Evolution vs. ID


Paul Phillips has some interesting thoughts on the Ev vs. ID debate, casting it in terms of the struggle over scientific inquiry in general. First, on the question of whether non-biologists believing in evolution are showing "faith":


In fact, a huge percentage of what we "know" to be true rests on our faith in the word of others. However, what separates us is who we choose to believe. You don't have to be a scientist or know much about science to determine to your satisfaction that scientists are far more likely to be right than any other group. Nobody can be an expert in more than a very few topics. For everything else the real skill is in identifying who is likely to know what they're talking about and who isn't.

To this I'd like to add that while no one can become an expert in many fields, our modern wealth of good books and free time means that the intelligent layman can get a good grounding in many important fields, including evolutionary biology. My belief in evolution is not simply based on it being the theory of scientists, but on how well the books I've read match with each other and the world around me.

Paul then looks at the struggle another way:


And that highlights another problem I have with the supposed "evolution vs. ID" faux debate. When it is spun that way the IDers have already won, because it positions them as competing theories. They are not. The REAL conflict here is between science and anti-science: nothing more and nothing less. Evolution just happens to be the most prominent scientific theory that threatens deeply held superstitions. Once upon a time it was heliocentrism, and perhaps in the distant future it will be some branch of cosmology. The details change but the battle is always the same. One group wants to find the truth and one group wants to protect their idea of the truth, and these approaches will forever be irreconcilable.


I have no tolerance for ID because no matter how innocuously its supporters may paint it, its entire reason for existing is to undermine the scientific method in the minds of the impressionable. It isn't that it particularly matters whether someone holds false beliefs about this or that scientific theory, it is that once people surrender their minds like this they become far easier to control.

I suppose one could try to demonize this sort of attitude as a rejection of a type of inquiry, but it isn't that at all. Those who think God made the world are welcome to participate in the scientific process, forming hypotheses, testing them, and advancing the sum total of human knowledge. Playing by the rules is welcomed. But ID advocates don't - their "research" is too shoddy to make it into any real journal. Heck, its often so bad that even my layman's knowledge is sufficient to see their errors.

This all reminds me of my favorite atheist quote, from Penn Jilette (paraphrased) "It's not that atheists aren't interested in the big questions of life. We just don't believe in making up the answers."

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At the ed of the day, if all

At the ed of the day, if all the IDers/creationists got their collective wish - evolution no longer taught in schools and replaced with the anti-scietific counterpart - not as much would be lost than we think. For one, and please speak up if you had a better expereience, high/middle/elementary school science teachers have such a poor understanding of evolutionary biology, it's not proper to even call what they teach "evolution".

The REAL conflict

The REAL conflict here...

...is the fight over public funding. Neither side ought be publicly funded at all and then there would be no conflict of consequence.

Amen, John.

Amen, John.

Actually on second thought

Actually on second thought that's not quite accurate. Public administration is the source of the conflict. I doubt this argument would be going on if schools were private but still partially funded by government vouchers for parents.

It seems to me that many of

It seems to me that many of those who disagree with the concept of Intelligent design do so largely due to an emotional dislike of the main idea; namely that the universe was created by a supreme bieng. Its not good to disregard ideas based on such a foundation. And there are good arguments in favour of ID and even more good critiques against the stances of evolutionism.

It seems to me that many of

It seems to me that many of those who disagree with the concept of Intelligent design do so largely due to an emotional dislike of the main idea; namely that the universe was created by a supreme bieng.

I would disagree with this; many scientists believe in God. What is disliked about ID is that is implicitly puts belief in God on the same footing as belief in evolution, or the principles of organic chemistry, or Newton's laws of motion. Supreme beings are just not a part of science; debates about them belong to philosophy courses, not 6th grade science courses.

In fact, a huge percentage

In fact, a huge percentage of what we “know” to be true rests on our faith in the word of others. However, what separates us is who we choose to believe. You don’t have to be a scientist or know much about science to determine to your satisfaction that scientists are far more likely to be right than any other group. Nobody can be an expert in more than a very few topics. For everything else the real skill is in identifying who is likely to know what they’re talking about and who isn’t.

