Saturday, October 07, 2006

Conservative Culture and Porkopolis debate Intelligent Design

There are public policy implications associated with the teaching of Intelligent Design in public school science curricula. Ohio, like the rest of the nation, has been involved in the debate.

Porkopolis has posted on the issue in the spirit of contributing to the discussion. These posts have created interest, judging from visitor stats and comments:

Here's a thread on the issue with fellow S.O.B blogger Conservative Culture. From The Good Fight For Evolution:


Conservative Culture's original post:

Robert Prather from Outside the Beltway posted a heated response to Christian’s
promoting intelligent design. He is admittedly hot on the topic.
One of the dangers of blogging infrequently is that you only post when you’re angry. Such is my dilemma.

I’m generally OK with religious people, but it makes me fume when I think of what they will do to the nation if the latest nonsense against evolution actually succeeds:

Robert’s great fear is that somehow intelligent design for a scientist is like wondering in the woods looking for pixies…. nonsense and unproductive.
The article goes on to mention that some young person in one of the states that is attacking evolution will be robbed of a future by this nonsense; her head will be filled with superstition rather than science, thus limiting her ability to work as a scientist.

I may return to this later when I’m not quite so upset.
First of all this seems to be a major error or misconception about either intelligent design or evolution. Intelligent design is a position that one comes to based on the observation that order doesn’t proceed from chaos. It also brings about the idea earliest scientists grabbed hold of… That there is order in the universe which can both be discovered, studied and is predictable.

Not all Intelligent Designer’s are Christian. Intelligent design doesn’t designate a “god” but for the Christian it fits with their understanding of the Universe from the text. Interesting. Evolution precludes both a designer and design. There is no guiding force but perhaps mother nature. It seeks to create a scenerio of its own which it can’t prove and violates the basic laws of nature. That such detail and order come from nothing. It is guided by its own moral and spiritual beliefs.

Yet now the threat Intelligent Design provides is as terrible as terrorists.
This war could decimate the development of U.S. scientific talent and erode whatever competitive advantage the United States enjoys in the technology-based global economy. Already, U.S. high school students lag near the bottom in math skills compared with students in other developed nations, and high school seniors are performing worse in science than they were 10 years ago.

These trends can only worsen if students come to regard evolution as questionable or controversial. Thirty-seven percent of the high school Advanced Placement biology examination tests knowledge of evolution, evolutionary biology and heredity, according to the College Board. Students who do not thoroughly understand evolution cannot hope to succeed on this exam; they will be handicapped in competitive science courses in college and the careers that may follow.
The rise of the western culture was based upon the principles it now wants to eliminate. Intelligent Designer’s are now the new ‘inner threat’ to America’s future. Might we be labeled a security risk? Sounds like it.

Porkopolis responds (minor gramatical errors corrected):

The problem is not with making a claim that the order one observes originated from an “Intelligent Designer”….the problem is that science requires the maker of the claim to provide an explanation of the “Intelligent Designer”.

Science is founded on proving one’s claims via the scientific method.

Faith says, “look at the evidence as proof of the designer”.

Science says, “Not so fast, show the proof of the ‘designer’ itself…not what the designer designed”…particularly when the evidence can be proven to come about by natural (”Non-designed”) methods.
Conservative Culture's reply:
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states simply that an isolated system will become more disordered with time.

But I am not arguing for acceptance of religion but rather the academic freedom to discuss the possible first causes of the universe. Neither cause presented… Creation or Evolution… really fit under the ability of the scientfic method. Which in general is…

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.

3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

To me the ID makes sense and brings order to the observations and things we know scientifically. Evolution is a form of first cause to me that doesn’t make sense bearing the evidence… (not scientific but a preponderance of the evidence from a trial perspective). The evolutionist evangelists would silence even the discussion by calling it ignorant. Would you accept that argument if I called your diatribe ignorant?
Porkopolis' reply:

My interest in this stems from the public and educational policy implications of ID.

As I argued in Where’s the ‘Hypothesis’ for Intelligent Design?:

To qualify as a scientific hypothesis, ID has to provide a tentative explanation that accounts for a set of facts. The explanation must then be tested by further investigation. This is a fundamental, don’t pass go and collect $200 before you satisfy this condition, principle of the Scientific Method (see also: Hypothesis–> Theory–>Law).

