Intelligent Design

Jerry Coyne Preaches at University of Alabama

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Jerry Coyne visited the University of Alabama last week to explain why evolution is true. Of course the “truth” of evolution comes from religious conviction. With religion one can say that evolution is as much a fact as is gravity. The claim makes no sense from a scientific perspective. It is not that evolutionists have made an error. They did not make a mistake in their calculations or misread a scientific observation. Their claim that evolution is as obvious as gravity is not really a mistake at all. It isn’t even wrong–it simply is not scientific. Evolution is as obvious as gravity just like astrology is as obvious as gravity. These people clearly are playing by a different set of rules.   Read more

37 Replies to “Jerry Coyne Preaches at University of Alabama

  1. 1
    ellazimm says:

    When you talk about metaphysical claims and belief are you thinking of things like the rear legs of whales?

    If evolutionists and ID proponents are both looking at the same evidence but coming to different conclusions then is ID a religious view as well?

  2. 2
    Vladimir Krondan says:

    Well, evolutionists have been saying strange hyperbolic things about evolution for a long time. For example:

    “By evolution, as the word is now used, we mean the universal process of orderly change. It includes cosmic changes in suns and planets and organic changes in living creatures, called organisms because they are made up of cooperating parts, or organs, which by fitting into one another constitute organization. And from the fact that all these changes — whether instantaneous, daily, yearly, or consuming centuries or aeons, in the individual or in generations of individuals — are orderly, never random nor accidental, we derive our definition of evolution. Moreover, as this process occurs throughout all that we know, evolution becomes another name for Nature.”

    -David Starr Jordan

  3. 3
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    “If evolutionists and ID proponents are both looking at the same evidence but coming to different conclusions then is ID a religious view as well?”

    No. ID says this:

    1. We know something about the properties of designed objects, from our own experience.

    2. We know something about natural laws, processes, and outcomes from observations of nature.

    3. We can make a design inference. People have always done this, and we can formalize methods to do this.

    As you can see, there are no religious premises in ID, and it is telling that this is the evolutionist’s main argument against it. Evolution, OTH, entails religious premises. For more thoughts on design, see this:

    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....esign.html

  4. 4
    Learned Hand says:

    Evolution, OTH, entails religious premises.

    What are they?

  5. 5
  6. 6
    ellazimm says:

    But without positive evidence isn’t tha design inference also a matter of faith? Especially when the limitations of evolutionary processes are not completely understood and somewhat contested?

  7. 7
    Learned Hand says:

    All of those examples seem to be about biologists arguing that creationism is wrong because God wouldn’t design things they way they are. While the argument makes certain religious assumptions, it does so by taking creationists’ claims on their own terms: “Assuming that what you assert is true, X must also be true…”

    More importantly, none of that is really an assumption of “evolution.” Classes in evolutionary biology don’t talk about design, or creation, or the intentions of God. You’ve identified elements of an argument against creationism that make religious assumptions; what are the elements of modern evolutionary biology that make such assumptions?

  8. 8
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    “But without positive evidence isn’t the design inference also a matter of faith?”

    Well design folks use positive evidence. But in any case, whether a hypothesis is a matter of faith depends on its premises. We all agree that the usual premises of science (eg, parsimony, reality exists, etc) are OK and do not constitute undo metaphysical assumptions.

    But appealing to personal beliefs about divine action is a matter of faith. I can’t argue with an evolutionists personal beliefs.

  9. 9
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    ” All of those examples seem to be about biologists arguing that creationism is wrong because God wouldn’t design things they way they are. While the argument makes certain religious assumptions, it does so by taking creationists’ claims on their own terms: “Assuming that what you assert is true, X must also be true…” ”

    Ah no, it is the evolutionists, not the creationists, who make those assertions. They go way back.

    ” More importantly, none of that is really an assumption of “evolution.” ”

    Of course they are.

    “Classes in evolutionary biology don’t talk about design, or creation, or the intentions of God.”

    Actually they often do. But there probably are many that don’t, and you’re certainly correct that they don’t need to. That’s because classes focus more on *how* evolution is supposed to work, not *why* it is a fact.

    And when they do discuss the “evidences” for evolution, they typically fail to make the case. Instead, they present a few evidences and then just make the assertion that evolution is “universally accepted” or some such.

    The bottom line is, while it is interesting to see what is taught in schools, it is a fallacy to assume that a theory = what is taught in certain classes. If you want to understand evolution, you have to go to the literature, and read what Darwin and subsequent leading evolutionists have to say. Read their claims.

