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It's Not (Non-Rocket) Science

I want to follow up with one more post on the evolution debate. I just posted this in the comment section here, but I'm prompted by a couple of recent posts by Professor Volokh on the subject.

In response to a comment by Ken Anthony that " faith in God is based on evidence just as surely as any pure science..." I wrote something similar to the following:

This is an oxymoronic statement. Faith cannot be based on evidence, by definition.

I have faith in the scientific method, but I can't prove it's the best way to achieve knowledge to anyone who doesn't. Unlike many who believe that the scientific method is the correct one, I admit that this belief is based on faith.

To me, the argument of evolution versus...well, other unspecified (and unscientific) explanations is not about true and false--it is just about science versus non-science. If I were to teach evolution in a school, I would state it not as "this is what happened," but rather, "this is what scientists believe happened."

In other words, I don't want to indoctrinate people what to believe--I just want to make sure that when they take a science class, that they're getting science, and not a religion dressed up as science. Whether they want to accept science is up to them.

[End response]

Now Eugene Volokh writes the following (not in response to anything on my blog):

The difficulty is that intelligent design is not at all like two plus two equals five. Intelligent design (to which, by the way, I do not subscribe) does not posit something that's clearly false (2+2=5). Rather, it posits something that may or may not be true (organisms "look like they were designed because they were designed," to quote one proponent of the intelligent design school, UC Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson) -- and that is in fact more plausible to many people than evolution is.

Nor can one argue that intelligent design is unproven, but evolution is proven. Evolution has not been proven in any common sense of the term -- true, it's (to my limited knowledge) more or less consistent with the evidence, but intelligent design is consistent with the evidence, too. Intelligent design, in turn, is neither proven nor disproven; it may not even be disprovable, absent some quite remarkable and uncontrovertible divine revelation.

Now one could argue that teaching intelligent design is impermissible because of the Establishment Clause; I don't want to express any judgment on that quite complex question here. One could also argue that teaching intelligent design is not pedagogically helpful: For all I know, intelligent design might be right and evolution wrong, but precisely because intelligent design rests on unfathomable mysteries, it can't really help much advance our thinking about biology. Evolution is thus the more useful hypothesis -- not because intelligent design is impossible or even unlikely (how can you measure the likelihood of something like that?), but because it's more productive of other interesting areas of investigation.

But whatever might be wrong about teaching intelligent design, it's not that intelligent design is wrong.

I agree with this, and it reiterates my point above--evolution vs creationism isn't about right or wrong--it's about science vs some other means of achieving knowledge.

But I differ with Eugene when he says: "Intelligent design, in turn, is neither proven nor disproven; it may not even be disprovable, absent some quite remarkable and uncontrovertible divine revelation."

While this statement is true, it's the crux of the matter. It is the fact that it is not disprovable (i.e., falsifiable) that puts it outside the realm of science. It's not simply an uninteresting theory--it is a useless copout (again, purely from a scientific perspective).

I don't think that Eugene and I are in any fundamental disagreement, but I just want to emphasize a little more that while creationist theories may be "true," they're simply not science, unless some experiments (whether thought or otherwise) can be performed that, given certain outcomes, would prove them false.

I repeat, the evolution debate (particularly in the public schools) shouldn't be viewed as indoctrinating children with one belief or another--it is simply about making sure that they understand the distinction between science, and other means of learning about the world.

[Update at 9:20 AM PDT]

Reader and blogger Donald Sensing points me to a related essay of his, which has an interesting, and surprising, history of the "Scopes Monkey Trial."

[Another update at 10:26 AM PDT]

It just occurs to me that "creation science" can be viewed, in fact, as a manifestion of its practioners' failure of faith.

If their faith were true, and firm, they would have no need for it to be validated by science, and they wouldn't make these attempts to hijack it and pervert it to their own ends. It strikes me as a symptom of massive insecurity in their own beliefs.

