Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design Myth #486 – “ID is politically motivated”

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ID is merely a politically motivated agenda that is meant to further the cause of the far right Republicans.

One common objection against ID is that it is merely a tool of the scary Right Wing political party. As the theory goes, the Religious Right is attempting to get ID snuck into classrooms in order to subvert science, progression, women’s rights, alternative religions to Christianity, secularism, and even wants to attack your grandparents (just like robots).

The only problem(s) with this theory? There are those of us who believe in ID who aren’t Christian, religious, or even Republican.

Now, for myself, I am a very religious Christian…but I’m not a Republican. I consider myself to be independent and even side with the Democrats quite a bit. I believe Global Warming exists and has been heavily influenced by human activity. I believe we need to do what we can – within ethical and practical limits – to help improve the environment. I think the government needs to watch out economically for those who can’t watch out for themselves. I even toy with the idea that state’s have the right to allow civil unions (and everyone now gasps). I don’t want prayer in public school as I think everyone has a right to his or her own religious beliefs. I think we should leave Iraq. Yet, I support ID.

I can think, off hand, of many ID proponents that are Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, or simply refuse to hold to any ideology.

The point is there really is no political agenda. It’s hard to say, “There is a Designer…now vote Republican!”

Instead, this myth is simply a ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactic to avoid the issue of ID. If the opposition can link ID to an already unpopular movement (conservative Christianity of the Republican form) then they feel they can discredit it in the eyes of those sitting on the sidelines. The problem is they’re not really using actual arguments against ID.

In the end, ID is not a political movement, is not part of the religious right, and is merely concerned with discovering scientific evidence that displays design in biological entities. How is that political? 

25 Replies to “Intelligent Design Myth #486 – “ID is politically motivated”

  1. 1
    freemind says:

    I think you have to take a look at the most vocal public proponents of ID, The Discovery Institute. Everyone of the agendas that they push is right wing, from the war in Iraq to Global Warming. It then becomes a case of ‘guilty by association’.

  2. 2
    russ says:

    Freemind, isn’t this just an appeal to prejudice? Do we reject ideas if they’re proposed by those we dislike, or do we evaluate ideas according to their merits?

  3. 3
    freemind says:

    We’re skeptical of ideas if they appear to be advanced on the basis of a political agenda (as in the infamous ‘wedge document’.) Of course, if there was overwhelming evidence for ID, that wouldn’t matter. But to many, that doesn’t appear to be the case. So the question then arises ‘Why is this being pushed?’ And the answer is that it is a counterpoint to materialism and the theory of evolution, which some fear threatens their religious and political ideals.

  4. 4

    Freemind: And Darwinists are not pushing their ideas with religious zeal and political pressure? And Darwinism is so overwhelmingly supported by evidence that political and legal pressures may be used to suppress criticism and dissent?

  5. 5
    gpuccio says:

    freemind:

    I definitely join Joel Borofsky: I am left, and not right, and I completely support ID. And I do believe that there is “overwhelming evidence” for ID.

    You see, in my opinion the question of ID is very, very important, even more important than any political issue. After all, political opinions are often relative and transient. But real scientific knowledge, in its best form, the truly humble and constructive form, is a permanent and deep achievement in the search for truth.

    You speak of “guilty by association”. I am not impressed by such a charge. I am proud to associate with people who are defending and supporting a fundamental and objective truth, even if my political ideas are not necessarily the same as those of most of them. I think many of the left people, on the contrary, should be ashamed for having dogmatically accepted a view of scientific reality which is wrong, arrogant, cognitively unacceptable, squalid. And for defending it with absolutely “non democratic” means.

    To be completely clear, my support for ID is not, in any way, linked to my religious beliefs (if not in the sense that all beliefs of any person are obviously linked at the level of his personal synthesis). I feel sometimes as distant from the religious convictions of some people here as from their political ones (while obviously completely respecting both), and that again does not matter. I take the time to discuss (friendly and, I hope, constructively) with my companions here at UD only when our scientific opinions differ.

    So, again, this is my personal statement: no political agenda, no religious agenda. ID is for me a deeply felt and motivated scientific and rational passion.

  6. 6
    freemind says:

    ‘Darwinists’ don’t really need to push ‘their ideas’ in the same way. Darwinian evolution is accepted by the establishment. I suppose you could call the NAS a pressure group, but they’re not simultaneously promoting unrelated political points of view (just campaigning for the teaching of mainstream scientific consensus, which happens to include things like global warming – they say nothing about Iraq.)
    You could also say that teaaching children evolution is ‘pushing ideas on them’ I suppose. But again, it’s not linked to any particular political viewpoint.
    Criticism of ‘Darwinism’ should not be ‘suppressed’, if by this you mean those academics who advance it are fired simply to preserve the status quo. If, however, their basis for criticism appears to be politically motivated, and/or not grounded in sufficient evidence, then it may be taken as a measure that they are unqualified for the positions which they hold.
    And even if evidence used to criticise Darwinism was substantially scientifically sound to teach to children, that would still not justify the teaching of intelligent design in schools. Criticising ‘Darwinism’ and teaching intelligent design are two different things.

  7. 7
    selectedpete says:

    Every cause can be said to be political, but whether it is political or not, does not make the argument less valid. The argument either stands or it does not. Especially in the science lab.

    But this is a common red herring tactic to drop the issue at hand and squabble down another dark rabbit hole. It’s been properly mentioned above that this ‘holier than thou’ claim is made as though there is no liberal agenda to be found on the other side, and that is just so much rubbish.

    Why not openly say this is political, and it is meant to cause change? What is so wrong with that? Overturning a reigning paradigm of thought is always touted as the most noble cause of the liberal world view – just not if their view is the one being toppled.