    “You’ve identified elements of an argument against creationism that make religious assumptions; what are the elements of modern evolutionary biology that make such assumptions?” ”

    The “element” of modern evolutionary theory that makes such assumptions is the element that asserts evolution is a fact.

  10. 10
    Learned Hand says:

    Actually they often do. But there probably are many that don’t, and you’re certainly correct that they don’t need to. That’s because classes focus more on *how* evolution is supposed to work, not *why* it is a fact.

    Can you cite such a textbook? And can we stipulate that the “hows” of evolution do not rely on religious assumptions?

    The “element” of modern evolutionary theory that makes such assumptions is the element that asserts evolution is a fact.

    You lost me here. You’ve identified a single “religious assumption:” the assumption that God wouldn’t have designed things the way they are. That’s great, but I’ve only ever seen it used as an argument against creationism – never as a positive argument for evolution. I don’t see how it even connects to the positive case for evolution. Is that the only religious assumption you see in evolution? Are there others?

  11. 11
    tsmith says:

    Evolution, OTH, entails religious premises.

    What are they

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”

    Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “, “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.

  12. 12
    tsmith says:

    Can you cite such a textbook? And can we stipulate that the “hows” of evolution do not rely on religious assumptions?

    “Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless–a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.” (Biology: Discovering Life, by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (1st edition, D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; emphasis in original)

  13. 13
    Learned Hand says:

    tsmith,

    The material you quote is not discussing premises, but consequences. Dubious ones, at that. But, to steal a TKIism, let’s not bundle strawmen around red herrings and soak them in oil of confusion to ignite in choking clouds of misdirection that smell faintly of bewilderment. Dr. Hunter is contending that modern evolutionary theory is based on religious premises, but so far has only identified one–and one that doesn’t seem to be a premise of modern biology at all.

  14. 14
    SingBlueSilver says:

    Cornelius,

    We know something about the properties of designed objects, from our own experience.

    Yes. We know about human designed objects. The watch on the beach, for example. You know it’s designed because you are familiar with human design.

    We aren’t familiar with universe design and we have nothing to compare it against, like the watch compares against the (natural? undesigned?) beach.

    And furthermore, there are plenty of examples of apparent design in nature.

    A snowflake sure as hell looks designed to me. Nonetheless, it isn’t.

  15. 15
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Learned hand:

    “The material you quote is not discussing premises, but consequences.”

    Agreed.

    “Can you cite such a textbook?”

    Sure. Mark Ridley, *Evolution*, Blackwell, is full of the usual metaphysical claims. I have discussed some of them in *Darwin’s God* and *Science’s Blind Spot*, for instance.

    “And can we stipulate that the “hows” of evolution do not rely on religious assumptions?”

    Yes.

    “You lost me here. You’ve identified a single “religious assumption:” the assumption that God wouldn’t have designed things the way they are. That’s great, but I’ve only ever seen it used as an argument against creationism – never as a positive argument for evolution.”

    Well, welcome to evolutionary thought. Don’t take my word for it, Sober has covered what he terms evolution’s “contrastiveness” extensively.

    “I don’t see how it even connects to the positive case for evolution.”

    The positive case does not prove evolution is a fact (not even close). If we only looked at the positive case, then the theory would have been discarded.

    “Is that the only religious assumption you see in evolution? Are there others?”

    Yes, there are several. Again, a summary is here:

  16. 16
    Learned Hand says:

    I think there’s a problem with that link – it refers to “#_6_The_fact,” but goes to #7, which is subtitled “The Fact…” I assume that’s what you’re referring to? It seems to be all about the same “religious assumption” we discussed above – whether creationism’s religious assertions stand or fall under their own terms. As an aside, I think it’s an awful argument. But it’s not part of the positive case for evolution.

    The fact that you find the positive case for evolution unpersuasive does not mean that there are religious assumptions in that case.

  17. 17
    ellazimm says:

    “Well design folks use positive evidence.”

    That’s where I have a problem I guess. Because the evidence always seems to be: this structure could not have evolved without outside intervention which is trying to prove a negative . . . isn’t it?

    “But in any case, whether a hypothesis is a matter of faith depends on its premises. We all agree that the usual premises of science (eg, parsimony, reality exists, etc) are OK and do not constitute undo metaphysical assumptions.”

    But not everyone agrees that an exterior designer (who has to have some mechanism for implementing the designs) is a legitimate premise. Is the acceptance of the possibility of an outside intelligence a religious assumption?

