Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Intelligent design" apologia: Pot. Kettle. Black.

While idly perusing my Sitemeter referral log over the weekend, I noticed a spike in traffic directed here from one site. Curious, I read the piece that had mentioned me and saw that I had managed to get an "intelligent design" (ID) apologist named Susanna rather annoyed with my deconstruction of Scrappleface's so-called "satire" about the debate over the teaching of ID in Kansas. I debated whether it was worth the bother to respond to the "rebuttals" and ad hominems in her post, and, after three days, my snark factor won out, as it did a couple of months ago for an altie troll calling himself the Herbinator. Given that the Skeptics' Circle is due to appear at Pharyngula tomorrow, I thought: What the heck? What better way to whet my palate (and hopefully yours as well) for the skeptical feast that Pharyngula will hopefully provide tomorrow than to have a little fun at the expense of an ID apologist?

Does that mean that it's time for some of that Respectful Insolence Orac likes so much? Of course it does!

I'm an old Usenet hand, having been active on and off in various newsgroups since the early 1990's. Indeed, before I discovered blogging, my primary outlet for non-technical writing was on Usenet, particularly in the newsgroups alt.revisionism and misc.health.alternative (and, occasionally even on talk.origins, the newsgroup dedicated to the discussion of evolution and creationism). In Usenet, we had a number of shorthand sayings, one of which was "Pot. Kettle. Black." This particular saying was used, as you might guess, to point out when another person was guilty of being the "pot calling the kettle black," as the old saying goes. Normally, I ignore most attacks like the one Susanna launched, having learned from a recent encounter with Vox Day and his sycophants that it is usually not worth the trouble to engage in debate with certain people, at least not if you don't want to risk having such exchanges take over your blog. But this comment from Susanna just amused me far too much for me to let it pass unanswered:
When you feel a need to debunk satire, you may want to consider professional help.
Heh. If that's the case, then I would ask Susanna: If I need "professional help" because I felt the need to "debunk satire," then what does it say about you when you felt the need to debunk my debunking of satire? I think I'll let Susanna's comment about me guide me in my answer and just say:
Pot. Kettle. Black.
Of course, Susanna denied she was in fact "debunking the debunker," with a rather transparent excuse: "I would debunk his debunking, but I don't want to descend further into parody over satire." Don't worry about it, Susanna. You already descended into parody with your rather lengthy defense of ID; so you might as well have gone the rest of the way and tried to "debunk" me while you were at it. You could hardly have done worse than you already did. This comment of yours, for example, could have come straight from a Discovery Institute press release:
There's an interesting debate going on in Kansas - some want schools to be able to discuss the fact that there is controversy about the theory of evolution. That seems a reasonable request, since there is controversy within the scientific community itself about what permutations of the theory are most correct. But the evolutionists are Horrified, Horrified that someone would question them, and the possibility that a Much Debunked Idea (we don't want to say "intelligent design", that will just bring them here in hordes, again, to debunk me) may slip in some classes as a result of this door opening.
Yawn. A typical ID straw man, and not even an imaginative presentation.

No, it's not that evolutionists are somehow "afraid" of ID or somehow want "special treatment" for evolution. Nor is it that evolutionists want evolution to be immune from criticism, as one blog that Susanna has quoted claims. In actuality, it is the advocates of ID who want "special treatment" for their idea in schools because intelligent design as a concept (I won't dignify it by calling it a "theory" or even an "hypothesis") has failed utterly thus far to be taken seriously as science. Indeed, that is the key observation that served as the basis for my criticism of Scrappleface's attempt at satire. The reason, of course, is that ID is not science. There is no observational or experimental evidence to support it. It makes no predictions and explains no great mass of data, other than by resorting to attributing the diversity of life to an "intelligence" that must have done it all. (Gee, I wonder just who ID advocates think this "intelligence" might be? God? Well, they claim no, not necessarily. Maybe they think it's Giant lizards, perhaps?)

The bottom line is that ID has utterly failed to gain a foothold in biology as serious science the way that every accepted scientific theory ultimately becomes accepted: through the preponderance of evidence and through the theory's ability to unify, explain, and to some extent predict natural phenomenon. Nor is it about evolutionists not wanting to teach the various permutations of evolutionary theory. Scientists do not object to teaching the remaining questions that evolutionary theory has not yet explained or controversies among scientists about the mechanisms of evolution. Teaching real scientific controversies in evolution is not what ID advocates want, anyway, their claims otherwise notwithstanding. No, ID advocates want one specific concept taught, a concept that has failed scientific validation at every turn and whose advocates spend far more money and effort on PR and legal fights that misguided school boards get into on their behalf than on doing actual scientific research. If ID advocates really want to get their concepts introduced into the classroom as science, then the best way to do it is to divert some of that massive money and effort used to bulldoze various initiatives forcing the teaching of ID as "science" in high schools and use it to produce the goods. Do the research. Show scientists the evidence. Publish the research and evidence in peer-reviewed journals. Present it at national meetings of biologists. Show how ID explains the diversity of life better than (or at least as well as) evolutionary theory does.

That's how real scientists, rather than pseudoscientists, would work to get ID taught as a science in high school, college, and graduate school!

Susanna should have quit while she was just guilty of no more than a strawman argument, but she couldn't resist descending into bad science as well:
One of the arguments of evolutionists against intelligent design is that it is not amenable to scientific exploration, and that if you believe in intelligent design, you basically have no foundation from which to launch scientific inquiry. Intelligent design as an explanation of origin is as robust as the Big Bang Theory (or whatever the Theory Du Jour is, since it changes all the time, despite the scientific claims that whatever the Theory Du Jour is is finally the final word), which doesn't explain to anyone's satisfaction a) where the original matter or energy came from or b) how their origin theory presupposes a type of behavior of matter that their own science has found to be absent from current behavior of matter - that is, everything now is degrading, not improving. I don't know how they get by with such bad science, flying in their own faces.
First off, no, ID is not an explanation of origin as "robust" as the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory has enormous quantities of scientific evidence gathered over many decades from many disciplines to support it. No such thing can be said for ID. Second, I can't believe Susanna actually had the temerity to mention the hoary creationist canard that evolution somehow violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Now that's some really bad science, so much so that I don't need to "debunk" it. It's been debunked quite well before here and specifically here (which includes some of the detailed nitty-gritty, complete with formulas). Finally, I don't know which scientists Susanna is referring to, but no real scientist claims that the "Theory du Jour" is the "final word." Such thinking is anathema to scientists. Real scientists consider every theory as merely provisionally accepted as the best presently existing explanation for a natural phenomenon. All theories, including evolution, are subject to revision or replacement if new evidence mandates it. Indeed, the greatest joy a scientist can achieve is not to confirm current theory (although that can be satisifying) but rather to challenge and go beyond current theory, filling in its flaws or even overturning it altogether in favor of something new that leads to new understanding and new areas of inquiry. But achieving that is not easy. It takes evidence so compelling and in such quantities that the bulk of scientists are finally forced to admit that present theory can't stand against it, something ID proponents don't seem to understand. If they think ID is a superior explanation for evolution than present day theory, they need to produce the goods to prove it, just as every scientist who has successfully challenged current theory has done before. It is not up to the skeptics to prove ID is not the best explanation for the diversity of life; it is up to its adherents to prove that it is.

Then she concludes with the biggest straw man of all:
Quite frankly, I think dismissing intelligent design out of hand as an option is unscientific on its face too. I'm not saying they have to like it, or agree with it, or even use it. But to say categorically that it is not true when they have no solid evidence to reject it is to close the door on a whole range of possible answers.
Oh, please. Give me a break. That is not why scientists are doing, nor is it why they are saying that ID should not be taught as science in the classroom. Scientists are not saying that intelligent design is not true; scientists are saying that there is no credible or convincing scientific evidence that ID is true, nor is there any sort evidence that could ever prove that it isn't true. In other words, there is no good evidence for ID, nor is ID falsifiable, as scientific theories must be, including evolution. (As an aside, the types of data that could falsify evolution and common descent, were they to be found, are listed exhaustively here). Personally, I have no problem with Susanna or anyone else believing that God or whatever intelligence is behind the evolution of all living creatures. However, barring God revealing Himself for all to see, such an idea is not a testable hypothesis and not a valid basis for a scientific theory, which deals only with phenomena that can be proven or disproven on the basis of physical observation and experimentation. Such an idea is religion or philosophy, not science.