    For the record, LGF (Little Green Footballs) that bastion of the right wing blogdom, is featuring an article by Scientific American on “Exposing the Distortions in Expelled.”

    I guess right wingers can embrace the establishment dogma too.

  8. 8
    freemind says:

    gpuccio:

    I accept that the question of ID is very important. I just have different conclusions to that question.
    It wasn’t a ‘charge’ of guilty by association. I was simply explaining why the public has come to have this image of the I.D. movement. It’s not because of some media conspiracy to miscast it. It’s because it’s main backers have been shown to push it as a means of achieving their own socio-political aims. How is that a good basis for science?

  9. 9
    gpuccio says:

    freemind:

    I accept that you have different conclusions about ID. That’s perfectly healthy in a scientific debate.

    The problem is that the “establishment”, as you call it, has been vehemently denying that there is a scientific debate about those questions.

    You say:

    “I was simply explaining why the public has come to have this image of the I.D. movement. It’s not because of some media conspiracy to miscast it.”

    It is not a “conspiracy”, and the media are not the main responsible for it. It is rather a constant abuse of scientific “power” by the establishment in order to deny a perfectly valid scientific alternative theory, and to just prevent it from being freely discussed as it deserves. The media just endorse the point of view of those who have the ideologic power, as they ususally do. The scientific establishment is fully responsible for betraying any scientific principle by defending its pet theory against a perfectly sound alternative point of view by all possible wrong means.

    You say:

    “It’s because it’s main backers have been shown to push it as a means of achieving their own socio-political aims. How is that a good basis for science?”

    Again, I disagree. Do you really believe that people like Dembski or Behe (just to cite only the two most representative thinkers of ID) are “push it as a means of achieving their own socio-political aims”? Are you affirming that Dembski and Behe are in bad faith? That they don’t believe in ID, and are saying what they are saying just to support the right? If you think that, then you have understood nothing of ID.

    ID people deeply believe in ID. May be maany of them are right (and that’s not a crime, in a dempcratic world). Maybe the right (but not all of it) is interested in defending ID. No surprise for that, seeing how the left has been obstinately defending darwinism and a purely materialistic approach to science as though they were fundamentals of its political “agenda” (if you allow me the term). After all, if the left makes a completely wrong choice, one is not obliged to support it just “out of loyalty” to one’s team.

    I really cannot find any sense in all that. Since when is scientific truth a political issue?. I am well aware that science is always heavily influenced by the culture, and politics, which generates it (that’s one of the milestones of my philosophy of science), but I also believe that “good science” is the one which sincerely makes an effort to go beyond that.

    Since when is global warming a political issue, and not a scientific one? It may well be a political issue (it certainly is), but since when it is not “also” a scientific one? After all, there must be a scientific reality behind the global warming issue, in a sense or the other (and I readily confess that personally I have no clear ideas about that).

    Politics and ideologies have always been interfering with science, but must we accept that they completely prevent us from making good science?

    ID is ono of the most important issues in scientific thought today. It has deep and fundamental implications in all the most important fields, from biology to philosophy of science to theory of consciousness. It is a scientifically sound, reasonable and beautiful theory.

    You are perfectly entitled to have your opinions about ID. That’s the point. Anybody is entitled to that. That’s why ID should be known and discussed “as it is”, and not according to which political forces are supporting it.

  10. 10
    Frost122585 says:

    Freemind, you are choosing to espouse delusional assertions. The majority of the people over at NAS are a bunch of lefties and you know it. Darwinism simply offers a way to eliminate people’s belief in a God or any religious view. If you read Marx Lucas, Engels, Trotsky Etc you will see that leftism requires statism and statism requires the elimination of personal inalienable rights such as those expressed in the constitution. The ones that give us the American economy, freedoms and human rights and the ones that prevent the Soviet style economy, lack of freedoms, and human rights violations so bad that they surpass the mind’s capacity to imagine.

    While communism is further left than socialism nonetheless last time I checked the Cuban’s were fleeing their utopia for our decadence.

    Mind you I say “Darwinism” because we are not talking about evolution but the use of evolution to support a materialist nonreligious world view about “the truth” of reality. The NAS is just another government supported organization with a self perpetuating agenda. The NAS does have to fight to get Darwinism into the schools mainly because Darwinism is flat on it’s face false. But hey that didn’t stop them from allowing Haeckel’s embryos for 40 years. Some good closely paid attention to sceince and research that’s going on over there. I’m sure that your great faith in their bureaucratic powers however will lead you to conclude that they just didn’t see it. Yet, if this is true then I am exactly right in inferring that they are as blind to reality as any so called organization could be. Blind by choice that is.

    The NAS is a very political institution. I don’t need to check and see how many of them are Democrats or avowed atheists or anti- ID without bothering to ever even read a single book on the theory. Compared to the regular public at large they are probably a radical institution. I know what they are about. This truth is self evident and so is their nonscientific rejection of ID.

    Your claim in your posts to be non-biased and see ID as “important” but all you have done predictably is to denigrate it and convolute the issue by drawing unnecessary attention to the difference between criticizing Darwinism and ID. Your “non-bias” is far more biased than those of us who openly support ID for religious reasons.

    Saying the NAS is non-political is like saying the teacher’s unions are non-political. It sounds to me like you are trying to avoid taking on ID on it’s scientific merits which are the true perpetuators of it’s so called movement- and focus solely on it’s political connections. And the idea that any organization daring to call itself scientific would support the super political religion called “global warming” that exists in the face of a cooling Earth is just further intellectual insult to injury and a clear refutation of your non-political claim.

    Your not exploiting much at this blog though because most of us know better.

    The reason the public has this image of ID is because the media, the schools and the appeasing politicians on both sides wont take on the issue as it actually is. The media refuses to even distinguish it from creationism. The so called political side of the theory of ID is not perceived by the people because it is so true but because those in power make it such an issue.