I'd be very cautious about this tactic. It sounds a lot like an appeal to authority. I'd be skeptical of anyone calling themselves an authority on anything unless he had some money riding on being right. I think many people who are in outrage at Bush's proposal are merely demonstrating another kind of faith: faith that 'their' guys must be right on this issue and the 'other' guys, Bush, must be wrong. They may not even know anything about evolution, merely that their side favors it, and so are comfortable calling ID supporters all sorts of names even as they themselves are simply the opposite side of the same coin of faith. Many of the people being critical of Bush are the same ones who screamed at Larry Summers for proposing the possibility that the reason for so few women in the halls of hard sciences academia might be biological. Their faith denied it.

Evolution is a theory of empirical science. ID and belief in God is parcel of metaphysics. Bush is obviously wrong to think that both should be taught in biology. But rather than point out that ID is best left for a philosophy or theology class, his critics have mostly embraced his framework of competing theories; they have simply chosen the other side.

I don't think it's asking too much for someone to read a book on evolution written for the layman before forming an opinion on the subject. For every person who 'believes' in ID, there is at least half a person who 'believes' in evolution out of faith. Neither does much honor to science.

Jonathan, I know of no

Jonathan,

I know of no evidence to refute my claim that life on earth was seeded by long-lived space alien entrepreneurs setting up a future food supply for a chain of inter-galactic gourmet restaurants. In this context, evolution is simply an empirically-derived food processing procedure that maximizes the subjective value of taste to the alien palate.

Regards, Don

I think that defining one's

I think that defining one's terms are important and I am afraid that this discussion has failed to do so. See this post in Paul Philip's LiveJournal which addresses my definition of Intelligent Design.

http://www.livejournal.com/users/extempore/109461.html?thread=1722005#t1722005

I think that most of the people in this thread are talking about Creationism which I believe to be something quite different from Intelligent Design. It's sort of like blasting Christians for their misogyny because they won't even let women become priests. While that may be true for a significant subpopulation you can't tar all Christians with that same brush.

Quoting Jonathan

Quoting Jonathan Wilde:

"Bush is obviously wrong to think that both should be taught in biology."

Could you please point out where Bush advocated that point? I have not seen it. You can read my assessment of what Bush has said and not said here

Quoting Don Lloyd: "I know

Quoting Don Lloyd:

"I know of no evidence to refute my claim that life on earth was seeded by long-lived space alien entrepreneurs setting up a future food supply for a chain of inter-galactic gourmet restaurants."

Personally I like that theory a lot better than the Judeo Christian thing. I'm much happier with the explanation that the creator was motivated by personal gain than trying to claim that he/she/it had nothing more in mind than our well being and general good vibrations.

But perhaps I am just too much a cynic.

Jonathan, _I’d be very

Jonathan,

_I’d be very cautious about this tactic. It sounds a lot like an appeal to authority._

Appeals to authority aren't actually fallacies. The fallacy is an appeal to an _inappropriate_ authority. On some subjects, all appeals to authority are pretty much fallacies, as there are no authorities of the right sort. So, for instance, holding a certain view of ethics because Aristotle held it would be an inappropriate appeal to authority. On the other hand, believing that Aristotle wrote dialogues that are now lost because your philosophy professor told you so is an appeal to authority, but a wholly appropriate one.

In the sciences, appeals to authority carry a lot more weight than they do in the humanities precisely because, in the sciences, there are generally agreed upon answers that are backed up by evidence gained through a specific methodology. So to believe X because scientists have told you that X is true is not to appeal inappropriately to authority.

Indeed, in some sense, all science appeals to authority. Even if I get all my information via scientific journals, I still, at the end of the day, believe something because someone told me that she conducted a certain experiment and got certain results. Unless I carry out every experiment for myself, at some point, I'm relying upon the authority of someone else. The issue is, as Patri says, to pick the proper authorities (and to know when there actually are authorities on the subject at issue).

I don't understand that

I don't understand that question.