Unfortunately, Susanna does not appear to allow comments on her blog. Otherwise, I might have simply posted a much briefer version of this piece in her comments section and seen what she had to say. (Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I wonder what her lack of a comment section says about her desire to engage in debate, especially after her claim that evolutionists don't want to have their views challenged. Should I say "Pot. Kettle. Black." again? Sure, why not?) However, I have little doubt that she'll eventually become aware of my article, if you all click on the right links. When that happens, I cordially invite her to feel free to tell me exactly what the specific scientific evidence for ID is that she finds so compelling that ID should be taught as an "alternative theory" to evolution. My comment section, unlike hers, is open for business. I'll even forget that she said publicly that she thinks I need professional help.

Oh, and Fat Steve, my cordial welcome applies to you as well, if you would like, given that you apparently felt the need to lend some rather ineffectual but unintentionally amusing--to me, at least--tactical air support to Susanna (your self-proclaimed "sterling intellectual qualities" notwithstanding). I'll even forget that you called me a putz and said that I should "get a clue."

I'm just that kind of a forgiving guy, you know, now that I've had a chance to vent.

And, please, both of you, visit the Skeptics' Circle tomorrow at Pharyngula. It'd definitely do you both some good. Heck, why don't you both send PZ your pieces as entries to the Skeptics' Circle, examples of your "skepticism" over evolution? On second thought, never mind. I confess that my suggestion was a bit of a trap. (I was just feeling snarky again.) PZ isn't nearly as tolerant as I am of ID apologists like you. I doubt he'd be as patient with you as I've just been.

50 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 5/11/2005 11:13 AM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Susanna is wrong about many things. Evolution does not violate the second law, and the Big Bang, being (as far as we know) a singular creation event, is not at all at odds with (cosmological) ID.

She was, however, correct to make fun of you for criticizing a satire. That’s kind of embarrassing; I almost feel sorry for you.

 

At 5/11/2005 12:00 PM, Anonymous Mark Paris said...

I like some of the arguments you use here. They explain the differences between science and ID well in reasoned terms. I'm sure they're not the first good arguments, but I think I might keep them handy in case my local school board starts an effort to put ID into the schools.

So, what's wrong with criticizing a satire?.

 

At 5/11/2005 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when is criticizing satire embarrassing? Poorly-constructed satires or those that try to prove an erroneous point deserve criticism.

David, when you talk about "how physics and spirituality intersect," you've automatically left the realm of science and entered one of faith. Great stuff for novels, I'm sure, but try publishing a paper based on faith. I'd think with your credentials, you'd know better.

-Ali

 

At 5/11/2005 12:15 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Thanks for the tactical air support, Ali and Mark. I, too, would like to know what is wrong with criticizing a bad satire, as that seems to be the main basis upon which Susanna, Fat Steve, and Scrappleface himself objected to my original piece.

The Scrappleface piece was bad and fallacious satire. Is David or Susanna saying that satire based on a demonstrable fallacy should be immune from criticism or debunking?

Give me a break!

As for "feeling sorry" for me, David should save his sympathy for people who could actually use it: The ID proponents making such embarrassingly unscientific statements about evolution!

 

At 5/11/2005 12:36 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Ali wrote:

"David, when you talk about "how physics and spirituality intersect," you've automatically left the realm of science and entered one of faith. Great stuff for novels, I'm sure, but try publishing a paper based on faith. I'd think with your credentials, you'd know better."

This is a non sequitur. I agree with the first sentence. And I wouldn't try to publish a (scientific) paper that was based on faith. Did I give you some indication that I thought otherwise?

Orac wrote

"David should save his sympathy for people who could actually use it: The ID proponents making such embarrassingly unscientific statements about evolution!"

Well, at least in terms of the YEC who are ID proponents, I can get two for the price of one when it comes to my sympathy, since the YECs are bedfellows of evolution proponents. Both groups are adamantly opposed the cosmological ID that I support. So, Orac, I can feel sorry for you and Ken Hovind. In regards to what's important and interesting to me, you appear as one and the same.

 

At 5/11/2005 12:57 PM, Blogger Orac said...

You still haven't answered the question Mark, Ali, and I have all asked: What's wrong with criticizing a satire?

As for "cosmologic" ID, I don't "oppose it," I simply don't consider ID (cosmologic or otherwise) to be "science," for the reasons I have stated in this post and several others. Whether or not there is an intelligence behind the universe is a fascinating thing to think about as religion, philosophy, or whatever, but it is not science. ID proponents make it into science if they wished by producing some scientific evidence to support the existence of a creator other than post hoc rationalizations claiming that complex structure couldn't arise from the mechanisms that evolutionary theory postulates, but they have not. Why? Because that is not their true game. Their true game is to use the Trojan horse of ID to get creationism taught side by side with evolution as a "science."

 

At 5/11/2005 1:01 PM, Anonymous Vanessa said...

Probably a stupid question, but.. I do get the whole premise behind intelligent design which seems to basically boil down to the fact that chaos can't randomly converge into order without someone giving the whole process a nudge in the right direction.
But if you're stuck stating that life or anything ordered can't occur naturally, then who or what "designed" the designer?
Am I missing something obvious?

 

At 5/11/2005 1:11 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

It’s not wrong to criticize satire as satire, but it is a bit lame to criticize the scientific claims of a satiric piece. Will you be holding Mad Magazine up to such exacting standards? I recall they sometimes show the Mad blimp in orbit around the moon. Now I ask you, how is that possible?

And Dave Berry once described a mechanic friend as “one of those guys who could break down a transmission into individual transmission molecules and put it back together again.” Transmission molecules? What was he thinking?

 

At 5/11/2005 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I meant the whole publishing-faith-as-science thing as hyperbole. I was trying to imply what Orac stated:

"I simply don't consider ID (cosmologic or otherwise) to be "science," for the reasons I have stated in this post and several others."

I may have incorrectly lumped you into the category of people who want to teach faith (ID) as science in schools. If so, I apologize.

To respond to your last comment - I think there's a difference between satire that's meant to be absurd for absurdity's sake and satire with a specious agenda. The piece Orac was criticizing was by no stretch the latter.

-Ali

 

At 5/11/2005 2:21 PM, Blogger Paul said...

David, it's not lame to make such a criticism when the target of the satire is the science itself. Had Dave Barry mocked transmission mechanics for talking about gears and fluids when we all know that they are made from individual transmission molecules the comparison might be more apt.

In fact I'd go so far as to say that satiring science because you feel that the facts it presents contradict your faith is 'a bit lame'

 

At 5/11/2005 2:57 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Ali wrote:

“I may have incorrectly lumped you into the category of people who want to teach faith (ID) as science in schools. If so, I apologize.”

I do not think ID is science and I do not think it should be part of the science curriculum in the public schools. (I have stated this position many times on Panda’s Thumb. However, the PT pretzel-logic usually manifests itself something like this:

PT: Heddle, you moron, ID is not science!
Heddle: I agree, it is not science
PT:No you don’t! You do think it is science you liar!

I do think cosmological ID can be discussed in schools, and I have been invited on various occasions to do so.

Ali wrote:

“I think there's a difference between satire that's meant to be absurd for absurdity's sake and satire with a specious agenda.”

I was not aware that satire fell into those literary subclasses. At any rate, I still think one looks foolish for generating a serious response to the content of satire, with the possible exception of attacking a satirical piece that is heinously offensive.

Paul Wrote:
“In fact I'd go so far as to say that satiring science because you feel that the facts it presents contradict your faith is 'a bit lame'”

That’s why satire is satire, fiction is fiction, and science is science.

I do have to ask: Would you then also go so far as to say that satiring one’s faith because you feel that the ideas it presents contradict science is 'a bit lame'?

