If you have been following UD over the past few days you will know Dr Nick Matzke, formerly Public Information Project Director of the US NCSE, has intervened in Dr Cudworth’s thread on the question of evolutionary biology qualifications of leading objectors to design theory.
As a result of this, in the end, even Dr Cudworth has commented on the tangential issue — evolution (especially claimed universal common descent) vs creationism and design theory with the Of Pandas and People book that featured in the Dover Trial as a significant point of contention , most recently here in response to Dr Matzke here.
I think the whole issue is a polarising, distractive side-track.
Why is that?
A good point to pick up is where I responded to PaV earlier this morning:
PaV, 164: >> [Citing from Matzke:] Nick Matzke @ 96:
Design proponents have a realistic and more cautious approach to the use of homologies. They regard organisms which show great structural differences, such as starfish and chimpanzees, as having no common ancestry.
Why do you place such importance on the idea of common descent?
It’s an illogical concept, isn’t it?
For example, is a fish egg like a bird egg? No, they’re very dissimilar. Would you want to argue that a bird egg ‘evolved’ from fish egg?
Well, then, how? What were the stages? Where are the intermediates?
And, if there are no intermediates, then how can you talk about common descent when we actually see not a continuous gradation, but rather abrupt changes.
If you want to talk about the common descent of sharks, e.g., that is a different matter. That makes some sense. But the whole notion of “common descent” as it applies to all phyla, flies in the face of known facts. It’s simply some kind of assumption that’s made based on Darwinian/gradualistic thought. But nature doesn’t bear it out.>>
PaV, 165: >> Yes, Nick, I know that in the above quote, you’re quoting from Pandas; but you’re quoting it in hopes of claiming that ID disbelieves in common descent and therefore is just like “creationism”. >>
Earlier, Dr Cudworth had corrected:
C, 162: >> . . . Creation Science (Gish, Morris, etc.) was indeed creationism. Yet the fact that Creation Science used some arguments that are now used by ID people does not make ID Creation Science, any more than the fact that the Democratic Party uses some arguments that Marx used makes the Democratic Party Marxist.
You keep trying to hide out in historical trivia in order to avoid the fundamental issue, which is *how the word “creationism” is used in typical American discourse*. And in typical American discourse, a “creationist” is someone whose views on origins are tied up with a literal or near-literal understanding of Genesis, and whose scientific investigations are governed by the need to maintain that literal understanding at all costs.
In other words, in creationism, *the literal reading of Genesis has veto power over what scientists are allowed to conclude*.
There is no theoretical work currently regarded as “ID” that relies upon a literal reading of Genesis, or allows a literal reading of Genesis any veto power over what scientists may conclude. Period.
You can scour the works of ID proponents — Signature in the Cell, Darwin’s Black Box, No Free Lunch, Nature’s Destiny — you will find no place where Genesis is called in to referee a scientific question. You will not even find any places where general Christian theological notions, or even more basic requirements of theistic religion, are called in to referee a scientific question . . . .
But your team is not trying to block ID on the grounds that it is lousy science; your team is trying to block it on the grounds that it’s religion. And it isn’t. And you know that it isn’t.
That many ID proponents have religious motivations, no one denies. Most of the people on your team have religious motivations: do you think that Coyne, Shallit, Myers, Forrest, etc. keep their atheism hermetically sealed off from the way they think about nature? C’mon Nick, that’s naive.
The question is not whether ID proponents have religious motivations. Everyone does. The question is whether ID *arguments* make religious assumptions or require religious faith. And they don’t. And you know they don’t. And by trying to convey to the public that they do, you are misleading the public. Deliberately, willfully. Because you don’t want ID to get a foothold in public thinking.
If you don’t like an idea, battle it on the plane of ideas; don’t try to ban it in the courtrooms of the nation, thus making mockery of the sacred principle of freedom of speech, thought, debate, and discussion . . . .
Every time Eugenie and her gang say “ID creationism,” they are creating an association between serious arguments about nature and images of stupid country bumpkins, burning effigies of Darwin and marrying their first cousins in the hills, waving their Bibles around fanatically. And Eugenie does that deliberately and with full calculation of the propaganda advantage of doing so. She knows that urban, educated middle-class people will react in a Pavlovian way against “creationism” in a way that they wouldn’t react against an argument about “irreducible complexity,” which might catch their attention and seem to have some merit. So she poisons the well [cf. def’n] right away. It’s a tactic demagogues throughout history have learned well, and the NCSE is first and foremost a demagogic organization.