    It makes no difference though- it wasn’t it’s political connections that made evolution a theory that was rejected for a half a century. It was the political agenda of “those in power.” Political agenda’s are on both sides of the origins debate. Let’s realize that ID should be taken on it’s on merits as the theory is laid out by the theorists.

  11. 11
    Joel Borofsky says:

    Freedmind,

    Under your paradigm I would be equally just in saying that naturalism is nothing more than a Communist political move. My reasoning for this is that Communism has consistently used and only allows naturalism in the classroom. Furthermore, a Communist regime usually uses Darwinian philosophy in ordering its government.

    So, does this mean that the reason people are holding onto naturalism and encouraging it simply because they have hidden Communist agendas?

    I would argue that no, I can’t do that. Why? There are many free-loving Capitalists, Republicans, and democracy supporters that believe in naturalism. Likewise, in ID, there are many Communistic, left-wing, non-Christian, liberal, and moderate supporters.

  12. 12
    freemind says:

    gpuccio:

    When you say that the scientific mainstream has been ‘vehemently denying that there is a debate’ over intelligent design, what do you mean? Of course, the mainstream would deny the validity of I.D. But no one would deny that some disagree. The argument is simply that they represent poor scientific practice, as apposed to a genuine scientific controversy.
    What ‘scientific power’ do you think the establishment is constantly abusing?
    The question remains over whether I.D. is a ‘valid alternative scientific theory.’ That is why I.D. is not taught in classrooms, and why in the main peer-reviewed articles aren’t published discussing it. I personally am not convinced by the evidence provided. Neither, apparently, are the majrity of biological scientists. Now you can attribute this to bias caused by current education, or ideaological aversion to I.D. Or you can attribute it to I.D. being found scientifically lacking by the majority of those trained in the scientific method.
    When I spoke of ‘main backers’ I was again talking of the Discovery Institute, rather than individual scientists whose work they may finance. Of course there are those whose primary commitment is to what they see as the evidence for I.D., rather than any socio-political offshoots of the movement. While I am personally unconvinced by the arguments of said thinkers, I would by no means wish to question their true beliefs.
    Perhaps ‘the left’ has been more committed to defending Darwinism and materialism, since such ideas challenge the authority of the Church (often upheld by Conservatives in the past.)
    ‘Scientific truth’ becomes political when people try and use it to support political/social viewpoints. This is what the Discovery Institute has done.
    Global Warming has been a political issue since it became apparent that something need be done to prevent it. It then became in people’s short term interests to deny it (usually with the help of an ExxonMobil paycheque.)
    Of course, it’s also a scientific matter. I don’t know what I said that gave you the impression that I thought it wasn’t. And there is a ‘scientific reality’ behind it. But that is not the same as a valid debate over what’s causing it.
    If I.D. was ‘good science’ then this wouldn’t be an issue. But since that’s not how it appears, people automatically look for reasons behind the controversy.

    Frost:

    Which ‘delusional assertions’ are those?
    Perhaps the majority of people at the NAS are ‘a bunch of lefties.’ Perhaps being academically qualified makes you more likely to be a ‘lefty’. Perhaps a greater amount of scientific knowledge makes you more likely to question traditional culture. Perhaps people attracted to the academy are just naturally more liberal. My point was simply that they’re not simultaneously pushing unrelated political purposes.
    I think you are mixing up ‘leftism’ (as in anyone on the left) with communism. While I accept that Darwinism does damage traditional ideas of God, and therefore is useful for those wishing to replace the church with a new form of authority, I don’t see that as convincing evidence that the NAS are trying to push communism. Could it be that they (shock horror) just want to see science taught properly? I also don’t think they’re trying to attack personal freedom. Personal freedom is what liberalism is all about. Again, Communism is not the same. It’s like me trying to pass conservatism off as fascism. They’re just questioning the values of teaching children theories that they don’t believe are scientifically valid.
    In regards to Cuba, you might ask yourself why Castro is still so popular among his people, and why the revolution happened in the first place. Could it be that American companies (along with the mob) were exploiting Cuba’s resources and it’s people. I’m not defending Communism. I’m just saying the free-market capitalism ain’t so perfect either.
    ‘Darwinism’ as you define it is not being taught in most schools. The possible metaphysical implications of Evolution by means of natural selection have no place in a school science class. Do you really think the 80% of Americans who believe in God would tolerate it otherwise?And how does the NAS have to fight to get the theory of evolution into schools? It’s already there, and has been for decades. It’s the establishment, the consensus view.
    Of course, scientists are sometimes wrong. Individual evidence given for evolution is by no means infallible. But considering the wide range and variety of evidence, it really becomes a question of ‘is this likely?’ from an objective standpoint.
    Alledged greater proportional membership of one party, or theological positions, don’t make the NAS necessarily political. What you are essentially saying there is ‘the majority of scientists don’t agree with me, therefore they must be incapable of being objective.’
    I didn’t ‘claim to be non-biased’. That is of course the most any of us can aspire to be when considering matters of debate. I said I see the issue of I.D. as important. It is of course of maximum importance whether the evidence points towards life being intelligently designed. I just don’t see the theory as currently expounded as being important in a scientific sense. Hence the focus on the political aspects.
    The teacher’s unions are political because they interface with government on issues of pay etc. Any union is political n that basis. I can’t recall the NAS threatening to go on strike, but if I’m wrong, please correct me. I’m not trying to ‘avoid taking on I.D. on it’s scientific merits’. This thread was about the poltical image of the I.D. movement, so I wrote my views on that.
    In terms of global warming, all I will say is that 9 of the hottest years on record have occurred within the last decade, at a time when there is no measurable increase in the output from the Sun’s emissions. Go figure.
    I’m not trying to ‘expolit’ anyone. I was just voicing what I thought was a flaw in the post’s argument. I did so simply because I was curious what response I would get. The best way to improve views is to have them questioned.
    I agree that I.D. should be distinguished from ‘creationism’. While those championing both often seem to find common cause, as they both make different claims about the world, they should be treated seperately.