[Yet another update, at 10:37 AM PDT]

Reader "Vicki" comments:

Thank you, Mr. Simberg, for posting the links to Volokh's site and the essay. I read all 3 of Volokh's postings relating to this topic, and the essay in full. For the first time, I have hope that this debate might actually be carried out in an intelligent and thoughtful way. I get so tired of the flame wars, of being told I am insane or stupid (neither of which is true). It's very good to know that there are some people out there who see the issue as I do.

Unfortunately, the debate can tend to degenerate quickly, on both sides. Many creationists view evolutionists as godless propagandists, with the agenda of poisoning the minds of their children against their faith. Some evolutionists (particularly devout atheists), don't recognize that their own belief system is faith based, and believe that it really is an issue of right versus wrong.

I don't believe that people who believe in creationism are stupid, or mad--they just have a different belief system. The only thing that I object to (and justifiably frustrates people like Paul Orwin) is when they try to argue the issue, when they clearly don't understand evolution, and don't want to take the time to learn about it (other than, perhaps, wrongly, from creationist screeds). This isn't a matter of intelligence or sanity, but ignorance (which can fortunately be readily cured).

If one is going to critique a scientific theory, it is only polite to become educated on it (which means reading the works of its proponents--not just strawmen written by its opponents). Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time, by asking questions that have been answered many times, and often long ago.

[Yet one more update, at 1:25 PM PDT]

Professor Volokh has one more follow up:

...I don't think it's right to say, as Max Power does, that intelligent design is not consistent with the evidence. I am sure that some particular claims of some intelligent design theorists (likely quite a few) may be inconsistent with the evidence, just as some (though quite possibly fewer) claims of some evolutionary scientists have over time been proven inconsistent with the evidence.

But the broader claim -- which is again the heart of the debate -- that humans and other species were created at least in large part by some intelligent force is perfectly consistent with whatever evidence you might find. In fact, that's the problem: It's definitionally consistent (an intelligent and especially ominpotent creator could have created anything, no matter how consistent it might also be with an evolutionary explanation), and as a result not very helpful to biological researchers...

Just so. The problem with creation theories is not that they're inconsistent with the evidence--they are totally consistent, tautologically so, as Eugene says. The problem is that they tell us nothing useful from a scientific standpoint. In fact, there are an infinite number of theories that fit any given set of facts. I can speculate not only that all was created, but that it was created (complete with our memories of it) a minute ago, or two minutes ago. Or an hour ago. Or yesterday. Or the day before. Or, as some would have it, 6000+ years ago. Each is a different theory (though they all fall into a class of theories) that fit the observable facts. They are all equally possible, and all (other than some form of naturalistic evolution) untestable.

And furthermore, they offer no hope of making predictions for the future. After all, if a creator can whimsically create a universe in whatever manner he wishes, including evidence that he didn't do it, how can we know what he'll choose tomorrow? Orrin Judd likes to make much of the fact that many evolutionary psychologists believe that free will is an illusion, but if that's the case in a naturalistic world, how much more so must it be with a whimsical creator, who can not only make us as he chooses, but unmake, and remake us on the same basis, whenever he chooses?

Of course, the argument to that is that the scriptures say that God grants us free will, which may be true, but once again, it isn't science.

Evolution, on the other hand, does allow us to make at least limited predictions, albeit much cruder ones than, say, universal gravitation. For instance, as the classic agar experiment shows, we can predict that if we repeatedly expose populations of bacteria to an antibiotic, we will eventually create strains resistant to it. Or that if you introduce a new predator into an environment, the populations there will adapt to it in some manner (though the precise manner is less predictable, exactly because it is ultimately a result of random and therefore unforeseeable changes).

In science, we have to restrict ourselves to theories that have testable consequences, and once, out of a failure of faith and imagination, we yield to the creationist temptation, we've stepped outside the bounds of what science is fundamentally all about.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 30, 2002 08:27 AM
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During the recent debate (see "The Jury Is In," and "I Know, I Asked for It..."), I encountered some "creation science" web sites in the course of searching for details of the current scientific model of molecular evolution.