 

At 5/11/2005 3:29 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

In all honesty, Mr. Heddle, I think I can understand why you provoke the response you mention in people--looking over your response, I am left wondering what it is exactly you are trying to say. You say "I do not think ID is science and I do not think it should be part of the science curriculum in the public schools."--all right, we're in agreement here. You then add, "I do think cosmological ID can be discussed in schools, and I have been invited on various occasions to do so." Now, kindly explain to me under what auspices could you discuss "comological ID"? Is it English? Social Studies? History of Popular Mythology? Where exactly do you put instructing people in a belief that an Intelligent Designer made the universe, without letting the nose of the camel into the tent, so to the speak--that is to say, without it turning into a religion class that quietly suggests either Religion A, B, or C is the proper one? Because as it now stands, your answers seem to be vague fence-straddling that leaves the reader with an impression of disenginuity on your part.

Finally, on the satire issue--please stop setting up straw men. Orac is perfectly right to criticize a badly-written bit of satire constructed on a false premise. Comparing Barry's clearly facetious comments on "transmission molecules" with a writer basing the entire premise of his 'joke' on a lie is a stretch at best.

 

At 5/11/2005 3:56 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

MWNP wrote:

“You say "I do not think ID is science and I do not think it should be part of the science curriculum in the public schools."--all right, we're in agreement here. You then add, "I do think cosmological ID can be discussed in schools, and I have been invited on various occasions to do so." Now, kindly explain to me under what auspices could you discuss "comological ID"? Is it English? Social Studies? History of Popular Mythology?”

I don’t understand your logic. Why is having cosmological ID discussed in schools (on an invitation basis, not as part of the curriculum) contradict the notion that it is not science? It is science–related philosophy. It can be discussed in science class (if the teacher so desires—if you think there are no philosophical discussions in science classes you are naive) or it can be discussed in extra-curricular clubs, or anywhere the school deems appropriate. Provocative ideas are good for the students. I don’t buy that nose-in-the-tent paranoia. If we discuss Islam in the schools, is there a danger that we’ll turn the students into suicide bombers? Why do so many people think discussing cosmological ID will turn ‘em into little Jerry Falwells? (who is probably an opponent of cosmological ID.)

When I discuss cosmological ID, I tell them about the fine-tuning evident in the universe. Then I tell them that many atheist/agnostic physicists, who are not IDers, neverthelsess acknowledge the fine tuning in the present theories and look for natural explanations, and this mostly involves untestable hypotheses such as parallel universes. And I discuss the Anthropic Principle. These are all topics discussed among professional physicists—why are you afraid of them?

I don’t initiate a discussion on religion, but if they ask who do I think the designer was, I say God. I think ID always goes hand-in-hand with monotheistic religion. I don’t know how so many biological ID proponents can claim otherwise.

MWNP wrote:

"Finally, on the satire issue--please stop setting up straw men.

Staw men. Geez. Is there anyone left who can criticize an argument in a way that is more substantive than "stop setting up straw men." That is so last millennium.

 

At 5/11/2005 4:48 PM, Blogger Socialist Swine said...

David,

As a philosopher who works in science related philosophy, I would argue that ID isn't such a thing. ID is far too speculative and far too lacking in sound deductive reasoning to be considered as an area of philosophy by most analytic philosophers. I'm not sure what I'd classify ID is, and I'm not sure it should be taught in schools at all. Except for maybe Sunday schools.

 

At 5/11/2005 4:55 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Oy. Give me a moment to try and extract your meaning. I fully admit that I might have missed it. It is perfectly legitimate you say, to speak of cosmological ID in front of a private club on school grounds. Agreed. But that is not something that anyone is disputing. But you also state that it is perfectly legitimate to discuss in front of a science class. Here I disagree. It is no more proper to discuss this "science-based philosophy" in a science class then it would be to discuss astrology, naturopathy or chiropracy, all of which are also arguably "science-based". Your comments suggest to me, Mr. Heddle, that ID, cosmological or biological, belongs just where it is right now--out of the classroom. If people wish to believe in it they have a perfect right. But religion should remain the province of the family and friends, not the state.

Also, allow me to state that I must disagree with you--ID does not "always go hand-in-hand with monotheistic religion". It is a mantle that has been almost invariably used by such religions to attack science under--however, without any proof of as to the identity of the designer, we are left with no proof whether the designer was one being, two beings, three beings, or one million, seven hundred eighty-eight thousand, four hundred and twenty-one beings. ID can be used to prop up "Odin and his brothers did it", "Bramin and Vishnu did it", and "the dimensional beings from X59-4 did it," based on what we actually know. Not that the "theory's" major proponents can be said to be taking such a position.

And finally...

David Heddle wrote:

"Staw men. Geez. Is there anyone left who can criticize an argument in a way that is more substantive than "stop setting up straw men." That is so last millennium."

As opposed to of course, dodging the argument with a bon mot? You used false analogies, you didn't answer questions that were asked, you constructed premises that didn't match what occured--I called straw men because straw men were in the building, Mr. Heddle. If it's no longer fashionable to do that, then I will be unfashionable. I'd rather not have the grassy bastards surround me.

 

At 5/11/2005 4:56 PM, Blogger Lord Runolfr said...

With regard to David's comment about the "fine tuning" of the universe, I think I shall present this quote from the late Douglas Adams...

A puddle wakes up one morning and thinks: "This is a very interesting world I find myself in. It fits me very neatly. In fact it fits me so neatly... I mean really precise isn't it?... It must have been made to have me in it."

 

At 5/11/2005 5:35 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

CPvSS wrote:

“As a philosopher who works in science related philosophy, I would argue that ID isn't such a thing… and I'm not sure it should be taught in schools at all. Except for maybe Sunday schools.”

Whatever. I have no clue what makes something qualify as a “philosophy,” so I’ll take your word for it. However, your last point is misleading. If I discuss cosmological ID, then in some since I am teaching it, but in reality I am presenting it. There is a difference. I do not teach it as scientific theory, or as fact, like I’d teach gravity. I present it as an idea. Students, believe it or not, can handle ideas.

MWNP wrote:

“It is no more proper to discuss this "science-based philosophy" in a science class then it would be to discuss astrology, naturopathy or chiropracy, all of which are also arguably "science-based".

No, cosmological ID is not the same as astrology, etc. Cosmological ID is about fine tuning. Physicists discuss, for example, the 120 orders of magnitude fine tuning in the cosmological constant (dark energy)that the big bang and inflation imply. They don’t all agree that it points to a designer, but they agree that it is a “problem.”

Lord runolrf, if we are trading quotes related to fine-tuning, I have some (references upon request):

Arno Penzias, who shared the Nobel Prize for the “discovery of the century”, the 2.7K cosmic background radiation:

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say “supernatural”) plan.

Chinese astrophysicist Fang Li Zhi, and coauthor Li Shu Xian:

A question that has always been considered a topic of metaphysics or theology has now become an area of active research in physics.

George Ellis, colleague of Stephen Hawking and mathematician Roger Penrose:

Amazing fine-tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word “miraculous” without taking a stand as to the ontological status of that word.

Stephen Hawking:

It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us.

Cosmologist Bernard Carr:

One would have to conclude that either the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle are only coincidence or that the universe was indeed tailor made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor.

Astronomer George Greenstein:

As we survey all the evidence, the thought instantly arises that some supernatural agency—or rather Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?

Astronomer Fred Hoyle, staunch anti-theist:

A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.

Tony Rothman, theoretical physicist:

The medieval theologian who gazed at the night sky through the eyes of Aristotle and saw angels moving the spheres in harmony has become the modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature… When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.

Cosmologist Edward Harrison:

Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline to the theological or design argument.

My personal favorite:

Heinemann prize winner Robert Griffiths:

If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.

Astronomer Robert Jastrow:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been waiting there for centuries.

Astrophysicist Paul Davies:

[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…The impression of design is overwhelming.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss (on the dark energy problem):

This is the worst fine tuning problem in physics.

NOTE: I am not claiming all these guys are IDers—that is the point, most of them are not, but they acknowledge the fine tuning in our present understanding of the universe.

So, your lordship, it is not a trivial to dismiss as with a Douglas Adams quote.

 

At 5/11/2005 7:12 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Mr. Hiddle, even if you don't call the God of the Gaps 'God', you're still making the same error and calling it an argument. I'm afraid your horde of quotes no more make your 'cosmological' ID stance "scientific" than 'biological' ID's equally large horde does. I'll be frank with you--for a man who claims to eschew the methods of that crowd, you sure use them an awful lot.