    Joel Borofsky:

    I am not saying that because the theory is advocated on a political basis, that makes it non-science. I am saying that in the light of insufficient scientific evidence for the theory, people automatically look to alterior motives to define the movement. Which is why the definition of I.D. that you argue against in this post has become the mainstream view.

  13. 13
    gpuccio says:

    freemind:

    I appreciate your moderate and reasonable tone, and your detailed answers. Still, I have to point to some basic bias in your reasoning, but if you are not convinced, we can agree to disagree.

    1) You say:

    “in the light of insufficient scientific evidence for the theory, people automatically look to alterior motives to define the movement”

    All your reasoning seems to be based on that “insufficient scientific evidence”. On that we obviously disagree. So, if it is true that there is scientific evidence for ID, your reasoning is unjustly biased. But what do you mean with “insufficient”? Because,

    2) For most scientific theories, there is insufficient evidence (first of all, naturally, darwinian evoloution), and yet seeking for hidden agendas is not the rule. Theories with insufficient evidence to support them are debated every day. I would say they are the real stuff of science. Have you any idea of how many scientific theories have “insufficient evidence” in physics, or in cosmology? Are we seeking for hidden political meanings behind each of the many string theories? Or various inflationistic models of the universe? Or the “theories” for dark energy?

    The truth is, contrarily to the image of science which scientific “powers” are trying to pass to the media, most important topics in modern science are highly controversial. That’s not a problem. That’s very healthy for science. The same cannot be said for the attempts of scientistic ideology to affirm the contrary.

    Among the controversial issues, the origin of biological information is perhaps the most controversial of all (OK, string theories could be near to a draw). And I mean both OOL and evolution.

    Even if you don’t believe in the ID inference, unless you are triple blinded you can very easily understand that darwinian theory cannot explain a lot of known facts, especially all those gathered in the last few decades. Indeed, if you are not even more blinded, you can easily see that darwinian theory cannot explain pretty anything, being deeply flawed in its logical and mathematical premises.

    All those things should have been evident from the beginning, but ID has certainly contributed to make them absolutely incontrovertible. Making the ID inference as an alternative is a step farther, and I can understand that not all may be available to that step easily (after all, even accepting the new views of quantum mechanics, for instance, took its time). But the objections to the official darwinian explanations are easy, powerful and unanswered (I refer here mainly to the basic points of CSI and IC). The evidence presented by Behe in his last book is strong and beautiful.

    So, to sum up, one thing is that you, personally, can have your opinions and if you want you can debate them at any level, another thing is that ID is denied the status of scientific theory. That is really a “political agenda”.

    Some final reflections for you:

    I cannot agree with your strange judgement of political “agendas” in general, especially those of the right. I don’t think there is anything wrong in political people having their political agendas. That’s their job. Politics is all abour agendas. Why should the Discovery Institute, if, as you think, it is politically oriented, be an exception?

    Political forces can, and do, support whatever they find useful for their agendas. Scientific theories are no exception. Again, I see nothing wrong in that.

    What can be wrong, are the methods used to support things. In particular, intolerance, denial, suppression of truth, the attempt to ridiculize others so thyat they are not heared, negation, and so on, are unfairy tools, especially where scientific debate is implied. All of them have been vastly used by darwinists in the last years against ID. That is not only an agenda, but a very bad agenda. It is like a totalitarian regimen using brute force to silence its adversaries. Not democratic at all. The funding principle of democracies is respect for minorities.

    So, to sum up: political forces can certainly back up different scientific ideas, they just have to do that correctly. The important thing is that the scientific debate remains open, and democratic. Whoever is using its force to deny scientific debate, whether it be political or scientific force, that’s the bad agenda we have to fight against.

  14. 14
    Joel Borofsky says:

    Freedmind,

    Even if there was an insufficient amount of evidence for ID (which, considering the time period ID has had to work with mixed with the fact that it’s being shut out of universities, which does make it a bit difficult to study the theories and hypotheses of ID, I do not believe it to be insufficient), I’m challenging the mainstream view that ID is a political movement.

    The problem is, people say it’s a political movement, but a motivation is never provided. What political advantage is gained by teaching ID in school? ID doesn’t necessarily come with a values package (though one can easily ascribe values to ID). It merely says, “Look, there’s a designer.” Now, for all we know this designer could devalue human life, we just don’t know because ID doesn’t provide evidence for values.

    My point in all this is that I don’t see how it can be labeled as a political movement when there’s nothing ascribed to it. It’s like the whole Global Warming debate and how many conservatives say GW is just a liberal myth. I sit here and wonder, “What political motivation is there in saying Global Warming exists?” Sure, there might be some who use it for political gain, but what theory can avoid that?

    In the end, I’m challenging the mainstream view. I’m saying that there are those of us who aren’t republican, who aren’t political conservatives, etc., that still support ID.

  15. 15
    duncan says:

    Well, obviously those who “aren’t.. religious (or are) agnostic, or simply refuse to hold to any ideology” must be wrong about ID anyway, because, as we all now know, there is apparently a “Theistic Necessity in the Acquisition of Knowledge”.

  16. 16
    freemind says:

    gpuccio:

    1) By ‘insufficient’ I suppose I mean a body of evidence which indicates design equal to that which indicates evolution, evidence which cannot be explained by evolution.
    Evidence sufficient to make I.D. seem convincing, as an alternative to unguided evolution. Of course, I accept that we will have different opinions on the weight of the evidence provided.

