Re: [asa] ID question?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sat Oct 17 2009 - 06:48:37 EDT

Heya John,

I didn't say "science is what I say it is". In fact, I think my words amount
to the opposite - basically, "science will be what they (scientists, science
pundits, their organizations and institutions, etc) make of it". And if they
say - explicitly or implicitly, in word or deed - that finding a lack of
design, a lack of purpose, a lack of intention, etc, in nature is "science"
or can be passed off as such without condemnation, they're the ones who have
said "detecting design, purpose, and intention in nature is science". Formal
agreements alone don't establish precedent, you know. So do actions, and
what starts out as careless hypocrisy has a knack for turning into comically
unforeseen, and undesired, consistency.

Either way, while I thank you for the compliment - and I cherish the ASA
list, which is one of the few places on the internet where christians of
different viewpoints can discuss things calmly. But I'm not sure I'm the
strongest ID proponent. I have strong sympathies, but I also have a very
different view of these problems and standards. That said, I do think some
ID proponents have made bad decisions at times (Behe I see as an explicit
exception, save for his willingness to participate in Dover). Then again, so
have some TEs. I also think MN is a tremendous misnomer, though I agree
something functionally similar is desirable. And I think some TEs, and
certainly those so loud "science defenders" make mistakes of their own - and
the latter show quite a lot of hypocrisy.

Case in point: "*Questions about the existence of the supernatural are
actually scientific questions. [...] These are largely questions that
scientists should be able to deal with."

*Now, just who am I quoting here, saying that the existence of the
supernatural and questions relating to such are scientific questions?
William Dembski? Michael Behe? I'd wince for them if so, because words like
that would lead to immediate, widespread condemnations. It's an attack on
science itself! On science education! This will lead to the United States
losing its technological edge - perhaps to American's enemies! The
consequences will be dire! The screams from the "defenders of science" would
be deafening.

But alas, it's just a recent quote from Richard Dawkins. Which means I don't
have to look around for earplugs, because the only thing that's going to be
deafening is the silence from those same "defenders" - aside from, perhaps,
a cautious chiding from a second-rate blog or rare TE. Maybe.

Can you understand, John, my considerable and growing skepticism regarding
the claim that this debate - not between you and I personally, but the
larger political and social debate - really has much to do with "defending
science"? Assuming you disagree with Dawkins' quote, do you really think
-you- have the same actual definition of science that "science defenders"
claim to have, when - let's be frank - we both know next to no one's going
to take Dawkins to task about this? Just as he's rarely been taken to task
in the past (And even then, typically by either ID proponents, TEs speaking
in a philosophical capacity, and the rare non-religious philosopher like
Stove or Midgley)?

Sorry, but if "functioning together as a society" means having to be so
ignore these and other glaring problems and pretend everything will be okay
so long as I keep denouncing those (and only those) on the designated list,
count me out. Not every society is worth saving, you know.

On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 5:55 AM, John Walley <> wrote:

