Humans can create a fanciful theory. Believe me, folks yank happy stuff out of their butts all the time.

The fanciful theory may even be true, or at least have phenomenal predictive power.

What distinguishes a fanciful theory from science is that the fanciful theory has withstood the rigors of the scientific test.

But alas, science cannot generate the theory to be put to the test.

jsid-1208536883-591069  DJ at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:41:23 +0000

"Unless a person is anti-religion, I can't see how he can take this evidence and still argue that religion has no place in science."

Science was finally free to advance without hindrance, and has done so to an astounding degree, only when scientists were finally free from the threat of being killed as heretics, and one can see this regardless of any personal religious beliefs.

"For better or worse, I defend my dissertation in three weeks and am buried in work, so it's unlikely I'll comment any further."

I warned you.

jsid-1208552293-591086  LabRat at Fri, 18 Apr 2008 20:58:13 +0000

Intelligent Design is very much a political movement, and the Discovery Institute is one arm of it. Merely because you are not familiar with its history (I am, because they're directly concerned with my field), it does not follow that because they're on the "side" of God, us atheists have all got the vapors about them harmless ID'ers. Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Phillip Johnson all have long and checkered careers of blatant intellectual dishonesty, and- most importantly- cloaking their agenda in the wide-eyed guise of persecution by Materialist Big Science. What little has actually been published ranges from flawed to actively deceptive (like Behe's laughable claim that evolutionary theory has been utterly stymied by the mysteries of biochemistry- nothing of the sort, molecular biology has given evolutionary theory a huge kick forward), and the rest has been ALL politicking. Like, say, getting a prominent conservative celebrity to become involved in their propaganda film and make it much bigger, cooler, and flashier than they ever could on their own. THAT is why I dismiss the movie- the same way I would dismiss a production associated with NAMBLA that purported only to assert that "children can experience sexual feelings" before getting to the rest of their agenda at the end.

Just because scientists often have religious feelings and inspirations, it does not follow that explicitly religious assertions should become incorporated into science- especially when the assertion is "natural law was suspended". It is completely useless as a scientific theory, as has already been pointed out. Science classrooms are for teaching science within the boundaries of the scientific method; it's how we teach students the method. Not only is education in philosophy perfectly available- and appropriate as part of a science degree, if you ask me- students would have had to come into the classroom after having been sealed in a cave for their entire lives prior in order to have not been exposed to the idea that God really is the ultimate author of all this natural law stuff. In all the time that I have spent in science classrooms, unlike liberal-arts courses, I have never once heard God or religion put down or even discussed by the professor: we were there to learn science, which does not- cannot- say anything outside its own boundaries. (I did, however, meet more than one Warrior for Christ intent on turning the biology classroom into a hearing on creationism.)

As for Big Science and evolutionary theory... look, it's not hard; all you have to do is read the journals. Evolutionary biologists- and biologists whose fields are heavily involved with evolution, which is most of them- fight like sacks full of cats in the peer-reviewed literature, on points of theory that are hugely important but largely incomprehensible (and therefore not sexy to the lay public) to someone who doesn't have a dog in the fight. There is no dogmatic attitude that I've ever seen- certainly when Motoo Kimura came along and kicked the adaptationists in the crotch, he wasn't pilloried, he was widely acknowledged as being right. Because he WAS. From a perspective within biology, they aren't fretting among themselves about Intelligent Design because it's a threat, they aren't for the same reason chemists aren't fretting about atomic theory: evolutionary theory is, within science, so well-established and constantly reinforced as to be beyond question. (And because the most basic question of the ultimate origin of the universe isn't even relevant to the work!)

Oh, and Kevin- I'm not a biochemist, way too micro a field for my tastes. I'm just conversant enough to understand discussions of abiogenesis not pitched at the lies-to-children level.

jsid-1208564883-591098  juris_imprudent at Sat, 19 Apr 2008 00:28:03 +0000

since the earth is no longer the physical center of creation, there obviously isn't a God who is concerned with the universe.

Here we get to the crux of the argument. The literal "word of God" places man and Earth at the center of creation [the universe]. Science pretty irrefutably contradicts that.

If you aren't a literalist/fundamentalist, this probably isn't a problem. You look at the Biblical account and grasp it's import from the metaphorical perspective. Your faith moves right along without skipping a beat. The conflict comes when you can't allow for any form of error in the Bible (or other canon of orthodoxy). If your faith requires you to accept totally and unequivocally the canonical text, then you can't also accept scientific reality.

jsid-1208578522-591117  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sat, 19 Apr 2008 04:15:22 +0000

"The literal "word of God" places man and Earth at the center of creation [the universe]."

Chapter and verse please.

jsid-1208578559-591118  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sat, 19 Apr 2008 04:15:59 +0000


I repeat, what was the biggest problem with the Beltway Sniper case?

jsid-1208629924-591132  juris_imprudent at Sat, 19 Apr 2008 18:32:04 +0000


You are welcome to argue the point I was elaborating on from Sarah.

I observe that Catholicism, etc. does not suffer from this supposed 'displacement' and literalists seemingly do. Perhaps you don't, and you may be an exception to the generalization. You want to dispute an interpretation [oops] of the Bible - fine. I don't have a dog in that fight. There are loads of websites devoted to creationism.

Even the Discovery Institute attempts to disavow ID's relationship with creationism.

jsid-1208635069-591138  Kevin Baker at Sat, 19 Apr 2008 19:57:49 +0000

I repeat, what was the biggest problem with the Beltway Sniper case?

Please define "problem," especially WRT this discussion - 'cause I ain't gettin' it.

jsid-1208725889-591169  Phelps at Sun, 20 Apr 2008 21:11:29 +0000

As someone who is both an evolution doubter and a non-creationist, Labrat could not have done a better job of recommending Expelled to me.

jsid-1208726290-591170  Kevin Baker at Sun, 20 Apr 2008 21:18:10 +0000

In that case, you might want to peruse this site before you go.

(And if you doubt them both, where exactly does that leave you?)

jsid-1208760427-591182  LabRat at Mon, 21 Apr 2008 06:47:07 +0000

On your way out, check out Behe's Darwin's Black Box, Johnson's Evolution on Trial, and Dembski's No Free Lunch.

Always better to be arguing with or from the original text than the movie rework.

jsid-1208846561-591231  Mastiff at Tue, 22 Apr 2008 06:42:41 +0000

A quick drive-by comment:

I tend to think that the ID people are bunk. However, it is absolutely incorrect that the Torah places the Earth at the literal center of the universe.

(Later commenters, influenced by Greek astronomy, may have said so, but the good ones understood that their beliefs were contingent on the scientific state of the art. See for example Maimonides.)

The Torah itself makes no statement about the physical layout and positioning of the Earth and the heavens—only that they exist.

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