    2) I also accept that we will differ on how convincing we find Darwinian Evolution. For me, the existence of fossils showing the gradual development of one species into another, and of fossils showing the graudal development of complex life forms, and the existence of similarities between Human biology and that of other apes leads me to believe that from a (hopefully) objective standpoint, Darwinian Evolution is a convincing explanation for the existence of life in it’s current form. I find the evidence supposedly provided against this theory by creationists (the Cambrian Explosion) and I.D. proponents (irreducible complexity) unconvincing. Because of this, I suppose I disregard I.D. (although I hope I will consider any new evidence as and when it is given) as unecessary and contradictory. Competing theories in Physics are usually advanced only on their potential explanatory usefulness. I suppose I view I.D. as different. I really don’t think it explains anything. If we were designed, why include so many flaws? Why include signs that we were descended from apes in the human genome? Why create DNA that mutates to such a degree? Why design lifeforms that seem to evolve? (why not just create them ready formed, as in Genesis). Why go through so many different designs, only to have them be wiped out by natural selection? And that’s before we even get on to the scientific problems raised by the designer itself. So it just adds a whole new realm of problems. And I can’t really see what it explains. All it does is raise problems with evolution. Which as I said, don’t convince me. Which is why I don’t regard it in the same league as other scientifically disputed theories.
    I agree that cutting edge science is usually highly disputable. But either it’s trying to explain gaps in existing theories, or it’s updating old theories after considering new evidence. Of course, how you regard I.D. depends entirely on how you view the evidence offered.
    I agree the origin of DNA is highly debated within the mainstream scientific community. But all theories expounded are within a naturalistic framework, be they ‘Early RNA world’ or ‘panspermia’ based.
    However, I by no means accept that evolution by natural selection is a matter of significant controversy in the mainstream. There may be divergences within the theory itself (e.g. Dawkins vs. Gould), but that’s not the same thing.
    I obviously don’t believe that arguments from ‘complex specified information’ and ‘irreducible complexity’ are powerful (the former mathematically, and the later biologically), and I believe they have both been answered by critics.

    I think that the body most forcefully behind I.D. has been shown to be so for socio-political reasons is damaging for it’s credibility, and the reason behind much of the open hostility it encounters.
    I think your label of ‘brute force’ is unecessary hyperbole. Granted, proponents of Darwinism have been discourteous on occasion. And this is a shame. But when people feel the things that they cherish (in this case the spirit of scientific integrity) are under attack, they are often likely to be so. Of course, you can infer more negative conclusions about such people if it fits your world view.
    Nobody is denying the capacity for IDers to debate their views. Debates have taken place up and down the country. I have watched several. Numerous books have been published. Documentaries have been made. Considering their relatviely small numbers, no one can claim that they have been prevented from voicing their view. IDers cans say what they like, when they like.
    What is being denied is:
    1) The right to teach I.D. to kids in most schools. School time is limited. Why should teachers spend equal time on a theory that the majority of scientists hold in contempt? That they don’t believe has any explanatory value? Of course, if you find the evidence offered convincing, then your view on this this will be different. I’m just putting across the way the establishment sees this.
    2) The right to force peer-review journals to publish your work. Of course, they’re free to do so if they wish. But since their readership is the scientifc community, and the majority of that community don’t consider I.D scientifically useful, why would they wish to do so?
    3) The right of some of those who believe I.D. is scientifcally useful to hold academic positions. Since such views are an indicator of the scientists level of understanding (in other words, their academic ability), why shouldn’t employers be able to discriminate accordingly, if said employers believe I.D. is not scientifically valid? We aren’t talking about discrimination on the basis of someone’s ethnicicty, culture, or religion here. It’s on the basis of their scientific views. Directly relevant to their posiitons. Should history departments provide tenure to those who deny the holocaust? How about archaeologists who believe the world is only 1000 years old? (crude examples I know, but you get my gist) People are free to develop their theories in private, publish, even build their own instituitons to house and fund it. But there is no compulsion on mainstream academia to provide positons to those whose work it sees as pointless, or who it views as scientifically unqualified. Of course, again, your posiiton on this will differ hugely on how you see the evidence. That’s what it comes down to in the end. Not some battle over scientific freedom or civil rights. When Messieurs Behe, Dembski & co. have their work confiscated, are interred, or are forbidden from publishing, then you’ll have a case for that.

    Joel Borofsky:
    And what I’m saying is that that perception is based upon the fact that the most prominent institution in developing I.D. does so primarily for socio-political reasons.
    The motivation behind this is the restoration of traditional values and the prominence of religious sentiment, which it is believed materialism has damaged. It’s all there in the wedge document.
    By restoring traditional values to the fore, you are able to open up a new front on a host of political issues, (abortion, school prayer, etc.) as well as lending strength to religious sentiment (if we start teaching that life is designed in schools, let’s face it, people are going to be a hell of a lot more open to ideas about God.)
    Why would the designer devalue what he had created? No, design implies some purpose. And when people start believing that life has an intrinsic purpose, it changes the way we think about everything. To ignore this is niave.
    I.D. itself isn’t poliitcal. But it opens the door to many issues that are. It is, in short, a wedge. Unless you know of some renewable energy company that funded most of the early research into global warming, who a lot of the original researchers worked for, then I don’t think it’s a valid comparison.
    I fully accept that there are IDers who aren’t Republican, conservative etc. That doesn’t make the mainstream view baseless. Just generalised.