Supporters of ID posit an explanation but no testing. Since this issue is heating up here in Ohio, parents and educators would benefit from the point/counter point discussion offered by Intelligent Design? a special report reprinted from Natural History magazine and Is the “Intelligent Designer” argument a Scientific One?, which is very detailed but succintly concludes with the following:
Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position - they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.
Conservative Culture's reply:

I am not denying that there can be no testing for the existance of God from a science point of view. Only that my understanding that there is a Creator lends me to approach the universe as something that will be orderly and predictable.

I am also stating that evolution, like ID, cannot not be experimented on. That science will somehow prove that the universe proceeded from nothing and that order of what we see somehow happened by chance. At issue is “how did the needed information come into place to produce what we see?”

Science cannot not reproduce or experient or observe those initial conditions. There is no real conflict to being a good scientist and a creationist or ID’er. I just have the opinion that they enhance one’s view of what we do observe.

My main concern is that the evolutionists do what they accuse the ID’ers of. That is the discrimination of ideas and debate. The free debate of the orgins of the universe should remain open as science will not prove to be means to the answer.
Porkopolis' reply:
“I am also stating that evolution, like ID, cannot not be experimented on.”

With all due respect, that is just flat out wrong…it’s being tested on all the time!

See the November 1995 issue of Discover Magazine (archive copy of it here: “First cell - biophysicist David Deamer believes that protective cells predated the first DNA”)…this is not proof…but is direct experimentation of possible early cell forms.

Also see this very important piece:

Two New Discoveries Answer Big Questions in Evolution Theory:
Even as the evolution wars rage, on school boards and in courtrooms, biologists continue to accumulate empirical data supporting Darwinian theory. Two extraordinary discoveries announced this week should go a long way to providing even more of the evidence that critics of evolution say is lacking.

One study produced what biblical literalists have been demanding ever since Darwin — the iconic “missing links.” If species evolve, they ask, with one segueing into another, where are the transition fossils, those man-ape or reptile-mammal creatures that evolution posits?…

…Another discovery addresses something Darwin himself recognized could doom his theory: the existence of a complex organ that couldn’t have “formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications,” he wrote in 1859…

…To investigate this puzzle, biologists led by Joseph Thornton of the University of Oregon reconstructed an ancestral receptor. They first analyzed receptors for steroid hormones in 59 species, including primitive jawless fish and skates. Then, in a process called gene resurrection, they worked backward to infer what the gene for the ancestral receptor was, and actually made the receptor in the lab: a molecule that last existed on earth 450 million years ago.

Testing various hormones on the ancestral receptor, the scientists found that both aldosterone and another one fit. The ancestral receptor, therefore, was fully employed acting as the keyhole for this second hormone. When aldosterone appeared on the scene by random mutation, it co-opted the existing receptor, the researchers conclude in today’s issue of Science.

The findings, says Christoph Adami of the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences, Claremont, Calif., “solidly refute” ID.

Conservative Culture's reply:

First cell - biophysicist David Deamer believes that protective cells predated the first DNA
Well. Interesting… Believes. I would be interested how one can test a set of circumstances that are, one unclear and purely speculative (no one was there to observe the starting conditions) and two, thee cannot be repeated by the necessary multiple experiments.

One believes that amino acids formed formed from a murky soup which no one can be sure what it consisted of. Experiments which ‘proved’ such things were rigged to bring about the ‘expected’ result. It is as much belief as i believe that matter was created from nothing and was set to laws which it now follows. These laws are testable and predictable.

I still am waiting to how one can recreate the original event. And which ‘original’ event created by evolutionists are you referring to?
Porkopolis's reply:

There’s a primary principle articulated by Isaac Newton:
We are to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

The more common way of referring to this principle is an interpretation of Occam’s Razor:
[W]hen you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better.
Your statement above was, “I am also stating that evolution, like ID, cannot not be experimented on.” I provided evidence that in fact the theory, even the most fundamental ‘first cell’ portion of the theory, is in fact being experimented on.