Evolution is considered a

Evolution is considered a theory of science not because it is based on experiments that can be duplicated, but because it is based on empirical evidence. We have no living, experimental proof that the Egyptians, or Greece existed, but we do have empirical evidence of those periods of history in those geographic locations. We fill out knowledge of these people with evidence we find. In the same way, Evolution is a theory of science in that it is based on evidence found in fossils, etc. If something is unknown because no evidence has been found, a theory is posited to answer the question. When proof is found to show that the theory positied is wrong a new theory can then be introduced, until evidence is found that answers the question the theory attempted to. The great thing about a scientific theory, even in this aspect, is that it states things in such a way that an experiment can be made or evidence can be found that will allow for the theory to be disproven. Until the theory is disproven, it will remain a theory.

Intelligent Designs' Creationism "theory" can not abide by this process. It is a religious attempt to answer the questions these theories try to answer, but in such a way as to not allow for evidence or an experiment to validate the theory. It is *THIS* aspect of Intelligent Design that is the problem. No scientist will argue against the fact that, yes, it is possible that a god exists and that he is the reason for x-y-z, because there is no way for him to disprove the existence of god. What a scientist will say though, is that if there is a god, that does not mean he is the answer to the question.

Intelligent Design (creationism) should be taught in schools, in Theology class, but not in Science class.

It should be noted here that there exists a term, hypothesis, which is what a theory is before initial tests have been made. Much of the arguements in this whole ID vs Evolution(errr, science) do not deal with the theories of evolution but the hypothesis. From what I understand, ID does not discredit the generally accepted theories of evolution (though creationism does, but it blanketly ignores any and all facts that help prove the theories of evolution), it just tries to "fill the voids". Albeit by saying there is no answer but God.

Stefan, "I’m not sure

Stefan,

"I’m not sure about falsifiability..."

The falsifiability of the theories was all I was addressing there. Falsifiability was offered as an argument against ID - I was rebutting that argument.

Stefan, "I think this misses

Stefan,

"I think this misses the fact that it is not just the teacher, but just about everyone who’s ever studied Aristotle who believed that he wrote certain books (whereas, for example, nobody is certain who wrote some books of the Bible)."

The fact that everybody who has studied X believes Y is not a valid argument for Y. What matters is if they arrive at Y by way of valid argument. No amount of polling can anser that question.

"1) An appeal to authority is valid exactly when both people accept the authority as valid."

If one dope appeals to another dope to persuade a third dope of something, and the third dope bys it, that doesn't mean any valid argument has been presented.

For most cases there's no such thing as a valid authority. Aristotle may be wise, he may be correct, but all that matters is whether his argument for the point in question is valid or not.

No it’s not. “My teacher

No it’s not. “My teacher told me so” is not a valid argument in favor of the lost dialogues. Just as in the first case you’re holding a certain view because your teacher held it.

I think this misses the fact that it is not just the teacher, but just about everyone who's ever studied Aristotle who believed that he wrote certain books (whereas, for example, nobody is certain who wrote some books of the Bible). There are 3 main points here:

1) An appeal to authority is valid exactly when both people accept the authority as valid. So in a system of government schools, it makes sense for one student to say to another "It's true because the teacher said it". To argue against the principle, you'd have to show instances where the school teachers wrong about something significant in the area. To argue in favor, you'd show that teachers are wise, knowledgeable people with valid methods and extensive experience.

2) There are good reasons for thinking that genuine scientists are better authorities than wackos like Hugh Ross. For one, their methods are widely known and accepted as conducive to understanding reality; the same cannot be said for the creationists, who are clearly motivated by religion.

3) All this is irrelevant to the debate over public funding, since libertarianism requires there be no public funding of anything.

OK, I'm going to concede the

OK, I'm going to concede the point on the definition of ID. Posters to Paul Phillips LiveJournal have convinced me that my definition of ID is not what is generally meant when the term is used.

So why is the assertion of

So why is the assertion of intelligent design in a fossil arrowhead or pot falsifiable if the assertion of intelligent design in a fossil sea shell is not?