  18. 18
    VentureFree says:

    …Coyne made the usual metaphysical arguments about bad designs and unnecessary features. These are the powerful arguments that persuade evolutionists.

    I know this is hard for you to understand, but an argument against a competing theory is not the same as an argument in favor of another theory, and Dr. Coyne understands this. “Bad design and unnecessary features” are not being presented as evidence for evolution. Rather the hope is that by comparing and contrasting the theories of Evolution and ID, an IDist might be persuaded to recognize the weakness of their own position and maybe, just maybe, give the evidence for evolution an actual honest look.

    Hope springs eternal.

  19. 19
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Learned hand:

    “I think there’s a problem with that link – it refers to “#_6_The_fact,” but goes to #7, which is subtitled “The Fact…” I assume that’s what you’re referring to? It seems to be all about the same “religious assumption” we discussed above – whether creationism’s religious assertions stand or fall under their own terms.”

    If you read the entire Section 7, you’ll see a dozen+ metaphysical arguments which date back to ~17th c and motivate evolutionary thought. They are the foundation.

    “The fact that you find the positive case for evolution unpersuasive does not mean that there are religious assumptions in that case.”

    Agreed.

  20. 20
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    VentureFree:

    ” “Bad design and unnecessary features” are not being presented as evidence for evolution. ”

    That is false. But don’t take my word for it, see the links in Post #5 above.

    “Rather the hope is that by comparing and contrasting the theories of Evolution and ID, an IDist might be persuaded to recognize the weakness of their own position and maybe, just maybe, give the evidence for evolution an actual honest look.”

    No, you need to read what evolutionists are saying. They say it is true.

  21. 21
    camanintx says:

    Cornelius Hunter, #20

    VentureFree:

    ” “Bad design and unnecessary features” are not being presented as evidence for evolution. ”

    That is false. But don’t take my word for it, see the links in Post #5 above.

    Would it be asking too much if you linked to someone actually using this argument in support of evolution and not to your personal blog posts talking about people doing this?

  22. 22
    VentureFree says:

    No, you need to read what evolutionists are saying. They say it is true.

    The relevant question here is; Are they saying it’s true because creationism is false, which is what you seem to be claiming? Or are they saying it’s true, and that creationism is false. That’s a very important distinction.

  23. 23
    VentureFree says:

    By “it” I’m assuming you mean evolution by the way. Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood what you were saying.

  24. 24
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Camanintx:

    “Would it be asking too much if you linked to someone actually using this argument in support of evolution and not to your personal blog posts talking about people doing this?”

    Actually those blog posts do give links and direct quotes. They are not merely commentary. For instance, the first two posts linked in #5 above give quotes from the Sober paper and a link to the Sober paper. The third post linked gives quotes from Coyne’s book, as well as other quotes from mainstream evolutionists.

  25. 25
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    VentureFree:

    “The relevant question here is; Are they saying it’s true because creationism is false, which is what you seem to be claiming? Or are they saying it’s true, and that creationism is false. That’s a very important distinction.”

    Yes, you have homed in on a crucial point. There is no question, it is the former, as you put it, they saying it’s true because creationism is false. But “creationism” is not quite the right term, because we use that term as a label for the 20th c. movement by that name, whereas the evolution argument is yes against creationism, but more generally against much earlier forms of design and divine creation, going back to the Enlightenment and before.

    ” By “it” I’m assuming you mean ‘evolution’ ”

    Yes, sorry about the ambiguity.

  26. 26
    JTaylor says:

    Cornelius: “3. We can make a design inference. People have always done this, and we can formalize methods to do this.”

    I understand a little about CSI, explanatory filters etc, although I’m not a mathematician so some of the math is beyond me. But these concepts are often presented in a generalized way (or apply to the whole evolutionary landscape); what I’m interested in understanding further is the idea of the “formalized methods” that Cornelius mentions being applied to a specific artifact. For example, is it possible to show the working documentation for how a conclusion of design inference was derived for, say, the flagellum?

  27. 27
    Shi Huang says:

    N. Sri Ram: “Only a disinterested search can result in Truth, for every form of self-interest will lead only to a creation which will serve that self-interest.”

    Before we know the Truth by reason, we can never discover it unless we are disinterested truth seekers. People of religion obviously cannot qualify as disinterested truth seeker. Darwinism is a religion for the simple fact that no Darwinists ever claimed to be a disinterested truth seeker. To my limited knowledge, no IDer did either.