> "Let them deny me (or others) a "seat at the table" if they wish. I'll find
> another table, or I'll make my own."
> Well there you have it. How can we function together as a society if we
> cant find a way to agree about what is science and what isn't?
> Schwarzwald, you are a very thoughtful and reasonable guy and always a joy
> to spar with here but maybe this helps me pinpoint my objection to strong ID
> proponents. I have used angst and chip on the shoulder metaphors before that
> were not received well but now let me try some new ones, how about rebellion
> and anarchy?
> You simply can't state that science is what I say it is or I will take my
> ball and go home. We need something to help define this and as I have said
> before that is what MN is very useful for. ID needs to grow up and accept
> this and quit like acting spolied brats with some kind of inside track
> special revelation.
> John
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Sat, October 17, 2009 5:20:56 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] ID question?
> Heya John,
> I disagree with that estimation. I think the 'integrity of science' is
> abused often - it's just that certain abuses are given different treatment
> than others. Of course, I also don't think ID is "scientific". On the other
> hand, I also don't think the opposite speculations about evolution
> (unguided, purposeless, dysteleology, etc) are "scientific" either.
> Behe does argue that Darwinian evolution certainly is capable of achieving
> certain (albeit, limited) things, so "that much" is acknowledged by Behe
> anyway. As for randomness, I'm particular about that term - distinguishing
> between randomness in a model (A model that gives probability estimates that
> tend to collapse to a certain distribution over time), randomness in
> perception (a subjective inability to discern a definite pattern/intention),
> and true randomness (a declaration that there is absolutely no pattern or
> purpose). The latter being a philosophical view that has no place in pure
> science, the former two being pragmatic, qualified views.
> As for Eugenie Scott and the NCSE, I've expressed some skepticism about
> their focus here and I stand by that. But more than that, a couple notes on
> my perspective.
> First, I have no interest in making ID a scientific endeavor - I only point
> out that if declarations about a lack of purpose, a lack of guidance, etc
> are treated as "scientific", then consistency demands that searching for (or
> claiming to find) purpose and guidance is also "scientific". In other words,
> those who wish to declare their philosophical speculations "science" should
> do so at their own peril, or at least the peril of the intellectual project
> they claim to value so dearly.
> Second, I also think ID's best contributions are philosophical,
> intellectual and otherwise, so being allowed by the self-appointed guardians
> of science to "sit at the table" is a non-issue for me. I don't think these
> disputes are or really have ever been about "nothing but science" for the
> most part anyway, so having the discussion take place in a different sphere
> doesn't bother me.
> Three, "regain the public trust"? If we're talking about America, most of
> the public is very skeptical of evolution (In fact, vastly more skeptical
> than Behe is, to speak nothing of myself). Given that, it seems that if
> anyone is going to have to make concessions to "gain the public trust", it's
> going to have to be those promoting the truth of evolution. Keep in mind,
> this comes at a time when respect for science and scientists is rather high.
> I can only wonder what will happen if scientists end up expending such
> political capital by politicizing science yet again.
> Now, maybe you mean regain the trust of a certain segment of society -
> self-described intellectuals and intelligentsia (Certain pundits,
> journalists, perhaps professors and science bloggers, etc). And there I'd
> have to say that, while I depart from the views of many ID proponents by
> regarding ID as "not science", this is where I depart from many TEs: I don't
> really care to get that group's stamp of approval for my views. The fact
> that I view as absurd the overemphasis on evolution, as if belief in
> evolution was the beginning and end of science education, should illustrate
> that much. Let them deny me (or others) a "seat at the table" if they wish.
> I'll find another table, or I'll make my own.
> On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 4:51 AM, John Walley <>wrote:
>> This is the impasse between ID and TE. To the extent that this is in
>> error, TE's tend to err on the side of upholding the integrity of science.
>> It appears to me that ID tends to err on the side of upholding a
>> philosophical or theological ideal. I don't disagree with that ideal but as
>> I have said before I don't believe it is scientific so I don't see how we
>> can make such an issue out of a subjective belief. Further, I don't think
>> there is any conflict between these two positions so I reject the
>> positioning of them as being mutually exclusive as Behe does here.
>> His personal beliefs aside, Darwin was at least partially right in the
>> fact that randomness does contribute to evolution. While it may not explain
>> all of evolution you have to at least concede that much to be allowed to sit
>> at the table of science and to have your views taken seriously. And Eugenie
>> Scott and NCSE serve a valid purpose in policing this. Behe and ID need to
>> at least acknowledge this much about Darwinian evolution to ever regain the
>> public trust that they are not just theocratic science deniers.
>> John
>> ------------------------------
>> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
>> *To:*
>> *Sent:* Fri, October 16, 2009 11:24:12 PM