I'm not sure about falsifiability, but it looks pretty clear to me that a human designed the arrowhead whereas nobody designed the seashell. For one thing, there are known human cultures that used arrowheads. If you posit that somebody did design the seashell, then by hypothesis it would have to be a nonhuman intelligence since we are discussing a period where no humans existed on earth. Logically, this leaves only extraterrestrial (i.e. non-Earth) beings or supernatural beings. Since most people don't believe there are aliens, that leaves only a belief in a God or gods.

Two Excellent Discussions On

Two Excellent Discussions
On Catallarchy and Ambient Irony we have two good (and civil) discussions of the theory of evolution and the religious intelligent design belief. In the course of this discussion Joe Miller and I make what I think are the key...

Joe Miller wrote: " So while

Joe Miller wrote: " So while I could repeat experiments (given ample training, equipment, funds and time), I don’t really have to. I can cite articles in Nature as evidence and doing so isn’t a fallacy."

Yep, we're on the same sheet of music. I think the key thing that those who don't agree with science don't understand is that there is no requirement to take something on faith. While it takes genius to come up with Newton's Laws in the first place, any reasonably intelligent college student can demonstrate them in relatively short order (which we did in my physics classes), although Newtonian Physics may be a bad example since we now know that they don't adequately explain the physical universe. But, you get my drift.

Jonathon Wilde wrote: "Still, I think it wise to personalize as much of this information we get from authorities as possible- to hear their arguments, to see if the theory matches the world around us, to try to find holes in the theory, etc."

This is absolutely true. Scepticism is healthy. What I always find interesting is when I'm talking to someone who believes in creationism rather than evolution. Once we get to a certain point in the discussion the rebuttal from the religious person is, "Yeah, but it's just a theory!" At this point I realize that they are a product of a public high school and don't really understand what theory means in science.

Joe, You're right that it's

Joe,

You're right that it's not a fallacy. I've got no problem with the presence of authorities per se. I take them to be a consequence of division of labor and specialization. I'll gladly listen to a lawyer give me legal advice or a CPA give tax advise.

Still, I think it wise to personalize as much of this information we get from authorities as possible- to hear their arguments, to see if the theory matches the world around us, to try to find holes in the theory, etc.

Eric, _The great thing about

Eric,

_The great thing about science, though, is that I can recreate an experiment, in general. In fact, we do that in our science classes in school. I may accept some one as authoritative, but I don’t have to. And that is the key difference between science and religion, including Intelligent Design theories. Religious myths about the origin of life requires me to accept something as authoritative without providing me the opportunity to satisfy myself that they are, indeed, authoritative. There is no experiment I can conduct, no evidence I can gather, no lab work I can do. I must, still, accept ID on faith._

I agree entirely. Indeed, it's the very repeatibility of science that makes it the sort of subject in which appealing to authority is legitimate. After all, scientists _do_ repeat experiments quite frequently, and scientific consensus arises when those repititions lead disparate scientists working in different places at different times to the same conclusions. So while I _could_ repeat experiments (given ample training, equipment, funds and time), I don't really have to. I can cite articles in _Nature_ as evidence and doing so isn't a fallacy.

To put the point another way: to believe X because _a_ scientist tells me that X is true might be an inappropriate appeal to authority. To believe X because the scientific community agrees that X is true seems like a pretty legitimate reason for believing X.

Ironically, I was arguing

Ironically, I was arguing the flaws of central banking and fiat currency to a physicist friend of mine, and he rejected my argument on appeal to authority of Keyensian and Chicago economists.