  17. 17
    Timothy V Reeves says:

    Well, I am relieved (by this post). ‘Guilt by association’ is something that is difficult to shake off because that ‘association’ resides in the minds of others and therefore one has little control over it. Moreover, you can’t easily stop partisans using otherwise neutral ideas to further their cause, just as it is difficult to stop an aggressor finding use in a stick, a stone or whatever comes to hand that unfortunately has a form that just happens to fit their purpose. I wouldn’t say ID yet convinces me but I do think that its body of theory is worth some serious even sympathetic consideration. However, I have very little in common with the fundamentalist religious right and this guilt by association thing was becoming a problem with me. I would certainly want to echo Cpuccio’s opinion that “the question of ID is very important, even more important than any political issue”.

  18. 18
    gpuccio says:

    freemind:

    I appreciate your openness to discuss, and as you say, our different opinions about ID are the main reason of all other differences.

    Still, I add some more comments, for the sake of discussion:

    1) Different alternative theories can and must co-exist, each trying to explain part of what is known. It is not that: darwinism weihghs 30 and ID weighs weighs 28, so let’s dismiss ID. I think you have your epistemology a little bit rigid, and somewhat partial.
    Indeed, darwinist have been trying to affirm that ID has no scientific status, just because otherwise they should accept its rightful existence, even if they don’t agree with its conclusions. That kind of statement is an explicit lie. ID is a scientific theory from all points of view. Deciding if it is a good or a bad scientific theory should be left to the individual. Denying, through lies, its status of scientific theory is an irritating form of censorship.

    2) You list a series of arguments for darwinism and against ID:

    “the existence of fossils showing the gradual development of one species into another, and of fossils showing the graudal development of complex life forms, and the existence of similarities between Human biology and that of other apes”

    Well, these arguments may be convincing or not, but they are only arguments for common descent. In no way they support a causal mechanism for the generation of biological information. As you probably know, most IDists (including, in some degree, myself) do believe in common descent.
    The same arguments can be considered partial arguments in favor of gradualism. Again, that has nothing to do with causal mechanism. Many IDists do believe in gradualism, although I probably don’t.

    “I find the evidence supposedly provided against this theory by creationists (the Cambrian Explosion)”

    The Cambrian, and Avalon, explosions are not evidence provided by creationists. Where didi you get that strange idea? They are evidence provided by scientists, and deeply embarassing evidence I would add. They are certainly strong evidence against strict gradualism, as even Gould admitted. In the measure that you believe that strict gradualism is necessary for darwinian evolution (as I do believe), they are strong evidence against darwinian evolution itself. What have creationists to do with all that?

    “and I.D. proponents (irreducible complexity) unconvincing”

    You may not be convinced of IC, but still it is a very strong scientific argument against the logical fundaments of darwinian evolution. You may believe it has been answered, but it has not. Obviously, you are free to believe, but I am too. But the argument is perfectly scientific, and the issue if it is valid or not is open to debate.

    “I disregard I.D. as unecessary and contradictory”

    Why unnecessary? You have still not provided a single argument in favour of the explanatory causal power of darwinism, and you already classify an alternative causal explanation as “unnecessary”? Why?
    And above all, why contradictory? That means that there is some logical contradiction in the theory. I have never spotted any, Could you please specify?

    “Competing theories in Physics are usually advanced only on their potential explanatory usefulness.”

    Again, your epistemology is somewhat rigid. Competing theories in Physics are usually advanced only because someone advances them, being more or less convinced that they are good.

    “I suppose I view I.D. as different. I really don’t think it explains anything. If we were designed, why include so many flaws? Why include signs that we were descended from apes in the human genome? Why create DNA that mutates to such a degree? Why design lifeforms that seem to evolve? (why not just create them ready formed, as in Genesis). Why go through so many different designs, only to have them be wiped out by natural selection?”

    That is the strange part! Those are philosophical and religious arguments. What have they to do with ID? ID is a scientific theory. I can’t understand why strict reductionists, when they engage in criticizing ID, suddenly start discussin of the most exotic ontological problems! All those “whys” are false arguments. If we were discussing religion, you could reasonably ask, and I would reasonable give you my personal, and subjective, answer. But we are discussing science here. So, you must not ask that kind of things. ID makes two kinds of arguments:
    a) Is the kind of information we observe in biological being explained by existing theories? Answer: No, not at all.
    b) Can some other kind of theory explain it? Answer: Yes, any theory incorporating one (or more) designer(s).
    That’s what you have to address, not the problem of the existence of evil and similar…

    “I obviously don’t believe that arguments from ‘complex specified information’ and ‘irreducible complexity’ are powerful (the former mathematically, and the later biologically), and I believe they have both been answered by critics”

    CSI: no answer of any kind. Nobody has ever even tried to explain the existence of CSI in biological beings. What they do is denying the concept itself of specification, or providing really silly arguments like the “hand of cards” argument (that even extremely improbable things do happen). All these arguments are completely irrelevant, often frankly stupid. CSI is a very simple and intuitive concept. Trying to formalize it has certainly its difficulties, but that does not eliminate the power of the concept itself.

    IC is equally powerful. The only argument against it is cooption, which is logically and empirically ridiculous. Attempts by Miller to show an evolutionary path to the flagellum are only an abuse of the concept of homology (and of our intelligence and patience).

    That’s enough, I think. Regarding your “political” points, I don’t want ID taught in the schools, but I do think it would be fair to mention it. Your view of peer review is at best naive, and I will not comment it any further. The same applies to your “Pollyanna-like” underestimation of academic pressure. I can certainly agree that nobody has confiscated Behe’s or Dembski’s work. For now.

    Excuse me if I have been sometimes provocative. It’s my way of expressing respect. Indeed, I enjoy discussion with other sincere people, no matter what their opinions are.

  19. 19
    Timothy V Reeves says:

    Using ID theory in ‘deductivist’ mode Cpuccio, does it shed any explanatory light on the particular layout in time of the fossil record? Given the seemingly arbitrary ways super intelligence could act I have grave doubts about the explanatory power of ID on this particular point. However, your welcome to prove my doubts wrong!