Now, for the last time, the objection is not based on whether students can handle ideas. I'm pretty sure most of them can. It's based on the fact that religion isn't science, and shouldn't be taught in a science class. That is the issue, and on that issue, I will not budge. You yourself seem to agree that ID is religious in basis. Can you provide something besides 'Scientists are amazed by the order they discover in the universe'? If not, then you have no case. Science and 'science-based philosophy' are not saying "I think an invisible man did it", unless you provide compelling evidence for an invisible man.

 

At 5/11/2005 7:25 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

MWNP wrote:

"even if you don't call the God of the Gaps 'God', you're still making the same error and calling it an argument."

I have not called anything an argument.

"Can you provide something besides 'Scientists are amazed by the order they discover in the universe'?"

It's not the order in the universe, it's the fine tuning. There is a huge difference.

This is how my presentations go:

80% -- let's look at the fine tuning in the cosmological constant, nuclear chemistry, etc.
10% -- lets look at some observational advantages (clear view of deep space, solar eclipses, etc)

5% What is science trying to do? -- Parallel universes, alternative cosmologies, etc, none of which have bben verified (and many of which are not, even in principle, testable)

5% Does this same evidence have another possible explanation, design?

It is not God in the gaps, in fact it is falsifiable-- if any of the alternative, naturalistic explanations are verified, then comological ID is dead. That is completely different from biological ID. Your argument is just resorting to "god in the gaps" sloganizing.

Since science cannot, at the moment, answer the fine-tuing problem, I gather you think it should not be discussed at all?

 

At 5/11/2005 7:46 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Mr. Hiddle, I can see exactly why you're not well-liked around The Panda's Thumb. You're a verbal shilly-shallyer, a man who mangles the meaning of meaning until it's a fine paste of innuendo. You mince words so that when people try to take you to task for the things you're saying, you can duck out the backway and claim we're getting it all wrong. You change what your arguments mean so often that to hear you tell it, they don't mean anything. Allow me to state, Mr. Heddle, that you can call it "order" you can call it "fine tuning", you can call it "Archduke Ferdinand", but what you are doing is waving your hand up at the sky and saying "Something that hard to explain has to have a God behind it." This is not a scientific concept--it has never been a scientific concept--and it will not magically turn into a scientific concept.

You may state that what you have is a good case of your 'Intelligent Designer'--this doesn't make you right. Now then--yes, the "fine tuning" concept should be discussed, you pettifogger of a debater. It should be discussed scientifically, which does not entail saying 'I don't understand how it works, so it must be God.' I suspect that when the answers to these questions are found, they'll be found by men looking for natural processes, not ID proponents.

And no, Mr. Heddle, a designer is not falsifiable simply because there are 'other' theories, for the simple fact that if those theories prove true, they do not, in point of fact disprove a designer. So stop accusing me of sloganizing and try to use real logic, not pseudologic.

 

At 5/11/2005 9:34 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

MWNP,

Gee, you don’t have to get snippy!

So I’m a “shilly-shallyer” and a pettifogger of a debater. I don’t know what they mean, but I like it better than what I am usually called on Panda’s Thumb or on PZ’s blog, before he tossed me out.

First of all, order means that the universe obeys natural laws. That does not require fine tuning. Fine tuning is in addition to order. Fine tuning says, for example, if certain nuclear levels weren’t what they are stellar evolution could not proceed So there’d be no super novae, and therefore no planets, and therefore no life, even though the universe would be just as ordered. They are quite different, and instead of admitting that you mixed them up, your response is “call it whatever you want.” But you are wrong, you can’t call it order or fine tuning, they are two different things.

But you biggest mistake you saved for the end, when you wrote:

“And no, Mr. Heddle, a designer is not falsifiable simply because there are 'other' theories, for the simple fact that if those theories prove true, they do not, in point of fact disprove a designer. So stop accusing me of sloganizing and try to use real logic, not pseudologic.” (bold added)

Now, can you go back and find where I ever stated that the designer was falsifiable? I wrote, quote, “if any of the alternative, naturalistic explanations are verified, then cosmological ID is dead.” I did not say, “God is dead.”

If you detect parallel universes, for example, then cosmological ID, which is based on the fine-tuning and uniqueness of our universe, is dead. I would still be free to believe in God, but I could no longer claim that the fine-tuning was evidence for design.

Straw men. God in the gaps sloganizing. *Yawn*. Why don't you try accusing me of committing some logical fallacies--that is the usual next step. Or just continue the downward spiral into name calling.

 

At 5/11/2005 10:01 PM, Blogger susanna in alabama said...

Hey, it's me! Kettle!

FYI, I used to have a comment function, but my blog host disabled that and trackback because of the huge amount of comment and trackback spam I was getting, which screwed up his server. A friend hosts it free, so I can hardly quibble. As I've said repeatedly on my blog - and I suppose I should put it on my sidebar for those who are doing drive-by viewings - just let me know that you've blogged on it and I'll post a link. As I will to your post, as soon as I'm done here. Not hardly fair to smack at me for not having comments when you don't know why, is it?

I won't be addressing your post, by the way, not because I'm afraid of you, but because I've fought this battle many times. You and your readers are more than welcome to google for my other posts. It'll give you more fodder, no doubt. I aim to please.

As for why I linked your post at all - Scrappleface, aka Scott Ott, is a personal friend of mine and I was amused at your response to him. That's all. I don't go looking for evolutionists to toss straw men at. I'd be afraid they'd catch fire at the feet of your burning intellect.

susanna cornett
cut on the bias

 

At 5/11/2005 10:10 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Geez, I'm too busy to check my blog for several hours (I was in transit to Bethesda for a workshop at the NIH), and what do I find when I finally do get around to checking it? David Heddle holding court on my blog! By the number of posts I had thought that maybe Susanna or Fat Steve had finally made an appearance, but I was clearly wrong.

There's so much here that I hardly know where to start and I have to get up early tomorrow; so I think I'll just stick to the criticism David leveled at me that it is "lame" to criticize the science behind a piece of satire. Fine. You think I'm lame. I don't really care. As has been pointed out to you by others, David Berry was clearly using hyperbole to demonstrate the competence of his friend at fixing transmissions. It is quite obvious that he wasn't using the device of "transmission molecules" to criticize real chemistry or physics. He was using it as a device to praise his friend's skills.

Scrappleface, on the other hand, was clearly using his obviously fallacious science to criticize those in Kansas defending good science. Also, from his comment on my blog, it is clear that he believes in what he wrote (although it was pretty obvious to me from his "satire" that he believed it, because someone who actually understood evolutionary theory wouldn't have used the "satiric" device he did or taken the position he did).

Ali put it very well: "I think there's a difference between satire that's meant to be absurd for absurdity's sake and satire with a specious agenda."

So did Paul: "t's not lame to make such a criticism when the target of the satire is the science itself. Had Dave Barry mocked transmission mechanics for talking about gears and fluids when we all know that they are made from individual transmission molecules the comparison might be more apt."

If deconstructing Scrappleface's idiotic ID-based "satire" of evolutionists makes me lame in your eyes (or Susanna's or Fat Steve's), David, then I wrap myself in the mantle of lameness with pride!

And, yes, I'd critize Mad Magazine or The Onion if they published a similar piece. Hiding behind "satire" in order to promote pseudoscience is, using the word you chose, quite lame indeed.

Now that I think about it, given the ferocity of some of the criticism I've received for criticizing Scrappleface's piece that labels my criticism as "lame," I'd say I hit a nerve.

Good.

As for the rest of the verbiage you've buried my blog in, I may try to address some of it tomorrow night if I get a chance. Right now, I'm too tired.

 

At 5/11/2005 10:33 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Wow, wouldn't you know it, but Susanna showed up between the time I started my last comment and the time I actually posted it. Will wonders never cease? Tired or not, I have to leave one little response.