I wasn’t around when the Rockies were formed, but I can study the principles of geology, visit active volcanic sites and make a evidence supported conjecture as to how the Rockies came about. Professor Deamer is doing the exact same thing as it relates to the Evolutionary origins of life.

If David Deamer’s investigation/experimentation/research into Evolution Theory ultimately explains a natural process by which primitive cells could have formed this would represent another data point that reinforces Evolutionary Theory; specifically that life on Earth had its origin through natural processes and not through the intervention of an unquantifiable ‘Intelligent Designer’.

At that point, we can then use Newton’s and Occam’s principles of logic to conclude that Deamer’s ‘first cell’ process is a more plausible explanation than an ‘Intelligent Designer’ explanation.

Conservative Culture's reply:

But we are not just talking, ultimately, about how the processes now work… but rather about how those processes came into being.

Evolution demands millions of years… a serious of highly imporbably circumstances to bring something disorganized into a complete intricate and complex system. ID only requires a first creator which set things into place. Now I would say the second is simplier.

But since you brought Isaac into this…
‘This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratòr], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.’

‘Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.’

Principia, Book III; cited in; Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, NY, 1953.

A Short Scheme of the True Religion, manuscript quoted in Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir David Brewster, Edinburgh, 1850; cited in; Newton’s Philosophy of Nature, p. 65
Porkopolis's reply:
Clearly Newton's philosophy was influenced by his religion. Even Einstein said, "God does not play dice with the universe" to express his disagreement with the now accepted principles of quantum mechanics. Both Newton and Einstein were expressing philosophical sentiments, not based on scientifically derived facts.

Notwithstanding their respective philosophy, Newton and Einstein made major scientific contributions guided by the scientific method; just as Charles Darwin utilized the scientific method to develop his Evolutionary Theory.

You noted that, "Evolution demands millions of years… a [series] of highly improbably circumstances to bring something disorganized into a complete intricate and complex system. ID only requires a first creator which set things into place. Now I would say the second is simpler."

Actually, Evolution explained and continues to explain (with new evidence continually being discovered to reinforce it) the probable and incremental process that brought about the variety of species the Earth has to today; not over millions of years, but billions of years. Probable circumstances like the enzyme carrying bubbles that Professor Deamer is investigating. Even a pre-school child can visit a beach and view with her own eyes the bubbles in sea foam that washes up on the shore. It's in keeping with logic to make a conjecture that similar bubbles were also created by natural processes billions of years ago.

That explanation is simpler than a "first creator" explanation. In contrast, to keep it simple, one would have to keep the pre-school observant of the sea-foam bubbles from asking questions like the following:

  • How big is the "first creator": weight, height, etc? This is a scientific process being advocated after all.

  • How did the "first creator" get to and leave the Earth?

  • Did the "first creator" abide by the Laws of Physics in its creative endeavors?

  • What motivated the "first creator" to start creating?

  • Why would the "first creator" create imperfect species that die off through extinction?

  • Better yet, why did the "first creator" create animals that die at all?

  • Couldn't the "first creator", since it was in the process of creating anyway, have created a fixed set of animals that never died?

Tougher questions would be similar to:

  • Why didn't the "first creator" get it right the first time and create entities that wouldn't eventually need to get their energy source from other entities by killing them?

  • Did the "first creator" value some of its creations more than others by creating a situation where some of its creations would be eaten by other creations?

  • Couldn't the "first creator" create a set of circumstances where energy needs were fully satisfied for all individual organisms in perpetuity by solar energy, ala photosynthesis? Well, near perpetuity, since we all know that even the Sun has a limited life span.

  • Why are some creations photosynthetic and others not?

  • Did the "first creator" have a "creator" that created it?

To claim simplicity of a "first creator" is to deny that such questions are naturally 'created' in a reasonable person's mind upon accepting the notion of a "first creator".

Conservative Culture's reply:
Are you telling me that you actually “believe” that the original materail in the universe (lets forget for the moment where it came from) left to itself ‘naturally’ progressed to higher order?

You have got to be kidding me. Your [belief] system is incredible.

Porkopolis' reply:
Actually, an Evolutionist's belief system is very credible because it is based on the facts uncovered via the Scientific Method.

The "first creator" argument, is not a scientific argument and it's the argument that can be challenged on its scientific credibility.


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