    Actually I am currently delving into the thermodynamic issue in relation to ID just at the moment so really I am getting a bit ahead of myself with this particular question. However it continues to niggle at the back of my mind and eventually I hope to get to it, so any advance pointers are welcome.

  20. 20
    gpuccio says:

    Timothy:

    I am not sure I understand well your question. I am not a great expert of the fossil record, but I know what everybody knows.

    The only thing I can say is that the most amazing aspect of the fossil record, if we believe what is currently assumed, is the great gap between the appearance of prokaryotes (bacteria and archea) and the two explosions (Avalon and Cambrian). About 3.5 billion years with probably only prokaryotes is really big time. And in that time, probably no evolution took place. We have all the reasons to believe that the first archea or bacteria were practically the same as they are now.

    Although not much is known of the times of the transition to eukaryotes and then to multicellular, it seems to have been rather quick. That, too, is certainly strange.

    But the really amazing events are the two explosions: the Avalon-Ediacaria, and the Cambrian. Here we have a completely different scenario. A complete new line of complex animals and body plans is implemented in a really short time. That is really incompatible with any concept of gradualism, and a total failure for traditional darwinism.
    The important points seem to be:

    1) The time of appearance of each of the two sets of new phyla is really short. It is probably a few million years, but it could well be much less (that is only an upper limit).

    2) The Ediacara apparently become extinct just before the Cambrian explosion, after having stayed quite stable for all the previous time.

    If that does not qualify as evidence against gradualism, I don’t know what could.

    After the Cambrian explosion, the development of “evolution” becomes somewhat more continuous, but always with fundamental discontinuities all the time. There are never, anyway, the billions of “missing links” that darwinian theory would predict.

    So, what can we say about that from a design point of view?

    First of all, we have at present no clue about the designer or designers. There could be one, there could be many. We don’t know his purpose or methodology. We have to infer from what we can really observe, and that is the design.

    My first comment on that line, from what said, is that the designer does not seem worried, or specifically constrained, by time. In particular, either he has a different conception of time, or we just don’t understand other constraints (or purposes) which condition the chronology of design implementation. Indeed, there seem to be no apparent correlation between the times of appearance and the complexity of the design. In particular:

    a) OOL would seem as a very fundamental step: passing from inorganic life to archea and bacteria really seems a giant step, a majestic novelty. And yet, it seems to happen relatively early: maybe after 0.5 – 1 billion years of existence of the earth, but could be even earlier.

    b) The transition from prokaryotes to eukaryotes would seem relatively easier, and yet it probably happens much, much later.

    c) The transition to multicellular and complex, I would add extremely complex, animals just happens in a wink. And, what is more interesting, it happens twice, and each time with great variety of forms.

    d) Finally, take the final transition from chimps to humans. It could seem very simple, but indeed it is not. Whatever materialist may affirm, the human project introduces very substantial novelties in the scenario, bringing the evolution of the nervous system, certainly the most complex of all biological systems, to a completely new richness of functions. And again, that happens in a wink: probably, less than one million years.

    Therefore, if something is constraining the chronological choices of the designer, that is not probably the mere complexity of the design to be implemented.

    A final point I would like to stress. because it is very important to me. One thing that can certainly be deducted from the kind of design we observe is the following:

    The designers loves variety. He loves form. He loves to design.

    As have often stated, the real purpose of design seems not to guarantee survival of the fittest. That is really against all that we can observe. The real evidence is that of an astonishing variety of forms, of plans, of different and often contrasting projects, a real triumph of creativity, of beauty, of adventure, of apparent contradictions. In other words, a great work of art.

    Otherwise, how can you explain the billions of forms, each of them complex and really not understandable to us, the wonderful exploitation of even the most improbable niches for life (think of the oceanic depths, for instance), the multiple “evolution” of flight, and so on.

    Survival? No, not at all. Nobody has yet answered the simple argument, made by me and by others many times, that the best survival is still that of archea and bacteria, the first living beings, and certainly the most successful from a darwinian point of view.

    As often stated, complexity generates weakness, and it requires even greater complexity to guarantee survival (error management, and so on).

    But I am sure that, if we deepen our analysis of the characteristics of the design (and that will come, with the increasing decoding of genomes and other technological advancements of biology), and if someone starts working to the study of the design as though it were a design (which it is), instead of pretending it is not, more insights about the designer will come.

    After all, a work of art always reveals much of the artist to a receptive heart.

  21. 21

    freemind, so what about the überlefty atheists like Pee-Zed “I love Daily Kos” Myers and Massimo Pigliucci? And the dogmatic defence of globull warm-mongering and suppression of dissent could be a whole new Expelled.

  22. 22
    Timothy V Reeves says:

    Thanks for the reply Cpuccio. It’s much appreciated. I was thinking along these lines: because the current paradigm of physical sciences seeks to explain from the elemental its ‘starter’ objects like atoms, gravity, strings or what have you are relatively simple affairs. Making deductions (hence ‘deductivism’) from these ‘starter’ objects to putative observational tests is perhaps a correspondingly relatively clear-cut operation. However, when one’s theoretical starting point is sentience, especially super-sentience, the deductive process that attempts work from this highly complex ‘a-priori’ object in order to arrive at the consequences for what we actually ‘see’ around is commensurately a much more problematic procedure. This difficulty in itself doesn’t, of course, render intelligent design theory fallacious, just difficult to use in a deductive way. In fact as you ID people know archeologists face similar problems in trying to make sense of places like Stonehenge and the Cro-Magnon cave art – a good dollop of imagination has to be used when attempting to interpret these artifacts – and that’s when we have a common human connection with the creators of these works; so Biblical revelation apart what hope do we have trying to connect with the super-sentience of deity? Perhaps, as with human history, we will just have to accept that ‘incompressible’ narrative is as far as we will ever get in this domain, and that there is little hope of finding those neat theoretical one liners so beloved of physics trained people.