One thing first: How on earth am I supposed to know the reason you don't have comments? I'm not psychic (nor is anyone else, for that matter, but that's another issue). Also, you did mention that "hordes" of debunkers might come to your blog if you mentioned intelligent design; it was not unreasonable to conclude that you were reluctant to deal with criticism. It is still not unreasonable. And, no, I don't plan on spending time searching your archives for stuff you posted before on this. If the quality of your most recent post attacking me is any indication, none of your stuff is likely to have any ID "arguments" I haven't heard many times before and couldn't demolish with only a candle's worth of heat from my "burning intellect" (or that of anyone with a halfway decent understanding of basic biology).

In any case, I figured you probably wouldn't address any of my criticisms, though, particularly after your use of the hoary old "evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics" canard.

Ah, well. You shouldn't fire the first shot if you can't take the response. I wasn't all that surprised when Scott responded to my original piece, although I had doubted that he would. You shouldn't be surprised when someone you attack decides to respond, either.

 

At 5/11/2005 10:33 PM, Blogger Socialist Swine said...

Dave,

I never said that I didn't think you should be able to talk about ID or "present" it as you say. I just said that you shouldn't teach it. I never said that you did teach it and should face various consequences. I just said it shouldn't be taught, with the thought that ID shouldn't be part of the curriculum in public schools. At least not in science. I also dispute the fact that ID is a philosophical thesis. Modern analytic philosophy, which is the form that is practiced in departments in North America is a fairly particular methodology one which ID doesn't adhere to. I would put ID more in the class of literature or folk belief than in the class of formal science or philosophy.

 

At 5/12/2005 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*scrolls down*

*low whistle*

David: "I was not aware that satire fell into those literary subclasses."

Glad I could help ;)

-Ali

 

At 5/12/2005 7:50 AM, Blogger susanna in alabama said...

I wasn't surprised you commented; I'm flattered you thought my sad little straw men were worth so much of your precious time and intellectual prowess. You've said nothing I've not seen and argued about before, however; it might have saved you time to google my blog. As for my credentials, no, I don't have a graduate degree in a hard science. However, I do know several PhDs in the hard sciences - biology, chemistry - who take reasoned and well-argued issue with general evolution as the "answer to everything". And they're college professors. What is our country coming to when a well-meaning scientist like you can't even shut down argument in his own field?? It's a tragedy, I tell you!

 

At 5/12/2005 9:45 AM, Anonymous Mark Paris said...

David, you said, "First of all, order means that the universe obeys natural laws."

Wrong. There are no laws, and the universe doesn't "obey" anything. The very words imply an outside agency and some kind of will on the part of the universe. I know this language has been used for a long time, but in the context of this debate, it is begging the question.

 

At 5/12/2005 12:37 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

David Heddle wrote:

"So I’m a “shilly-shallyer” and a pettifogger of a debater. I don’t know what they mean, but I like it better than what I am usually called on Panda’s Thumb or on PZ’s blog, before he tossed me out."

It's good to see your intellectual pretenses are just that--pretenses. Seeing as you couldn't discern my meaning from what I wrote, and are apparently too lazy to get a dictionary--neither of which surprises me at all--I will elucidate things for you. 'Shilly-shallyer'--one who shilly-shallies. A man who cannot make up his mind--one who goes back and forth between two positions. (Which may be innacurrate as regards you, as you seem to go between three or four positions at any given moment.) 'Pettifogger'--a lawyer given to underhanded, dirty, disreputable habits--a shyster--one who quibbles over insignificant details. That last one, sir, is you, bonded in a nutshell, considering yourself a king of infinite space. For example...

David Heddle wrote:

"First of all, order means that the universe obeys natural laws. That does not require fine tuning. Fine tuning is in addition to order. Fine tuning says, for example, if certain nuclear levels weren’t what they are stellar evolution could not proceed So there’d be no super novae, and therefore no planets, and therefore no life, even though the universe would be just as ordered."

First off, what you are describing is a subset of order--that is to say, the order we have is, at the present moment, ideal for the creation of life. All well and good. But declaring this to be the work of God is the same as declaring the glory of the sky proof of the work of God. There is no magic level where, in the absence of proof, saying 'Somebody made it" isn't a cop out.

David Heddle wrote:

"They are quite different, and instead of admitting that you mixed them up, your response is “call it whatever you want.” But you are wrong, you can’t call it order or fine tuning, they are two different things."

Now, this is amusing. You, Mr. Heddle, are guilty of precisely what you accuse me of. My point was that your argument remains the same and has the same flaws regardless what you decide to call your proof. You, on the other hand, seem to think that I didn't understand what you were talking about. I did, Mr. Heddle. I just thought it was foolish.

But let's move on to the piece de resistance...

David Heddle wrote:

"But you biggest mistake you saved for the end, when you wrote:

“And no, Mr. Heddle, a designer is not falsifiable simply because there are 'other' theories, for the simple fact that if those theories prove true, they do not, in point of fact disprove a designer. So stop accusing me of sloganizing and try to use real logic, not pseudologic.” (bold added)

Now, can you go back and find where I ever stated that the designer was falsifiable? I wrote, quote, “if any of the alternative, naturalistic explanations are verified, then cosmological ID is dead.” I did not say, “God is dead.”

If you detect parallel universes, for example, then cosmological ID, which is based on the fine-tuning and uniqueness of our universe, is dead. I would still be free to believe in God, but I could no longer claim that the fine-tuning was evidence for design."

Ahh, that was a nice bit of mental gymnastics. Now, then, Mr. Heddle, allow me to explain my position. I will do this in simple, easy-to-follow steps, so that you can understand, and possibly learn how logic works.

Is the fundamental position of 'cosmological' ID that there is an intelligent designer behind our universe?

That is undeniable.

Now, then we are both in agreement such a designer is impossible to falsify?

Yes.

So then, it would seem that the central position of your movement impossible to falsify?

On the contrary, as oppositional theories to things we consider evidence can be proven, our theory is thus falsifiable.

No, your present view of what constitutes evidence is falsifiable--at best. Your position is not.

I do not understand.

Being falsifiable has nothing to do with whether or not other theories might force you to change what you consider evidence. Being falsifiable means that your central thesis can be disproven. By your own admission, it cannot. Therefore, your theory is not falsifiable.

I think you misunderstand...

No. Listen to me. You state that if parallel universes are discovered, your fine-tuning arguments become useless. Firstly, I do not consider that true. Secondly, even if it were true, the central position of your argument--that a creator exists--can be stretched to allow for parallel universes. Indeed, it even possible for it to claim that parallel universes are likewise evidence of a designer. That is why the existence of a designer is not falsifiable, and that is why any position which argues for it is ultimately not falsifiable. Because--contrary to what you say--there are NO oppositional theories. An oppositional theory would be one that disproved a creator and such a theory does not exist.

That is how a logical argument should proceed, Mr. Heddle. Logically. Instead of in the rather tortured route you've been taking it.

David Heddle wrote:

"Straw men. God in the gaps sloganizing. *Yawn*. Why don't you try accusing me of committing some logical fallacies--that is the usual next step. Or just continue the downward spiral into name calling."

This discussion is "spiraling into name calling" because you are an egotistical, ignorant boor who dodges questions and misrepresents his opponent's position. And also because I have a terrific temper, and dislike having self-righteous hypocrites like you take cheap shots at me. Now, then you say you've heard all my arguments before. I don't doubt it. You've heard them all before because you use the same flawed arguments continuosly, and when someone points them out to you, you do verbal cartwheels trying to prove that you aren't instead of modifying your position. We keep telling you because you keep doing it. That's all there really is to it.

And now, onto allowing you to present your view. I've made my position known--in a private organization, like a Bible study club, or even a science club--certainly--in a science class--no, for the simple reason that it is not science, and should not be taught in a science class, which I'm afraid what giving you a free platform for your views in one entails. If you can demonstrate that your position is scientific, then I might change my mind, but given the rather limited arsenal you've already shown us, I doubt this is the case.

 

At 5/12/2005 12:40 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

David Heddle wrote:

"So I’m a “shilly-shallyer” and a pettifogger of a debater. I don’t know what they mean, but I like it better than what I am usually called on Panda’s Thumb or on PZ’s blog, before he tossed me out."