>> *Subject:* Re: [asa] ID question?
>> Heya John,
>> Personally, I'm coming to Behe's defense because the claim that Behe is
>> 'anti-evolution' is simply unfounded. It seems like some people are
>> sensitive on this topic to the point where any criticism of evolution - even
>> if it's specified as Darwinian evolution, even if it's based on
>> interpretations of data and research, even if it's admitted these are
>> (strong) inferences rather than logical proofs - must be balanced out, in
>> the next breath, by a public declaration of faith in at least some kind of
>> evolution. Otherwise, suspicions start to mount. That, I think, is an
>> exaggerated response.
>> In other words, I just don't share your impression. I also don't share
>> what I take to be this feeling that it's very, very important for Behe to
>> balance out his criticisms of darwinian evolution by praising evolution in
>> the broad sense. Then again, I think that this obsession with evolution (by
>> many, spanning various views and faiths) needs to come to an end anyway.
>> On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 8:45 PM, John Walley <>wrote:
>>> This is exactly right. Behe does make claims against Darwinian evolution.
>>> I asked the same question before, is there another form of evolution that
>>> Behe is more comfortable with? If so, he didn't mention it in the video that
>>> I recall.
>>> I know he has spoken and written other things in other places about
>>> evolution but in this video he does come across as being against evolution.
>>> Its not like it was heavily edited either and made to look a certain way nor
>>> was he responding to a strict set of questions. He could have said anything
>>> he wanted and made any point he wanted and left any impression he wanted
>>> but this is what he chose. Why is everyone then apologizing for Behe and
>>> saying this is a mischaracterization of him?
>>> John
>>> ----- Original Message ----
>>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
>>> To: asa <>
>>> Sent: Fri, October 16, 2009 10:06:11 AM
>>> Subject: RE: [asa] ID question?
>>> Hi Cameron-
>>> " Please find me one statement, anywhere in Behe's work, where he says
>>> that he is "against evolution", or else do the honourable thing and
>>> publically
>>> withdraw your comments."
>>> If you watch the video- he said repeatedly that "Darwinian evolution"
>>> couldn't do such and such. What other kind of evolution is there? Is he
>>> saying there's another kind of evolution that he accepts? If so, what does
>>> he call it?
>>> ...Bernie
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: [] On
>>> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
>>> Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 10:08 AM
>>> To: asa
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question?
>>> Bernie:
>>> Your remarks about Behe are incorrect. They are not only unsupported by
>>> any
>>> references to his works; they show an almost complete misunderstanding of
>>> his position. It is not Behe who is in a "muddle".
>>> Such a high degree of misunderstanding suggests a lack of familiarity
>>> with
>>> Behe's writing. And this reminds me that you still have not answered my
>>> earlier question: which books and essays of Behe have you read entirely
>>> through?
>>> Please find me one statement, anywhere in Behe's work, where he says that
>>> he
>>> is "against evolution", or else do the honourable thing and publically
>>> withdraw your comments.
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
>>> To: "asa" <>
>>> Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 11:39 AM
>>> Subject: RE: [asa] ID question?
>>> > Hi Bill- you apparently see the ID debate as "guided vs. unguided
>>> > evolution" but I see it as "evolution vs. special creation." ('Special
>>> > creation' being creation by fiat.)
>>> >
>>> > This is what I think I'm starting to see in the current origin's debate
>>> > culture: Because evolution has been proven by pseudogenes, people want
>>> to
>>> > shift the argument from "did evolution happen" to now "is evolution
>>> > guided." I think this is the current crisis for OEC's. But I think
>>> OEC's
>>> > reject evolution, so if they want to now accept it, even as
>>> 'God-guided,'
>>> > they still have to leave the camp and come over to TE. The OEC camp
>>> will
>>> > always be there, and it is only for those who reject evolution, guided
>>> or
>>> > not.
>>> >
>>> > I think some OEC's are attempting to make a switch from "evolution is
>>> > false" to "evolution is maybe God-guided" and appeal to Intelligent
>>> Design
>>> > to save face (like a ploy to straddle the fence of accepting both
>>> modern
>>> > science and simultaneously rejecting/accepting evolution).
>>> >
>>> > Behe is a perfect example of this muddle, by apparently rejecting
>>> > evolution (in some aspects) and accepting it for human common descent.
>>> > Therefore, Behe is neither for or against evolution. Creationists
>>> > generally like to separate evolution into micro and macro. When Behe
>>> says
>>> > he accepts common descent for humans, that is macro evolution. So here
>>> we
>>> > have Behe accepting micro/macro evolution yet still against evolution
>>> for
>>> > other things. I guess he needs to define another category of
>>> evolution,
>>> > so he can accept micro and macro, but reject this third thing/part of
>>> > evolution.
>>> >
>>> > ...Bernie
>>> >
>>> > -----Original Message-----
>>> > From: Bill Powers []
>>> > Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 4:14 PM
>>> > To: Dehler, Bernie
>>> > Cc: asa
>>> > Subject: Re: [asa] ID question?
>>> >
>>> > OK. I've got to say something about this.
>>> >
>>> > Bernie, you apparently believe something like:
>>> >
>>> > Intentional/Design theories fail because they have not been able to