    So what am I saying? Well, I appreciate the explanatory difficulties ID theorists face. However, I also appreciate why the notion of Irreducible Complexity has such a special place in ID theory as the hallmark of the work of sentience. Hence, perhaps at the very least ID theory does connect with the apparent discontinuities in the fossil record, (such as you mention above). But I find myself wondering (and this is probably an impossible demand) can you envisage ID theory ever having anything to say about the history of life and the apparent sequencing we see in the fossil record (for example single cells, chordates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and the like) and the relations between organisms? (I have to admit I’m no natural historian/paleontologist either, but I’m doing my best to catch up!)

    If I am to put my ‘deductive’ evolutionary hat on I think I would attempt to explain the sudden jumps in the fossil record with the observation that the whole domain of complex organization is punctuated with regions of non-linearity: For example we seem to observe non-linearities (leading to explosions) in human society (possible off the top of my head examples: the Cro-Magnon ‘human revolution’, agriculture, writing, industrialization, perhaps even computerization). In these cases an innovation has been stumbled upon which perturbs society, sending it high on non-linear curve, a curve that at a distance looks like a discontinuity. However, I concede that this is just a bit of speculation and I keep looking over my shoulder at some of the robust challenges ID theorists have presented evolution. (and which I am still considering).

    In the meantime I had better get back to all the excellent material that Kairosfocus has given me to read!

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    TVR:

    Thanks for the kind and thoughtful words. [Enough to make me unlurk for the moment.]

    When you are ready just let me know.

    [BTW, App 6 the always linked is subject to quite an ongoing email exchange with a very intelligent young contributor here at UD, who is probably going to be credited as co-author of the revised version on the adjustments in view; at least under his handle!]

    GEM of TKI

    PS: TVR, take a look at the link and comments on monadology in app 6, which are triggered by said contributor, and which address the complexity/simplicity issue in the world so Leibnitz. Once we distinguish senses, simplicity and complexity are not contradictory — paradox though that seems to be.

    PPS: Nonlinearites don’t get us away from the need to find relatively tiny islands of functionally specified complexity in vast seas of non-functional contingent spaces, as constrained by probabilistic resources. The arrioval at the shore of such an island is indeed a discrete, non-linear event that is massively disruptive [and can move on to optimising hill-climbing to your heart’s content], but the evidence is that such an arrival is most reliably seen as the result of intelligent, insightful action, with massive empirical evidence and the mathematics of search spaces to back it up.

  24. 24
    Timothy V Reeves says:

    Thanks Kariosfocus. I’ll definitely look at App 6 again. That sounds interesting. In fact I am finding that I am having to reread a lot of the stuff in order to do it justice. Yes, I agree that my non-linearity point in itself doesn’t facilitate evolution. Moreover, if as you suggest functionality comes only on isolated islands in the overwhelmingly vast ocean of possibility evolution is scuppered. I was using the point deductively: That is, evolution may find here a way of explaining the discontinuities. But of course, the point is futile if bio-functionality populates configuration space with relatively tiny islands.
    .
    In order of my competence to deal with them, I am looking into the following:
    .
    1. Thermodynamics
    2. The structure of functionality in configuration space (basically the IC question)
    3. The nature of intelligence.
    4. Anti-evolutionary “tuning” of Chemistry and Physics: That is, physical quirks (quirks that could conceivably be negated) in the make up of our world that may act as evolution stoppers: A kind of misanthropic principle! (What an irony!). This is a complex miscellany of issues that includes for example, the last post on the Adriatic Lizards and lab genetics etc.
    5. The fossil record in relation to evolution.
    .
    So far it’s looking like this: Thermodynamics alone is not an evolution blocker – Although thermodynamics may be united with other physical desiderata to act as a blocker. Issue 2 is theoretically difficult: How does bio-functionality and functionality in general populate configuration space? As islands only, or does that population have a tenuous (very tenuous!) fibril/spongy structure that facilitates evolutionary diffusion? If ID has a point here, it may be because functionality simply doesn’t provide enough ‘working’ substance to fill configuration space with one of these exotic spongy objects. Quantum mechanics may be relevant on this point.
    .
    ID’s most robust points, as far as I am concerned, are found in 4 and 5 but that may be because I have less expertise in these areas.
    .
    Point 3 is a can of worms: Some of these worms may pop out of the woodwork (or the can) and not favour ID. For example once one starts to unpack the notion of intelligence, it seems to be bound up with a trial/error/search space paradigm, that has isomorphisms with evolution and computation. Is evolution a form of intelligence? (In this connection I am familiar with Penrose’s work on computability and human intelligence)
    .
    However I don’t want to prejudge the issue yet. Although as I have said I currently favour the evolutionary ‘hand’ as it were, I don’t think the issue is worth insulting anyone about or laughing them out of court. All bets are on as far as I am concerned. The matter perhaps has similarities with the ‘Martian canal’ business around the turn of the 20th century. But frankly I don’t think it’s going to be as easy to conclusively resolve!

  25. 25
    Timothy V Reeves says:

    Oops! The Martian canal business was resolved in favour of non-intelligence! Sorry, perhaps not an appropriate illustration in this auspicious context. Let’s just say that at the turn of the century the state of knowledge was such that the issue could have gone either way.

    Back on topic let me stress again that this post allayed my fears somewhat: hate to think that ID people are in someone else’s pocket or are tramelled by purse strings. As Cpuccio suggests, this issue is above politics.

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