When I was visiting a

When I was visiting a Toronto museum recently I saw an absolutely fascinating exhibit on the origin of birds and their relationship to dinosaurs. Evolutionary science has been advanced by the discovery of deposits of rock in China that had the peculiar property of preserving feathers. This has resulted in redesigning the probable taxonomy of birds as probably coming from tree dwelling dinosaurs. Originally rather small, some of them later descended to the ground and developed into the some of the predatory types such as Jurassic Park’s Velociraptor, which possibly had feathers. This would be a revision of the theory that ground dwelling dinosaurs sprouted feathers and took flight.
Evolutionary theory is essential to and creation theory is useless in advancing knowledge like this. The theory of evolution serves as the intellectual and philosophical basis of modern biology. It is not derived from experiments, but from the integration of millions of facts based upon evolutionary thinking. If you could come up with any thing better you could accuse evolutionists of circular thinking but there are currently no real challengers. The only cogent argument against it is that it is counter intuitive. It is hard to conceive that so much could have come from so simple a process, leading some to say, “ It’s impossible! God created it all.” This answer may make some people feel better, but again - show me how this leads anywhere.

Joe Miller said: Even if I

Joe Miller said: Even if I get all my information via scientific journals, I still, at the end of the day, believe something because someone told me that she conducted a certain experiment and got certain results. Unless I carry out every experiment for myself, at some point, I’m relying upon the authority of someone else.

The great thing about science, though, is that I can recreate an experiment, in general. In fact, we do that in our science classes in school. I may accept some one as authoritative, but I don't have to. And that is the key difference between science and religion, including Intelligent Design theories. Religious myths about the origin of life requires me to accept something as authoritative without providing me the opportunity to satisfy myself that they are, indeed, authoritative. There is no experiment I can conduct, no evidence I can gather, no lab work I can do. I must, still, accept ID on faith.

It's entertaining to speculate about the ID ideas in Carl Sagan's "Contact", but until someone proves that there is a face inside PI, for example, it's just an idea that made for an entertaining book. Intelligent Design has, as far as I have been able to find, no recreatable lab work, experimentation or empirical evidence. In the world of science its neither theorem nor theory, it is simply one hypothesis about how the universe came to be. To advance it to the next step, you need to try and disprove it. If the people who are promoting ID really wanted to put it on par with other science, rather than simply replacing science with religion, they would be actively and objectively trying to disprove their hypothesis. I learned that in my 7th grade science class. It appears that, if the ID types get their way, future generations will not learn that proving a hypothesis means first trying to objectively disprove it.

Obviously the fact that "God

Obviously the fact that "God created it" is all the explanation right-thinking people need, you heathen.

Stefan wrote: "you

Stefan wrote: "you heathen"

Thanks for the compliment! ;-)

You're welcome. :grin:

You're welcome. :grin:

Steve, "The great thing

Steve,

"The great thing about a scientific theory, even in this aspect, is that it states things in such a way that an experiment can be made or evidence can be found that will allow for the theory to be disproven."

Some products of intelligent design are found in the fossil record, aren't they? How can that be if their alleged identification cannot be disproved?

If one dope appeals to

If one dope appeals to another dope to persuade a third dope of something, and the third dope bys it, that doesn’t mean any valid argument has been presented.

It's true this happens often enough in the real world. However, I'm a little wary of accepting your view, because it seems to imply that courtrooms could never call upon expert witnesses to testify, as about forensics, pathology, etc. It also sounds like I could never really order something off of a menu in a restaurant I hadn't ordered before, because I'm relying on the "authority" of the waiter that, for example, red wine is best suited to a certain meal. When would you say it's ok to do something that relies, implicitly or explicity, on the word of another person?

For most cases there’s no such thing as a valid authority. Aristotle may be wise, he may be correct, but all that matters is whether his argument for the point in question is valid or not.

So in your view most people in the evolution vs ID debate, when asked the question "Which theory is correct, evolution or ID?" should just shrug and say "I don't know"? That doesn't seem right to me somehow.

John, Are you talking about

John,

Are you talking about specific incidents (such as the Piltdown man), or are you talking about it as a whole?

If an authority in the field

If an authority in the field under question says Y, it certainly is a valid argument for Y.

I think John is trying to deny that authorities can exist, which is what prompted my question about waiters and such. The view Scott and I seem to be defending is that JTK couldn't live his life as he presumably does without relying, even to some implicit degree, on authority, as the authority of a waiter in a restaurant or the authority of doctors to diagnose a disease. The claim is that scientists are such a legitimate authority in answering biological questions, whereas purveyors of religion like Hugh Ross are not.