>>> > demonstrate that unguided evolution could not have done it.
>>> >
>>> > This is a rather strange way to do science, and only the kind of game
>>> that
>>> > a bully would employ. Is there any kind of evidence that it could be
>>> said
>>> > "unguided evolution" could not do that?
>>> >
>>> > What a more civilized approach would be is that evolutionary mechanisms
>>> > were clearly defined so that what is likely and what is not might be
>>> > become clear. This would entail, for example, temporal stochastic
>>> > equations. Is the abrupt arisal of species a problem for unguided
>>> > (whatever one means by that) evolution or not? It doesn't seem to me
>>> that
>>> > evolutionary biology is prepared to even address the question
>>> > intelligently.
>>> >
>>> > How can there be honest theory comparison when the theory is so vague?
>>> >
>>> > ID can also be required to be more explicit. It needs to describe in
>>> > detail a story, which is nothing more than evolution offers. The story
>>> > would describe, for example, what are the minimal capabilities and
>>> steps
>>> > required for a Guide to act.
>>> >
>>> > Comparing an explicit evolutionary mechanism and a guided one could be
>>> > fruitful. For one, the guided story is one that could be possibly
>>> > employed by human agents. The process of putting it together permits
>>> > dialog between the two. One supporting a guided mechanism might argue
>>> > that such and such step was entirely unlikely given available
>>> resources.
>>> > In ths same the unguided advocate might argue that such and such a step
>>> > might be accomplished without guidance, and here's how.
>>> >
>>> > In developing explicit guided mechanisms and paths, perhaps new
>>> > definitions and understanding of what is guided and what is not will
>>> > arise. For now it is vague.
>>> >
>>> > As far as I can tell there is no good evidence available to distinguish
>>> > guided from unguided evolution. I don't see why "pseudogenes" are any
>>> > better off in this regard. They appear to adopt a position that you
>>> > oppose: an argument form ingnorance. Just because we know of no
>>> "reason"
>>> > that a "pseudogene" would exist does not imply that some "reason" might
>>> be
>>> > later found. So all that can be said is that no "reason" is known YET.
>>> > Sound familiar? What is more, unless you know God or all putative
>>> > designers better than I do, I don't see how you (or anyone) can say
>>> that
>>> > "pseudogenes" were not intentional.
>>> >
>>> > The argument begins to look like Antony Flew's Invisible Gardener. One
>>> > might ask what is the difference between and invisible Gardener and no
>>> > Gardener at all, or what is the difference between an invisible
>>> designer
>>> > (guided evolution) and no designer at all (unguided evolution). But I
>>> > take from Flew's argument something different from what he intended.
>>> All
>>> > his argument suggests to me is that given the evidence provided I have
>>> no
>>> > reason to prefer a Gardener or none at all.
>>> >
>>> > Frankly, I think, if one must proceed along these lines, that the
>>> evidence
>>> > better supports a guided universe. The only argument offered in Flew's
>>> > case to prefer no Gardener at all is Occam's Razor. But I take this to
>>> be
>>> > an epistemological criterion, and see no reason for it to bind
>>> ontology.
>>> > Indeed, if it did, it would argue for a Gardener.
>>> >
>>> > bill
>>> >
>>> > On Wed, 14 Oct 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>> >
>>> >> William Paley used the 'watchmaker analogy' to demonstrate the idea of
>>> >> intelligent design. We can just tell, by looking at nature, that
>>> things
>>> >> are obviously designed by God by fiat, such as man, because of their
>>> >> complexity.
>>> >>
>>> >> Darwin creates a stir with an alternate hypothesis of man's creation
>>> via
>>> >> biological evolution instead. It is a competing hypothesis.
>>> Evolution
>>> >> has now won, for explaining the biological creation of man, because of
>>> >> DNA evidence like pseudogenes.
>>> >>
>>> >> So my question: Isn't Behe's 'moustrap' irreducible complexity the
>>> same
>>> >> EXACT situation? It is basically saying since we don't know how it
>>> could
>>> >> have evolved, therefore it was intelligently designed (by God or
>>> aliens).
>>> >> The only difference is that Behe goes into great detail trying to
>>> explain
>>> >> how it can't be done by known "Darwinistic evolutionist" mechanisms,
>>> but
>>> >> Paley could have (and maybe did?) done the same thing (explaining
>>> why/how
>>> >> known science of his day could not explain evolution for humans).
>>> >>
>>> >> I would like to know what is so different about Behe, compared to
>>> Paley.
>>> >> Paley has a 'complexity' argument with the watch, and Behe introduces
>>> >> irreducible complexity, but both are proposing ID because known
>>> science
>>> >> can't explain it... yet.
>>> >>
>>> >> It is interesting to me that Paley's argument for the biological
>>> creation
>>> >> of man is not discarded because it is wrong with the idea of
>>> complexity,
>>> >> but because the evolutionary process has evidence "beyond a reasonable
>>> >> doubt." So complexity may still be a valid way to detect ID, yet in
>>> this
>>> >> case, it turned out wrong as science accumulated more facts. It could
>>> be
>>> >> the same with irreducible complexity. A valid way to detect ID, yet
>>> >> disproven in the future when more facts become available.
>>> >>
>>> >> But what is the evidence to prove irreducible complexity? It seems
>>> like
>>> >> the only evidence is "evolution can't do it or explain it... yet."
>>> >>
>>> >> ...Bernie
>>> >>
>>> >
>>> >
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Received on Sat Oct 17 06:49:14 2009

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