In reading some of the articles, I was reminded of the famous Sidney Harris cartoon:

You're going along reading the technical analysis summarizing the critique of the current model, and it's written in the style of a journal article, then all of the sudden they whip out philosophy and begin to critique the "naturalistic" assumption of the current model, in favor of, well, a "supernaturalistic'" assumption that the problems with the current model can only be resolved by supposing, as the cartoon says "and then a miracle occurs..."

Or intelligent design.

Now it may well be that man's limited intellect has no hope of ultimately grasping all the details of God's design for the Universe, but let's give science a chance to work out the limits of that "naturalistic assumption" before we give up and change the underlying philosophical framework of science.

That's right, the "naturalistic assumption'' has been pretty darn impressive in enabling science to make testable predictions about the world, and to exploit that knowledge to produce technologies that work. The true miracle, it seems to me, is that humanity is confronted with a Universe which is understandable through the application of the limited powers of human reason and intellect, but which will remain for the most part a vast mystery for many centuries to come.

I know that's where my faith comes from.

Posted by Ken Barnes at May 30, 2002 09:56 AM

Yes. And the important thing is not in having a faith, or not (we all do, so says Godel)--it's recognizing what's faith and what is not.

While I understand and agree, in a scientific sense, with Gould that evolution doesn't imply progress in any objective sense of the word, I prefer to believe that life progresses anyway (and ultimately outward away from the planet), because I find having some kind of teleology comforting. But I'd never claim that this is a scientific belief.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 30, 2002 10:21 AM

Thank you, Mr. Simberg, for posting the links to Volokh's site and the essay. I read all 3 of Volokh's postings relating to this topic, and the essay in full. For the first time, I have hope that this debate might actually be carried out in an intelligent and thoughtful way. I get so tired of the flame wars, of being told I am insane or stupid (neither of which is true). It's very good to know that there are some people out there who see the issue as I do.

Posted by Vicki at May 30, 2002 10:23 AM

I wish creationists would stop making appeals to their own lack of knowledge or imagination. Time and again I read things like "I don't believe in evolution because I can't conceive what
intermediate form could come between a cell wall and a flagellum, or a set of cilia." Or, "I don't know what in the world could impel aquatic creatures to venture onto land." A creationist may not understand--nobody may understand--but that isn't proof of the creationist view. It's just a frontier marker of his own knowledge. When a creationist finds something he doesn't understand, he falls down in worship and rejoices that he has found God. A scientist, at his best, in the same situation, refrains from leaping to conclusions, and resolves to try to find answers, but is careful to refrain from inventing any.

Belief in things that can't be proved is faith. Disbelief in things that have been proved is obstinance. Isaac Asimov, may the Fates preserve his memory, once wrote an essay about "the relativity of wrong". [] He said that people who thought the earth was round were wrong, as we now know that it is oblate, slightly pear-shaped. However, they were much less wrong that people who thought it was flat. And future improvements of our powers of detection are unlikely to show that it is banan-shaped or something. So it is with evolution. Future theories getting fresh traction on better evidence may improve on natural selection as the engine of evolution, but they are unlikely to utterly overturn it.

Posted by The Sanity Inspector at May 30, 2002 12:56 PM

Well written article Rand and some good links. Thx. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm an ox or a moron. ;-) Perhaps a little of both?

Everything is dust in the wind, eh?

Posted by ken anthony at May 30, 2002 08:37 PM

You are neither. Nor is your comment, but it is self-contradictory. ;-)

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 30, 2002 09:16 PM

Sorry, I'm coming to this discussion a bit late.

Has anyone in this discussion introduced Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker? It's been a while for me, but after having read it I remember thinking he'd pretty definitively answered the arguments of "intelligent design" proponents. The Sanity Inspector's comments [above] seem apposite; so, too, do Rand's (via Godel) re: faith, which in its soft form at least underpins every belief system. But so what? Proceding apace in the absense of proof is kind of like acting on a hunch, isn't it? And so discussions that take place on this level are metacognitive -- of interest to evolutionary psychology perhaps, but not of much professional use to zoologists and geologists.