John, If an authority in the

John,

If an authority in the field under question says Y, it certainly is a valid argument for Y.

JTK: This is slightly

JTK: This is slightly tangential, but I wonder if you find the practice of Japanese speakers ending many sentences with the linguistic equivalent of "right" (as in, "The game is today, right?") to be backward and collectivist? Sounds kind of like an appeal to authority...

Scott, Recognizing that "X

Scott,

Recognizing that "X says Y" is not a valid argument for Y isn't radical skepticism.

I don't doubt Aristotle when he makes a valid argument and unlike a lot of people I'm capable of identifying valid arguments.

Do you really exist Scott?

Do you really exist Scott? Or am I talking to a machine?

Well, if you want to be

Well, if you want to be truly skeptical about it, then why not, while in the course of doubting all authorities, also begin to doubt all your senses?

Just because I cannot

Just because I cannot explain something with the evidence on hand does not automatically mean that Super-Naturalism is appropriate.

That does not bear on the

That does not bear on the question of falsifiability.

John, I think the biggest

John,

I think the biggest difference there is that in the case of the arrowheads and pots, we know the designer's species existed during that period.

I think the falsifiability

I think the falsifiability argument fails even on it's own terms here.

Clearly there are artifacts of intelligent design found in the fossil record. Identification of such objects is considered to be a valid empirical scientific matter, isn't it?

So why is the assertion of intelligent design in a fossil arrowhead or pot falsifiable if the assertion of intelligent design in a fossil sea shell is not?

On the comments that

On the comments that intelligent design has no recreatable experiments where evolution does; my understanding is that it is exactly where the science of evolution lacks its evidence that intelligent design resides. All current evolution evidence is lacking in its transitonary periods (ie we have many skulls of homo sapiens and homo erectus, but none of those morphologically between the two--at least to my knowledge.) and that is where the intelligent design crowd inserts its self.

Intelligent Design is not in

Intelligent Design is not in principle a supernatural explanation, even if many of it's proponents may believe in one.

I'm late to my own comments

I'm late to my own comments section (work has been crazy this week), and I find that Joe has said most of what I'd like to say anyway. Adressing Phelps' claim would take too long, so...later, and I'm glad y'all had fun without me!

Dave actually gives the best

Dave actually gives the best example of why Evolution is no more a proper theory than ID: it makes no falsifiable predictions. When it makes a prediction based on our understanding of speciation, and that hypothesis is shown to be wrong, Evolutionists simply is shuffle the tree to match the new data. There has been emperical evidence for ID (such as Dembski's assertion that there hasn't been enough time, from a statistical standpoint, for random mutation to have produced enough mutation for selection to provide for speciation), even if you claim that irreducable complexity can't be tested -- something that ID advocates refute, and rightly so, I think. (I'm not saying that I think that there are things that are irreducably complex -- just that I think that a method can be designed that is falsifiable and reproducable across wide spectrums of phenomena.)

I don't believe in

I don't believe in Intelligent Design but I don't think it's typical net opponents make much effort to seek out and engage the best arguments for it.

"So, for instance, holding a

"So, for instance, holding a certain view of ethics because Aristotle held it would be an inappropriate appeal to authority. On the other hand, believing that Aristotle wrote dialogues that are now lost because your philosophy professor told you so is an appeal to authority, but a wholly appropriate one."

No it's not. "My teacher told me so" is not a valid argument in favor of the lost dialogues. Just as in the first case you're holding a certain view because your teacher held it.

Eris bless you.

Eris bless you.

"Scott, “Leave it to a

"Scott,

“Leave it to a Discordian to get it right.”

You notice that Lippard just said I was right and you were wrong, right?"

Actually, I should revise what I said--what people say is not *completely independent* of the truth of propositions, that's an exaggeration. It can be, but in most cases what people say is *causally related* to the facts that make the propositions they express true, and that is why testimony can provide supporting evidence for the truth or falsity of propositions.

Happier with that, Scott? Any disagreement, John?