It's good to see your intellectual pretenses are just that--pretenses. Seeing as you couldn't discern my meaning from what I wrote, and are apparently too lazy to get a dictionary--neither of which surprises me at all--I will elucidate things for you. 'Shilly-shallyer'--one who shilly-shallies. A man who cannot make up his mind--one who goes back and forth between two positions. (Which may be innacurrate as regards you, as you seem to go between three or four positions at any given moment.) 'Pettifogger'--a lawyer given to underhanded, dirty, disreputable habits--a shyster--one who quibbles over insignificant details. That last one, sir, is you, bonded in a nutshell, considering yourself a king of infinite space. For example...

David Heddle wrote:

"First of all, order means that the universe obeys natural laws. That does not require fine tuning. Fine tuning is in addition to order. Fine tuning says, for example, if certain nuclear levels weren’t what they are stellar evolution could not proceed So there’d be no super novae, and therefore no planets, and therefore no life, even though the universe would be just as ordered."

First off, what you are describing is a subset of order--that is to say, the order we have is, at the present moment, ideal for the creation of life. All well and good. But declaring this to be the work of God is the same as declaring the glory of the sky proof of the work of God. There is no magic level where, in the absence of proof, saying 'Somebody made it" isn't a cop out.

David Heddle wrote:

"They are quite different, and instead of admitting that you mixed them up, your response is “call it whatever you want.” But you are wrong, you can’t call it order or fine tuning, they are two different things."

Now, this is amusing. You, Mr. Heddle, are guilty of precisely what you accuse me of. My point was that your argument remains the same and has the same flaws regardless what you decide to call your proof. You, on the other hand, seem to think that I didn't understand what you were talking about. I did, Mr. Heddle. I just thought it was foolish.

But let's move on to the piece de resistance...

David Heddle wrote:

"But you biggest mistake you saved for the end, when you wrote:

“And no, Mr. Heddle, a designer is not falsifiable simply because there are 'other' theories, for the simple fact that if those theories prove true, they do not, in point of fact disprove a designer. So stop accusing me of sloganizing and try to use real logic, not pseudologic.” (bold added)

Now, can you go back and find where I ever stated that the designer was falsifiable? I wrote, quote, “if any of the alternative, naturalistic explanations are verified, then cosmological ID is dead.” I did not say, “God is dead.”

If you detect parallel universes, for example, then cosmological ID, which is based on the fine-tuning and uniqueness of our universe, is dead. I would still be free to believe in God, but I could no longer claim that the fine-tuning was evidence for design."

Ahh, that was a nice bit of mental gymnastics. Now, then, Mr. Heddle, allow me to explain my position. I will do this in simple, easy-to-follow steps, so that you can understand, and possibly learn how logic works.

Is the fundamental position of 'cosmological' ID that there is an intelligent designer behind our universe?

That is undeniable.

Now, then we are both in agreement such a designer is impossible to falsify?

Yes.

So then, it would seem that the central position of your movement impossible to falsify?

On the contrary, as oppositional theories to things we consider evidence can be proven, our theory is thus falsifiable.

No, your present view of what constitutes evidence is falsifiable--at best. Your position is not.

I do not understand.

Being falsifiable has nothing to do with whether or not other theories might force you to change what you consider evidence. Being falsifiable means that your central thesis can be disproven. By your own admission, it cannot. Therefore, your theory is not falsifiable.

I think you misunderstand...

No. Listen to me. You state that if parallel universes are discovered, your fine-tuning arguments become useless. Firstly, I do not consider that true. Secondly, even if it were true, the central position of your argument--that a creator exists--can be stretched to allow for parallel universes. Indeed, it even possible for it to claim that parallel universes are likewise evidence of a designer. That is why the existence of a designer is not falsifiable, and that is why any position which argues for it is ultimately not falsifiable. Because--contrary to what you say--there are NO oppositional theories. An oppositional theory would be one that disproved a creator and such a theory does not exist.

That is how a logical argument should proceed, Mr. Heddle. Logically. Instead of in the rather tortured route you've been taking it.

David Heddle wrote:

"Straw men. God in the gaps sloganizing. *Yawn*. Why don't you try accusing me of committing some logical fallacies--that is the usual next step. Or just continue the downward spiral into name calling."

This discussion is "spiraling into name calling" because you are an egotistical, ignorant boor who dodges questions and misrepresents his opponent's position. And also because I have a terrific temper, and dislike having self-righteous hypocrites like you take cheap shots at me. Now, then you say you've heard all my arguments before. I don't doubt it. You've heard them all before because you use the same flawed arguments continuosly, and when someone points them out to you, you do verbal cartwheels trying to prove that you aren't instead of modifying your position. We keep telling you because you keep doing it. That's all there really is to it.

And now, onto allowing you to present your view. I've made my position known--in a private organization, like a Bible study club, or even a science club--certainly--in a science class--no, for the simple reason that it is not science, and should not be taught in a science class, which I'm afraid what giving you a free platform for your views in one entails. If you can demonstrate that your position is scientific, then I might change my mind, but given the rather limited arsenal you've already shown us, I doubt this is the case.

 

At 5/12/2005 12:43 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

My apologies for the double post. Site problems. I am filled with shame.

 

At 5/12/2005 1:21 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

MWNP wrote:

“Firstly, I do not consider that true. Secondly, even if it were true, the central position of your argument--that a creator exists--can be stretched to allow for parallel universes.”

That is not the central position of my argument. To be sure, I believe, but am not arguing “God made everything.” I am arguing that God has left behind evidence, in the form of fine-tuning, that he made everything. You do not seem to grasp the difference. If parallel universes are discovered, it does not falsify that “God made everything” (duh), it falsifies the claim that the fine-tuning is evidence of God’s creation. That is, it falsifies the actual central position of my argument, not the one you claim as my central position.

My position is: The best explanation of the fine tuning of the universe is design. If parallel universes are discovered, I can longer hold that position, for it is undeniable that if there are an infinite number of universes, some will be just like ours, finely tuned. And some will be just like ours, but slightly more pleasant, in that in those universes your counterpart will know how construct a logical argument and attempt a critique of what someone else is actually saying rather than putting words in their mouth.

I change my position. Can you point out where? Because I can point out where you changed yours.

As for science class, give me a break. I was a physics professor for 11 years. Many discussions in my classes were not scientific, and that’s typical. For example, numerous rabbit trails were explored regarding the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. When a teacher invites me to discuss cosmological ID in front of a science class, the students learn some cosmology and get quite engaged in the ensuing discussions. Imagine the horror. And again, I don’t think ID is science, and I don’t think it should be taught in a science class (i.e., in the curriculum), but the position that it can never be discussed in a science class, in an invited-speaker seminar mode, as if the fabric of space-time would unravel, is childish.

 

At 5/12/2005 2:04 PM, Anonymous Mark Paris said...

David, you said, "My position is: The best explanation of the fine tuning of the universe is design."

Again I accuse you of begging the question. You may not be the first to use the term "fine tuning" but, in the context of this debate, it assumes that the universe was "tuned" and therefore that there is or was a tuner. In fact, it is the height of anthropocentrism to assume that the universe was fine tuned so that any particular thing can exist. Second, just why is design the best explanation? Isn 't this the same argument from ignorance that the regular, garden-variety intelligent design advocates use (I can't figure out how this could have come to be, so god must have done it.)?

 

At 5/12/2005 2:39 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Mark Paris wrote:

“Again I accuse you of begging the question. You may not be the first to use the term "fine tuning" but, in the context of this debate, it assumes that the universe was "tuned" and therefore that there is or was a tuner. In fact, it is the height of anthropocentrism to assume that the universe was fine tuned so that any particular thing can exist.”

Granted.

Mark Paris wrote:

“Second, just why is design the best explanation? Isn 't this the same argument from ignorance that the regular, garden-variety intelligent design advocates use (I can't figure out how this could have come to be, so god must have done it.)?”

Well, whether it is the best explanation is subjective. But it is certainly different from garden variety (biological) ID arguments, as I’ll make an attempt to explain.