I'm just kind of thinking aloud here. I'll check back in later to see if any of this still makes sense to me. Of to indoctrinate, in the meantime....

Posted by Jeff Goldstein at May 31, 2002 07:12 AM

Yes, The Blind Watchmaker does answer many of those questions, but ultimately, it doesn't constitute "proof."

There is no proof of evolution. All there is an acceptance of the scientific method, or a rejection of it. Explanations that are naturalistic are within it, and those that resort to a creator whose nature (other than, in the famous words of Haldane, "an inordinate fondness for beetles") cannot be discerned by science, is outside of it.

This is indeed a metadiscussion, but one that's very important in terms of the sociological implications (e.g., what should be taught in science classes?).

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 31, 2002 07:56 AM

There are a lot of coins here that are easily confused; Science vs. non-science, right vs. wrong, rational vs. irrational, moral vs. immoral.

Personally, I often feel caught in the middle. For example, I take offense at being labeled a creationist simply because I believe in God (leading to all kinds of assumption about my character by those that don't hold my view or perhaps just have prior experience with irrational folk that claim they do.)

When a creationist says that "God buried the bones" or "made light come from all directions" so that we are fooled by the age of the universe I consider it to be slander against a friend that is neither capricious nor out to fool us.

People can choose to believe whatever they want. While I may lack qualifications to do so, I choose to examine lifes questions from a rational, moral, scientific approach so that I might see truth clearly because I believe the consequences are enormous. I also happen to care about people that don't give the consequences much thought (a father trying to convince his son the important of college might appreciate my dilemna.)

Some people could rightly accuse "who appointed you?" I sympathize, but take a wild guess. I don't want the job, I'm not qualified for the job and frankly I do a poor job of it.

It turns out that over a period of 1,600 years, using 40 writers a compilation of books were written that claim to have a single author. On the surface this appears to be a fantasy, but I've examined the claim and I've drawn my own conclusions.

Here's the funny part (the other side of the coin.) An evolutionist (don't you hate labels) will claim (rightly in some respects) that if you haven't studied you are not qualified to comment, but feel they are qualified to comment on what they haven't studied (because it is beneath them or a waste of time? hardly true if the consequense are what they may be.)

Is that rational?

Posted by ken anthony at May 31, 2002 08:14 AM

I agree with you 100%. My point, I think, was to suggest that what we are doing is precisely discussing pedagogy. In the meantime, evolution is either happening or its not. Perhaps one day we'll be capable of time-lapse photography that uses one of them long-lasting, 3 million year extended life videotapes.

Posted by Jeff Goldstein at May 31, 2002 08:16 AM

You weren't called a creationist because you believe in God, Ken. You were called a creationist because you quoted scripture (Romans 1:20) in a discussion about evolution...

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 31, 2002 08:27 AM

And you're right. "Evolutionists" are no more competent to comment on religions that they haven't studied than are those who haven't studied evolution to comment on evolution. I try not to pass judgment on any religion, unless it's attacking me or otherwise directly affecting my life (like Wahhabi Islam).

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 31, 2002 08:32 AM

Uh, my last comment was directed to Rand. Though you raise some interesting points about preparedness in debate, Ken, I think they apply to argument in general. Further, I don't think you need to know a whit about religion to argue against Intelligent Design. Intelligent design presumes a designer (or designing force), which essentially sums up the philosophy of the position.

Posted by Jeff Goldstein at May 31, 2002 01:41 PM

Ken, you still don't get it. There is a vast difference between rote memorization (which covers the bulk of religious study) and and the understanding of a body of knowledge through critical analysis.