Yet Eugenie knows, and *you* know, that Mike Behe is a Catholic, not a Protestant, let alone a fundamentalist, and that he has nothing religious in common with the Bible-thumpers that you and Eugenie are trying to link with ID in the public mind, by using the word “creationism.” And Eugenie knows, and *you* know, that Rick Sternberg is a Catholic, and that Mike Denton is a lapsed Christian who no longer accepts the authority of the Bible for anything, etc. And you know that all three of these men accept evolution, which in normal public discourse is the opposite of “creationism”. So you know that calling these men “creationists” will create the wrong impression in the public mind; yet you do it anyway. Thus, you stand convicted of willful dishonesty. And if you are dishonest about this, I have no reason to think you will be any more honest in your science.>>
I responded to Dr Cudworth:
KF, 163: >> . . . It is sad that you [C] have had to lay out the issue as above, but a review of the exchange and its wider context will show that you are essentially correct.
Today’s “scientific” atheists and their fellow travellers have committed several travesties against both truth and justice, and do not realise the exceedingly dangerous implications of the rhetorical, administrative and legal matches they are playing with in the courtroom, the hearings room or the seminar room. It has ever been so with those who see themselves as representing a new order of the ages, and who buy into ideologies that boil down to our desired ends “justify” any and all means we perceive as “necessary” . . . .
Dr Matzke and others need to take a serious moment to understand that the dominant evolutionary materialism involved at the core of what they are about, as Plato pointed out so long ago now, is inherently, inescapably amoral, promotes ruthless factionism and abuse should such unhinged ideologues gain power.
And if they refuse to be corrected in such outrages, we need to mark what is happening, and take due precautions. For, the little bit of classical literature that warns of how great a conflagration a small flame can ignite, comparing this to the destructive power of the evil tongue, speaks truly. And yes, that bit of counsel that needs to be heeded comes from a book of hard-bought wisdom such “bright” people despise . . . >>
And, to PaV:
KF, 168: >> As Dr Cudworth outlined, he knows or should know that significant design theory advocates such as Dr Behe or Mike Gene [Mr Frontloading] do in fact accept universal common descent, and that the design inference is independent of whether or not common descent is true.
In fact, given the information challenge involved in novel body plans, an obvious contender for a reasonable account of origin of that level of biodiveristy, is genetic engineering of ancestral types [viri or the like would be a useful candidate vector, on projection of ideas being discussed, though of course we also need to address epigenetic factors . . . ], setting up ancestral groups of life forms that were designed to radiate thereafter through environmental adaptations.
In addition, the likes of a Platypus with its obvious mosaic character and genome level mosaic character, suggest the use of a library of adaptable parts.
The recent announcements that kangaroos have in them huge swaths of the human genome sitting there in an animal that is held to be on a 150 MY branch from the line leading to us, is suggestive along the same lines.
In short, we can actually make up a synthetic view that has common ancestry, genetic [and epigenetic?] engineering, code reuse and adaptation through a library, AND adaptive mutation by variation and success in niches.
So, the issue cannot logically be common descent vs design.
Nor is it whodunit.
A molecular nanotech lab run by a race operating our solar system as a bio experiment station, and with technologies some generations beyond Craig Venter would be able to do what was just described.
Within 50 years, probably, we will be doing it.
(H’mm: How about a few hundred million flying locust-scorpion chimerical forms with a self-limiting built in lifespan of several months carrying incapacitating viral diseases — maybe with genetic manipulation in them too — as a war-winning weapon? As in, the ultimate locust plague as a military attack. So much for sci fi . . . we hope.)
The real question is where did the variations in genetic information and epigenetic organisation come from to make up the new body plans?
On the induction from observations, and from needle in a haystack config space search analysis from what we observe for functionally specific information beyond the solar system or cosmological thresholds, we have excellent reason to infer to intelligence.
In that context, questions on the age of the earth or of life on it, or of the solar system and cosmos, or geological eras and fossil life forms, or homologies at gross and genomic levels or proteinome levels etc. etc., are simply irrelevant.
The decisive issue is that there is a need for advocates of evolutionary materialism to demonstrate analytically and empirically, that information beyond the threshold set by the log reduced Chi metric, can be produced as a practical matter by undirected forces of chance and necessity.
Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the [solar system] threshold.
To date, such is conspicuous by absence, active information driven genetic algorithms (it seems the latest misleading icon of evolution promotion) notwithstanding.
The only — and abundantly — empirically well-warranted source of such FSCO/I is design.
Design as that tweredun is thus an empirically and analytically well warranted inference on the sign of FSCO/I.
Whodunit or whateverdunit — let’s line up a few suspects:
a: our advanced race of let’s call them “angels” or even “gods” or “aeons” or other parties?
b: Some other entity or party like an ancient race seeding the cosmos because they were lonely or curious [a la Star Trek]? Or,
c: this is all a super-Matrix world? Or
d: not least, the same as who on the sign of cosmological fine tuning of a cosmos for C-chemistry, cell based life with a credible beginning at a finite point in the past?
. . . why, can be deferred to a second level issue.
As at now, absent an empirically credible chance and necessity explanation for the FSCO/I in an original cell based life form which has metabolism joined to code driven self replication a la von Neumann, and for the FSCO/I in major body plans from kelp to bamboo to toadstools to fish, crabs, worms, birds and us, we have a perfect epistemic RIGHT to hold that the evidence points to design as the most credible explanation for cell based life and its forms.
We already have proof of concept in hand thanks to Venter et al, so it is those who wish to hold otherwise who need to provide a good, empirically warranted explanation.
A priori imposed materialism, politically correct censorship and career busting joined to smears against those who differ, will not do.>>
So, dear onlooker, Let’s think: is the whole contentious debate over “evolution” vs “creationism, and whether Intelligent design is “creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” simply a grand exercise in a distractive red herrings dragged across the track of the real core issue the source of information, and then led away to caricatured strawmen soaked in ad hominems and set alight through snide, willfully deceptive rhetoric by the likes of the NCSE?
Does Philip Johnson have a serious point when in reply to Lewontin’s notorious 1997 NYRB review . . .
To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .
. . . he said that instead:
What do you think, and why? END
8 Replies to “Matzke’s sidetrack: debating “Evolution” vs “Creationism” as a distraction from the core ID challenge — what is the empirically credible source of biological, functionally specific, complex organization/ information (FSCO/I)?”
If you want to see what I caution about above in action, cf here. My response in that thread is here.
F/N: It is worth clipping a comment from Mike Gene in a Feb 2007 Telic Thoughts discussion in which Matzke participated:
>> MikeGene Says:
February 18th, 2007 at 5:22 am
I would have to agree with this. As I have explained before, I used to be a creationist. I wasn’t raised a creationist, but I became one because I had only a typical high-school level understanding of biology/evolution when I was first confronted with creationist arguments. For me, at least, it became more and more difficult to hold this position as I learned more and more about biology.
What makes my story somewhat unique is that I had completely transitioned to a Ken Miller-type version of theistic evolution by the time I was confronted with Behe and ID. In this case, I originally defended Behe as a gadfly/devil’s advocate, but soon began to envision that this ID concept had some real potential. The rest is basically public history, as I have been fleshing out the notion of ID evolution at ARN, on my web page, and here.
All of this explains two things about MikeGene. First, I have little patience for Nick’s attempt to equate creationism with ID because I am in the privileged position of knowing he is wrong. I should know ““ I was a creationist and now invest significant energy thinking about evolution and ID. I have lived, seen, and known the differences. It may be true that many ID proponents are also creationists (in fact, I’d say it is true), but it is simply false that all ID proponents are also creationists. There is a growing, and vocal minority, of us ID evolutionists and it is intellectually dishonest to ignore that. Perhaps after this little book comes out (and it should not be much longer), it will become even more difficult to ignore and stereotype the ID evolutionists.
Second, while I have opposed teaching ID in schools, I have opposed it on principle. I have never shared in this hysteria about the teaching of ID resulting in the downfall of science, science education, and America. If ID was taught in the schools (ie, the Dover decision went the other way), two outcomes would have been likedly: a) the sense of threatiness in academia would have grown exponentially and a social environment far, far more hostile to ID would have ensued (yes, more hostile than what exists) and b), a massive “teaching moment” would be had, where scientists everywhere would have developed multiple on-line lessons to help teachers teach about “ID and evolution,” giving Mesk the data he needs to confirm his prediction.
The irony of our current social situation could not be any larger.