If we didn’t understand gravity, and I said: “a ha, we have no clue why the planets move about the sun. Clearly this proves the cosmos were designed.” Then that statement might be analogous to irreducible complexity. But we do not invoke cosmological ID where we are ignorant—on the contrary it is where we are very knowledgeable that it rears its head. We do not say: “we have no clue how stars evolve, therefore it is a sign of design.” Instead, we say: “we know to an impressive level of detail how stars evolve, so much so that we see how it depends crucially on certain energy levels, and these in turn depend on the relative strengths of unrelated physical constants. That is too ‘lucky’ to have been an accident.”

 

At 5/12/2005 2:48 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

So, then, Mr. Heddle, your argument is in fact a "God of the Gaps"--we can't explain how it works, ergo it's God. Well, then you're simply wrong, no matter how try to spin it.

Furthermore, your saying that your argument for God's existence is falsifiable isn't true, and said argument isn't your central position despite your claiming it is. It's the argument you use to defend your central position.

And finally, I never said I saw your speaking at a science class as an unravelling of the space/time continuum--I saw it as improper for a teacher to devote class time to handing you a platform for your personal views, on the grounds that--a) they are not science; b) they possess no real bearings on science; and c)they are clearly and frankly religious. You say this is all right because it is not part of the curriculum. I disagree. End of the discussion on that matter. In fact, I am going to try and make this an end of the discussion in general for me. You are clearly beyond the reach of mere logic.

 

At 5/12/2005 2:53 PM, Blogger David said...

MWNP wrote:

"So, then, Mr. Heddle, your argument is in fact a "God of the Gaps"--we can't explain how it works.."

No, look at the comment above, the response to Mike Paris. It is the opposite of "God of the gaps." It is "God of the details."

 

At 5/12/2005 3:09 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Mr. Heddle, you confessed that your 'theory' is subjective. That is to say, you have no objective evidence to make you support it over any other theory. In that case, I would say this discussion is over. Goodbye.

 

At 5/12/2005 3:43 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

MWNP wrote:

"Mr. Heddle, you confessed that your 'theory' is subjective..."

Well, there you go again. What I actually confessed as opposed to what you said I confessed to, was:

"Well, whether it [cosmological ID] is the best explanation is subjective."

ID aside, just talk "pure" physics--it is still true that what is the best explanation is subjective, otherwise you'd find universal agreement which, I hope you realize, you don't. Some physicists think string theory is great while others think it is horrible, just to give an example.

 

At 5/12/2005 4:56 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Thank you, Mr. Heddle, for yet another fine demonstration of your ability to split hairs so fine that their existence becomes metaphysical. I'm going to leave pointing out the obvious idiocy of what you've put down here to some other poor soul, because if I continue to discuss things with you much longer, at the very least without some rest, I'm afraid my ability to discern rational thought will shut down as my brain tries to keep from killing myself.

 

At 5/12/2005 11:19 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Yikes! At least a dozen more comments since thsi morning. I neglect my blog except for taking a couple of minutes this afternoon to plug the Skeptics' Circle, and this is what I find tonight....

It's late again, and I'm tired again. I hardly know where to begin with Heddle's stuff and the exchange he's been carrying on; so I'll just respond to Susanna instead. I almost missed her new comment among all the other stuff.

First off, don't worry about my time and intellectual prowess. It really hasn't taken very much at all of either to refute you.

Second, if you don't want straw men to ignite in the blaze of my "burning intellect" (as you put it), then you should really stop throwing strawmen my way. No one claims that evolution is the "answer to everything." Really. Not even evolutionary biologists. You obviously didn't bother to pay attention when I said that scientific theories like evolution are only provisionally accepted as the best explanation at present and that all theories are subject to revision, including evolution. Also, the fact that evolutionary theory is subject to change if new data present themselves does not make ID a viable alternative to evolutionary theory. Try presenting evidence in favor of ID, rather than poorly constructed straw men, and I might take you more seriously.

Third, I'm singularly unimpressed with the logical fallacy of the "appeal to authority" that you have used with your claim that you know several "Ph.D.'s" in the "hard sciences" who "take issue with general evolution as the 'answer to everything.' That's all very nice, but just because they have PhD's in "hard sciences," it doesn't mean they know what they are talking about when it comes to evolution.
Since you didn't tell me that they are biologists. I'm guessing that their PhD's in "hard sciences" are not PhD's in biology.

Finally, you chose to throw another straw man my way. I have made no attempt to "shut down argument in my own field." But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a nice piece of sarcasm, eh?

Geez, take away all your logical fallacies (straw men and appeals to authority) and really bad understanding of science (your "evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics" canard, for example), and you really don't have any serious arguments at all, do you?

 

At 5/13/2005 4:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you know that the translation from Yiddish of "putz" is "small penis" or "dickhead" - something along those lines (and that will be forgotten?)

Have a good weekend and enjoy your skeptical readings.

 

At 5/13/2005 8:11 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Heh. I wonder if Fat Steve has just made an appearance...

 

At 5/13/2005 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you see how Susanna refers to you as "scientist/surgeon" in actual quotes?

Highly revealing - and really quite typical for the right wingnuts, one of which our susanna most definitely is.

They use quotation marks around facts in a feeble attempt to minimize the impact of reality on their world.

Many of them (Susanna too!) did the same thing during the Terri Schiavo fiasco, refering to her spouse as "husband" since that gave them the freedom to disparage him and the freedom to insist on making Terri's medical decisions themselves.

I find it all highly amusing, Susanna most especially.

 

At 5/13/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Yes, I had noticed that. On the other hand, I do blog semi-anonymously, which gives her the opening.

Ah, well. No big deal. Susanna's clearly a lightweight, given that she doesn't even understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

 

At 5/27/2005 1:31 AM, Anonymous Guy said...

As for attacking specious satire, when Mary Wolstonecraft Shelly published 'a vindication of the rights of women', an anonymous pamphleteer published a satire on it called 'a vindication of the rights of brutes', the point being that the very idea that women have rights approaching those of men is as patently ridiculous as the idea that the beasts of the fields might have inherent worth separate from their use. Would that not merit an attack of some sort? Well, maybe not for the fundamentalist right...

I here betray my discipline, but I do wonder why theoretical linguistics has not been called on (or offered them/ourselves up) for the debate. Language has been present for only the last 20,000 years or so in anything like it's modern form, and it's pretty easy to see it's still evolving, and in a natural way. If anyone is interested, I recommend Lingua ex machina (an extended discussion between an evolutionary biologist and a linguist, highly readable) or Aitchinson's 'The seeds of speech', which has basic linguistic evolution well covered. Precis of the arguments: if god confounded language, he did a piss-poor job. And the basic structure of language is applicable to all human language, whether Algonquin, Basque, Welsh, or Chinese. You don't have to by the radical Chomskyan approach to follow any of these arguments (I do, but I know many, many don't). The main idea is that language is poorly made if designed (in that there is much arbitrary and ambiguous) but also in a sense 'perfect' or 'optimal' (in that it conforms at a basic level to universals, and is so effortlessly learnable by children that they master it in a few years, with no explicit teaching needed or helpful).

 

At 5/27/2005 8:56 AM, Anonymous Nigel Depledge said...

I can't remember how I stumbled onto this lot, but it kept me occupied for ages, reading all that to-and-froing. I have a PhD in biochemistry, a field in which molecular evidence for evolution is accepted as fact (e.g. the ubiquitous existence, structure and function of the enzyme dUTPase). Orac, I agree fully with your thoughts expressed here. I always wondered what you'd moved on to after Blake's 7 ...:-) I found your link to 29+ Evidences very useful (but I haven't read it all yet, as there is a lot to cover).

Thanks.

My final word: ID is not testable, and therefore not scientific.

 

At 5/27/2005 9:18 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Indeed. ID is also not falsifiable, either, which is a necessary requirement for any scientific hypothesis.

 

At 5/30/2005 3:17 AM, Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge said...

      Orac, this is my first comment to your site (and probably my last, since I find the evolution "debate" boring; I post it because you keep bringing my name up, and got me at least one referral to my website).

      There are many grounds on which to criticize a satire ("A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. "), for example 'That isn't funny,' or 'He makes his point in the first ten sentences, and then beats the subject to death for twenty pages,' or even 'The opinion he mocks X for holding is one X doesn't hold.' But criticizing, say, Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" on the grounds that no one really proposed to eat Irish babies, and tan their skins for leather, and the critic shows himself severly humor deficient.