In religious circles you can earn brownie points for being able to rattle off scripture regardless of how nonsensical the actual content. This is no more deserving of respect than the geek who has memorized the scripts for whole seasons of the The X-Files. Both are just media geeks whose respective obsessions are at root profoundly stupid. In some ways the the X-Files geek is more respectable. Despite the well documented number of contributing writers he can point to a real life guiding hand behind the collective work in the form of Chris Carter. By comparison the God of the Bible is more like a Carolyn Keene, Frank Dixon, or Lester Dent. A single pseudonym for a legion of writers. A fictious author who can never be expected to make public appearances due to a critical reality deficit leading to schedule difficulties.

"I'm sorry but I won't exist on that day, nope, not then either. When? Well,never really. Perhaps you'd better just send the award to my publisher and pretend I exisited long enough to accept it. How can I be talking to you now if I don't exist? Hey, it's your fantasy, you supply the alibis."

I don't label you a creationist for the mere belief of a god but for trying to drag that god and related fictions into a serious discussion of science. It is no more helpfu than attributing life on Earth to aliens. It only adds a needless layer to explain the origin of the new factor. If you privately need a supernatural parental figure to deal with reality that is your problem. Under scrutiny everybody can be found to have some highly questionable belief that allows them to function. It is when those beliefs interfere with an attempt at producing new and useful knowledge that I must object.

For the record though, your bible studies are lacking. Even a casual scan of common versions of the Old and New Testaments make it clear that God is not the author of it all but in fact is attributed as author of only a small bit where he enlists a new prophet from the slab and chisel steno pool. Most of it isn't written in the "as dictated to me by the Author" but from the perspective of that writer. Those the five books attributed to Moses which oddly include details of his funeral.

This tendency to attribute directly to God decreases as more sophisticated civilizations contributed new bits. The later guys knew it was a good idea to keep the public miracles to a plausible minimum, even going so far as to post date some accounts by so many decades that there were assuredly no surviving witnesses to dispute the version.

Posted by Eric Pobirs at May 31, 2002 02:47 PM

Your right Eric, in many religious circles the ability to prattle off a lot of memorized stuff is highly esteemed. However, if you had any idea how bad my memory was you'd never accuse me of such a thing. ;-) ...and those people bug me too, because in most cases they are incapable of an intelligent discussion of scripture.

You may want to consider Rand's last post at 8:32 before making a comment about what you've learned from a casual study of the bible. You are absolutely right that books written by Moses include details of his funeral. A casual reading would not allow you to understand why that is, any more than my popular science understanding of biology would qualify me to teach the subject.

However, each of us, no matter what level of knowledge in any given area is able to pose questions that may or may not be challenging to an expert. Even children do it when they ask why is the sky blue.

When people are more interested in proving others wrong than understanding the nature of things they have lost a fundamental requirement for good science. It's easy to ridicule and brings no honor.

Posted by ken anthony at May 31, 2002 05:12 PM

I caught that Jeff, thanks for the chuckle. ;-)

Posted by ken anthony at May 31, 2002 05:13 PM

Here's a 'why is the sky blue' question for you...

Suppose biological science advances to the point where we can create life from inanimate chemicals. We can recreate all the transistion forms from single cell to man. We are able to extend our lives to thousands of years. We create suprahumans that become our masters and enslave us (I read too much science fiction as a child.)

Anyway, the question is... Does this make evolution true and God false?

(Rand, I believe you've already answered this question.)

Posted by at May 31, 2002 05:25 PM

"Why is the sky blue" is a well-understood question. It's just difficult to explain without first giving a course in basic physics, including optics and electromagnetism, which makes it tough to explain to a little kid.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 31, 2002 05:41 PM

And in response to your question about man becoming God, unless we have an entire planet to work with, with all the same conditions that applied to earth, there's very little probability taht we could replicate the development of life here. It's much too chaotic and contingent a process. We might eventually end up with something intelligent, but there's no guarantee that it would be humanoid, and it's almost certain that it wouldn't be human.