    If you care about disinterested search for truth or the true law of evolution, follow my blog The Golden Gnomon, which is the only Blog I know of by a professional scientist/evolutionist that openly declares its goal as the disinterested search for the law of evolution.
    http://thegoldengnomon.blogspot.com/

  28. 28
    ellazimm says:

    Dr Hunter, I was really hoping you’d answer my questions in comment 17. I’m trying to understand what you and other ID proponents are saying and I appreciate having this forum to ask. I don’t want to misunderstand your stance so I’m asking questions to help clarify my understanding. I’d be happy with references if you’d rather not reiterate arguments you’ve made before. 🙂

  29. 29
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    ellazimm:

    Sorry. That is a long discussion, not the point of the post, and not something I am an expert at (I haven’t thought about it enough; er maybe I’ve thought about it too much 8-/ ) So I didn’t want to get into that. Let me just make two quick suggestions: SETI (where signals are detected) and this post:

    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....esign.html

  30. 30
    Learned Hand says:

    Yes, you have homed in on a crucial point. There is no question, it is the former, as you put it, they [are] saying it’s true because creationism is false.

    I think that almost no non-creationists would agree that the falseness of creationism makes evolution true. Scientists focus instead on the positive case for evolution; I once dated an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, and she found my interest in creationism laughable because it was so vastly irrelevant to the real world of biology.

    Can we agree, in order to shape the discussion, that the positive case for evolution–whether or not you find it persuasive–is not religious in nature?

  31. 31
    camanintx says:

    Cornelius Hunter, #24

    Actually those blog posts do give links and direct quotes. They are not merely commentary. For instance, the first two posts linked in #5 above give quotes from the Sober paper and a link to the Sober paper. The third post linked gives quotes from Coyne’s book, as well as other quotes from mainstream evolutionists.

    From the Sober paper you mention:

    Adaptive similarities provide almost no evidence for common ancestry while similarities that are useless or deleterious provide strong evidence for common ancestry.

    It’s not the bad design itself but rather the similarity that is evidence for undirected evolution over intelligent design. Just as experts use duplicated errors to prove that two documents come from the same source, finding the same non-functional feature in two species can hardly be explained by common design.

  32. 32
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Learned hand:

    “I think that almost no non-creationists would agree that the falseness of creationism makes evolution true.”

    You need to read Sober. See first couple links at #5.

    “Can we agree, in order to shape the discussion, that the positive case for evolution–whether or not you find it persuasive–is not religious in nature?”

    Yes, agreed.

  33. 33
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    camanintx:

    “It’s not the bad design itself but rather the similarity that is evidence for undirected evolution over intelligent design. Just as experts use duplicated errors to prove that two documents come from the same source, finding the same non-functional feature in two species can hardly be explained by common design.”

    Very good, you got it, except that bad design, by itself, is *also* an argument (there are a dozen+ arguments of which Sober is focusing on just one). These are why evolution is a fact, in spite of huge scientific problems.

  34. 34
    camanintx says:

    Cornelius Hunter

    Jerry Coyne visited the University of Alabama last week to explain why evolution is true. Of course the “truth” of evolution comes from religious conviction. With religion one can say that evolution is as much a fact as is gravity. The claim makes no sense from a scientific perspective.

    You do realize there is a differnce between evolution (small ‘e’) and the Theory of Evolution, don’t you?

  35. 35
    Seversky says:

    Cornelius Hunter@ 3

    “If evolutionists and ID proponents are both looking at the same evidence but coming to different conclusions then is ID a religious view as well?”

    No. ID says this:

    1. We know something about the properties of designed objects, from our own experience.

    2. We know something about natural laws, processes, and outcomes from observations of nature.

    3. We can make a design inference. People have always done this, and we can formalize methods to do this.

    As you can see, there are no religious premises in ID…

    Really?

    Now, who’s version shall we accept: Cornelius Hunter’s attempt to present the acceptable face of ID or the words of the movement’s Founding Fathers, such as:

    “We are taking an intuition most people have (the belief in God) and making it a scientific and academic enterprise. We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator.”

    or

    “Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.”

    or

    “This isn’t really, and never has been a debate about science. It’s about religion and philosophy.”

    or

    Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

  36. 36
    Seversky says:

    Cornelius Hunter @ 32

    You need to read Sober.

    This would be the same Elliott Sober who concluded an article entitled What is wrong with Intelligent Design? with the sentence:

    In all its forms, ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory.

    Here I must agree. We need to read Sober.

  37. 37
    JTaylor says:

    Cornelius – would it be possible to get a response to my question @26 (you may have missed it because I think it was held up under moderation for a while). Would be very interested in your reply. Thanks.

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