In the scrappleface post at issue, http://www.scrappleface.com/MT/archives/002179.html, the question of whether the arguments against Darwinism in the books Ott linked to are correct or not is irrelevent.  The Christian Science Monitor story Ott linked to (his first link), says that many science teachers are finding it harder to teach evolution, because of the efforts of anti-Darwinians to argue against them.  Again, the question of whether the arguments are true, plausible, serious, thought provoking, or even coherent is unimportant.  In fact, the question of whether the CSM article is accurate or not is irrelevent.  All that's relevent for the purposes of satire is the fact that those trying to teach the current neo-darwinist theory are (allegedly) baffled by the question of how to deal with dissent.  That provides a natural hook to the theme that Darwinians are losing the 'struggle for existence.'

      You don't find it funny?  That says something about you.  You think the "Intelligent Design" proponents are wrong, and their ideas are not scientific?  You may well be right.  You think that arguments for neo-Darwinism refute Ott's satire?  Boy, did you miss the point.

I am truly surprised we have to keep pointing this out: satire can NOT be refuted, because it does not make arguments.  And your statement "Look, I understand this is supposed to be satire, but good satire has to have a kernel of truth at its core," is wrong, because Ott's post does (apparently) have said kernel: the article Ott links to that starts "Nearly 30 years of teaching evolution in Kansas has taught Brad Williamson to expect resistance, but even this veteran of the trenches now has his work cut out for him when students raise their hands."

      Thanks again for the links.  All of you encountering me here, please read me hourly, recommend me to your friends, and stop strangers on the street and threaten them with grave bodily harm if they don't visit http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/.  It's the least you can do.

THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!

 

At 5/30/2005 11:37 AM, Blogger Orac said...

I don't know where you're getting the idea that I "keep bringing your name up." I only mentioned you once in this post and then once again in the comments. I haven't mentioned you since. Funny for someone so bored with the discussion you somehow manage to find time to come over here and comment on it again.

Heck, I wouldn't have mentioned you at all if I hadn't by some random chance noticed a referral from your blog while I was writing this piece. Without that, I never would have even known you existed. Even with that referral, I probably wouldn't have bothered to add a little snark with your name on it at the last minute you if you hadn't called me a putz. I figured such sterling rhetoric should get the recognition it deserves.

I strongly disagree that "satire cannot be refuted," for reasons that I no longer wish to belabor and that have been beaten over again and again in the comments of this post. The satire's point was that evolutionary theory is supposedly losing the struggle for existence--a fallacy. Evolutionary theory is stronger than ever among scientists, and it is ID that cannot gain a foothold in science because it is not "fit" enough. The only place ID can get a foothold is in the political arena, and that's where its adherents are reduced to pandering. I'm sorry, but satire based on a clear fallacy needs to be refuted.

For example, let's say I wrote a "satire" that was based on the false premise that the sun revolved around the earth and that made fun of those who believed that the earth revolved around the sun, such that it would only be funny if you accepted the premise that the sun revolved around the earth. That is in essence what Ott did in his satire. But he went one better and based his satire on a premise that is not just false, but exactly the opposite of what is the true situation with regards to ID and evolution in the scientific community.

No, satire is not somehow magically immune from refutation or criticism simply because it's satire and meant to be humorous. If it's constructed on a false premise, it deserves to be taken down. If you think that my not finding it funny says something about me, I'd just turn it around and point out that your vociferous defense of a badly-constructed satire based on a false premise says something about you.

 

At 6/03/2005 1:51 AM, Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge said...

Orac:

      Ah, thank you, you have advanced the argument, by saying something different.  Of course, what you say is mostly wrong, but advances must be taken where one can find them.

      First, if you use the search function of your web browser, you'll find that you mentioned me not twice, but five times before I commented.  And you apparently expected me to show up and comment, or something, judging from what you wrote.  Like you, I only came by because you were in my referrals list.  Since I am interested in shameless self-promotion, I thought I'd visit this place that sent multiple visitors to my blog, (or maybe you, multiple times? Musn't jump to conclusions here), and see if I could stir up some more readers of my ineffable wisdom.  When I found you so eagerly awaiting my words, leaving a few remarks seemed the least I could do.  Also, I enjoyed writing the comment.

      By the way, I have reflected on the matter, and decided I was out of line in calling you a "putz."  This leaves the question of a suitable apology, and what I should do about the post -- strike through the offensive word, remove it completely, something else?  Any suggestion you care to make will be taken under advisement, and given very serious consideration.

      Now then, second, what appears to be the main premise of your argument is:
      "The satire's point was that evolutionary theory is supposedly losing the struggle for existence--a fallacy.  Evolutionary theory is stronger than ever among scientists, and it is ID that cannot gain a foothold in science because it is not "fit" enough."

      *BRRRUP* Wrong!  I have the satire before me, as well as the article from the Christian Science Monitor that sparked the satire.  The article in the CSM mentions, science teachers, students, school officials, partisans of various views, and the general public, but not scientists or the scientific community.  The satire mentions "Elderly residents of Salina," "herds of Darwinists," "scrappy skeptics," "the public square," "classrooms," "competing species," "intellectual predators," and "environmentalists in California," but still no scientists or scientific community, or thinking of either.

      (By the way, I noticed you confused "evolutionary" theory with "Darwinian" theory in the quoted material above.  You need to work on making logical distinctions.  "Darwinian" theories are a subset of "evolutionary" theories, and Ott concentrated on the subset).

      Now, if the satire had been premised on the truth of certain ideas about the scientific community, or the consensus of thinking of scientists, you might be able to refute its premise.  That might have left it funny anyway, or it might not have.  Since it didn't mention or depend on any opinions whatever about the scientific community, you can't -- at least, not validly.  You can of course continue to insist that it's really about what scientists think.  That would be amusing, to me at least, but it would not be true.

      As for your statement that

      "The only place ID can get a foothold is in the political arena,"

well, you seem to be using "political arena" to mean election results, public schools, and the general beliefs of the non-scientist public.  I'd say that usage is overly broad, but let's not quibble.

      However, as the aforementioned story makes clear, that is precisely where neo-Darwinism is losing the competition for belief, with teachers finding themselves (according to the CSM) hard pressed to respond to anti-Darwinian arguments.  So a statement that Intelligent Design can't win is contradicted by the evidence, which says it is winning.  Of course, the Gallup Poll mentioned in the article, in which Design beats Evolution 48% to 28% may be wrong, (and it leaves me wondering what the other 32% think), but you didn't make that argument.

      Thus, your "refutation" is akin to disputing the argument that "Among mothers of grade schoolers, Republicans do better at the polls than Democrats," by insisting that the Democrats are more popular with the childless.

      As for your statement:

      "For example, let's say I wrote a "satire" that was based on the false premise that the sun revolved around the earth and that made fun of those who believed that the earth revolved around the sun, such that it would only be funny if you accepted the premise that the sun revolved around the earth."

      Well, by definition, if there is work of literature X that will only be found amusing by people who believe Y, those who don't believe Y won't find X amusing.  Look up tautology.  But if there is a given work of literature, Z, and you argue that anyone who finds it amusing must believe Y, the argument may be refuted by finding one person who doesn't believe Y, but found Z amusing.  Since a) I found Ott's satire funny, and b) I don't believe in Intelligent Design, or any form of Creationism, it seems your argument has fallen apart.

      So, it seems this all came down to 1) You have trouble reading, which led you to think that Ott asserted some things he never said or implied; 2) You have trouble with your sense of humor, since you can't find something funny if it makes fun of your beliefs; 3) You have trouble with logic, because you believe that asserting "P is true" is an argument for the truth of P, and finally, 4) You may have trouble with empirical observation, since you don't seem to notice what goes on in public.  However, this last hypothesis needs further testing.  5) You also seem to have an obsession with what scientists allegedly think, such that you thrust it into discussions of other topics completely.  But here we veer into the realm of psychology, and I lack expertise in this field.  Still, you might wish consult a psychiatrist about possible obsessive/compulsive disorder.

      Again, thank you for the traffic.  Let me know if I can do something for you some time.

THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!

 

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