I think that we will be able to create life artificially, but we'll never be able to replay hundreds of millions of years of natural evolution.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 31, 2002 05:44 PM

Perhaps I should have chosen math for my example. It was a very profound day when I could provide a question to my teacher that he couldn't answer. The question was simple (my faulty memory doesn't remember any of it of course) but the answer was hard.

There's also a principle in A.I. regarding local minimums (or maximums it doesn't matter how you look at it) the point being that you can have a less than ideal solution (in a neural net for instance) that you're stuck in. The only way to find ideal or even just a better solution is to go in the 'wrong' direction. Which is why blind alleys are not a loss in science.

It's the pushing and shoving in a chaotic system that results in the best solution. People like to avoid chaos and a local minimum can be very comforting.

The greeks were so imposing that the thought against the actually testing of there logic in the real world with measurement held back the pursuit of science for thousands of years.

It's good sometimes not to be comfortable with being right. It's easy for a scientist to see this flaw in religious types, but not so easy to see this in the mirror.

But we all push on...

...and never say never... with regard to the story of the tower of babel, God said if we do not confuse their language... "why nothing will be unattainable for them."

Posted by ken anthony at May 31, 2002 08:08 PM

I assure you my reading in that area is not casual, although I give experienced scholars a chance to lay down some background detail before wading in. When I encounter something loathsome that is used by some as justification to do nasty things to me I don't ignore it. I've read a translation of 'Mein Kampf' so I'd know exactly where the loonies were deriving their ravings.

Exodus in general, while of huge importance to the religion of my ancestors, is also largely a work of plagarism. While much of the Old Testament, especially the parts where there is minimal use of miracles, can find excellent correlation with archaeological evidence but Exodus is lacking in veracity especially since much of it involves a civilization that kept lots of records. When you're shoplifting for ideas it's easy to screw up things like chronology and creating a paradox within the text.

The 'Man become God' bit doesn't wash with me. Regardless of how powerful we may become we would still have a well detailed history of our existence before we achieved omnipotence. This isn't the same thing as the God depicted in Genesis who has no origin. He just is, and thus falls flat as an explanitive element.

You use a classic problem solver concept as yet another item over-rationalized as support for the Boogyman Brigade. One may resist going down a blind alley because it will be difficult to navigate and there may be nothing of value at the other but sometimes it just has to be done because otherwise you'll never know. However, I've never seen even the slightest vestige of a hope that down some such alley sits Jehovah, waiting patiently to tell you that, yup, it was him all along. You'll have just as much hope of turning up that result running headlong into brick walls instead of alleys. Provided you believe in an afterlife, of course. Running down a blind alley marked 'Intelligent Design' will never get you anywhere but more darkness. The ground under your feet there is a treadmill. When you turn up something like a signature on fjord let us know. We aren't unwilling to examine actual evidence. You just haven't given any.

Your use of A.I. does bring up another point in the 'Man become God' concept. There is plenty of artifical life simulation code available in the public domain. I could easily alter such a sim to include a factor inducing the portion of the population where the factor is dominant to regularly pause and sing my praises. Would that make me God? No, just egomaniacal. Which is one of my major problems with the whole God biz in general. (Yes, I read a lot of SF with such issues, too. There is a reason my oldest working e-mail address is

I'll admit I can take a certain pleasure in dumping on someone's silliness but there is vastly more satifaction in getting someone to understand how to derive useful answers from raw info. Just the the same, if you show up somewhere carrying a wooden club don't be surprised if somebody starts throwing things at you. How many you managed to knock back is up to you. Remember, the ones that go over your head count as negative points against your score. In this game you're responsible for where your head is in relation tothe dirt.

Posted by Eric Pobirs at June 1, 2002 02:55 AM

uh... 42? ...or choose one chronology over another because of preference (like making a list of kings sequential when many were co-regents as was done in Egyptian archiology) and disregarding the evidence as irrelivant and uninteresting when other facts are dug up that disprove formerly held beliefs. Fanatics of any persuasion are hard to convince of anything (and usually not worth the time I think we'd both agree.)

The water may be too deep and I may be a poor swimmer, but that doesn't mean the experience isn't worthwhile (lumps, bruises and all.) I would heartily thank all that have provided me with some insight as I sort out the facts from the opinions.

Specialist (of every sort) find themselves in there ivory towers leaving the rest of the unwashed masses to fend for themselves. This isn't good or bad, just the way it naturally works out. Very seldom are we able to get unfiltered information (and even if we did we may not have the insight or training to understand it.)

I'm finding myself addicted to blogs because they present a ton of information that you can't find anywhere else; along with commentary and personal insights that make you think... whether you agree with the author or not.

I don't count myself as a creationist and find much of those that do to be irrational. I'm also sure that many of there 'proofs' have been thoroughly debunked. However, after all that, there are still question that remain.

If it's just science, why have there been so many case of outright fraud? I'm sure you could list many more examples than I because it certainly doesn't stop with piltdown man.

Math, logic, physics or whatever else are all worthy pursuits and great discoveries will never cease (how do I know that? well, because a trusted friend told me so.) But they will never provide a final answer to everything either (even if they label it the theory of everything! ;-)

If you read my posts carefully you will see that not once have I said that 'God done it.' What I did do was quote a scripture that says it is inexcusable to look around and not see that a creator was involved. If the possibility exists that you're not going to be excused... wouldn't you want some kind of warning?

Rand contends that it's not science and I agree with him. He also brings up a point about intellectual honesty that I am in total support of when he says that evolution should be taught acknowledging that this is what most scientist believe (rather than saying it's a fact and any dissenting voice will be burned at the stake.)

However, I contend (and my view of the world is filtered by) the view of God as the one establishing the rules that scientist use to discover new things about our universe.

You're free to believe that he doesn't exist and I believe I should always respect that and respect you as a fellow human struggling for the answers. Unless, you try to abuse me or others in the process, in which case I will stand up to the bullies.

I just wonder why scientist often become defensive when you peak over the shoulder and often resort to abusive ad hominem attacks. Can I ask a simple question without being berated? The answer I've been given (more than once I've read herein) is that my question (even before it is asked) is old news and I should read a book rather than wasting other peoples time. While that may be an appropriate response (and even then I'd take issue with how it is presented) how arrogant to say that in a public forum I'm not allowed to even express my opinion (which others afterward would have every right to sincerely criticise) and how pompous to claim it's a waste of time to rebut (when others are equally capable of doing.)

Uh oh! I'm ranting again! (If you knew why I take such a harsh stance against bullies you might be more understanding of my rant.)

In any case, I really enjoy the level of intelligence demonstrated in the posts I've read. I look forward to reading more.

Posted by ken anthony at June 1, 2002 03:40 PM

Reading the comments here, I can't help but feel the post on my own blog is a day late and a dollar short, as usual. I'm far more comfortable with evolution than intelligent design, but that said, I think Intelligent Design proponents have provided a worthwhile kick in the pants to evolutionary theorists, and for that, we should be grateful.

The biggest problem with evolutionary theory is that its holy grail -- explaining speciation -- seems to falter on what little we know so far about genetics. Species seem remarkably resistant to mutation, rather than the other way around. Positing a progression from single-celled organisms to complex ones that have not only eyes but the requisite mental capacity to use them as a series of non-adaptive variations (i.e. -- successive waves of sightless creatures which nonetheless were progressing toward sightedness even though their own movement toward sight carried no special adaptive advantages for them) seems to me to be a desperate throw of the dice rather than sound science, to site one example. The saving grace of evolution is the lengthy time frame -- well, if we're talking hundreds of millions of years maybe it could happen -- but this is a bit like the monkeys in the room with the typewriters producing the works of Shakespeare.

None of which means that I dismiss out of hand evolutionary theory, only that the current state of its main researchers leaves a lot to be desired. I wish a more challenging alternative than Intelligent Design would appear, and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by Bill Allison at June 5, 2002 10:06 PM

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