Comment by MikeGene — February 18, 2007 @ 5:22 am >>
In the face of this direct testimony, NM has some serious explaining to do as to why in 2011 he is still pushing the “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” talking points he is pushing.
GEM of TKI
F/N 2: Like unto the just above, MG further corrected Matzke, so let us further note for record, from over four years ago:
>> MikeGene Says:
February 18th, 2007 at 9:35 pm
This is irrelevant to my point. I noted “I have little patience for Nick’s attempt to equate creationism with ID because I am in the privileged position of knowing he is wrong.” One insight that comes from once having been a creationist is the knowledge that creationists universally reject human evolution. Do you disagree?
The debate about design did not begin in 1989. It is a debate that extends back for 1000s of years.
No, what I do is subject the propagandistic and/or stereotypical claims of my opponents to critical thinking. This happens to be one very common example.
This has been answered.
You define a concept not according to its logic, but with survey data? Hmmm. That sounds intellectually lazy. But come to think of it…..I wonder if “most” ID critics are also evangelistic atheists.
Comment by MikeGene — February 18, 2007 @ 9:35 pm >>
And: >>MikeGene Says:
February 19th, 2007 at 10:08 pm
The difference is striking. Nick views Bilbo through the prism of the ID movement, such that Bilbo is transformed into “just another version” of the movement. I view Bilbo as a fellow human being, someone who, like me, recognizes the diversity of views that are associated with ID. And our recognition comes from experience.
They say people are either splitters or lumpers. Given his position, it is not surprising that Nick is a Lumper. At the ARN forum, he saw the same person in mturner and Douglas; here he sees the same person in Krauze and Salvador. If you close your eyelids far enough, vision becomes fuzzy, and lumping is assured.
Yet Bilbo sees the distinctions, the different points of emphasis, even the different background beliefs. For him, the simple “ID = Creationism” is just that ““ too simple. So he explores.
It’s hard to minimize a point that is minimal, especially when the trivia is miscast.
I think all humans have a tendency to read “design” into the world. But one the advantages I have is that I can take this tendency and funnel it through The DM, trying to control and test this tendency, always cognizant that I may be seeing something that is not there. Nick, because he so strongly denies design, is left off-guard in areas outside the guard post. Thus, while Nature is exorcised of all design, his human tendency seeks an outlet elsewhere – his fellow humans are viewed in conspiratorial terms. Like a special creationist, Nick thinks ID was “invented” (poofed!) into existence solely because of a court ruling. It was all a very intelligent design. Like a special creationist, he doesn’t see or acknowledge the decades of conceptual evolution sparked by a string of molecular symbols, nor does he see the conceptual precursor states that are strewn about everywhere. Nope, ID was “invented” like a PR parlor trick.
Nick fails to define “fundamentalism,” but he surely must cast a wide net. Nick is quick to point out the religious background of many ID people, yet he forgets that it is this very background that allows people to view any attempt to lump Johnson, Behe, Dembski, and Wells as “fundamentalists” with much skepticism.
Yet all of this means nothing. Even if his point is valid, it’s nothing more than old news. As such, it might be useful for the new edition of Trivia Pursuit, but it fails to explain where we are today and how we got here. Y’see, even if the movement “was born and bred within American fundamentalism,” it has long broken out of that mold. Nick can’t see this because seeing this is part of his job description. He hasn’t yet figured out that the “fundamentalists” can’t go back and claim ID for “fundamentalism” because it was/is their very arguments that cut the umbilical cord.
Here we have the either/or thinking. Nick seems to think the “secular-ish construals” are either valid or a tactical ploy. But why in the world can’t it be both? If anything, the best tactic is to use a valid, logical argument. Nick can’t wave away the logic of ID because people with a socio-political agenda figured out how to exploit it for their own tactical purposes.
Look, it’s easy to the turn the tables on Nick. He and the NCSE champion the neutral-ish construals of ID criticism, a form of criticism that makes no judgment about the existence of God or truth of religion. Is the neutral-ish construal a tactical decision on the part of Nick and his political organization? Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and an army of type C critics shout, “YES!” Nick’s allies have outed his tactics. But so what? What matters is whether Nick’s neutral-ish position is valid. I happen to think it is. That he uses it as a tactic is irrelevant to this insight.
Thus, while Nick takes my position and dismisses it as a disingenuous tactic, I see his tactic but acknowledge the validity of his position. And while I split people like Nick and Eugenie away from the New Atheist Movement, Nick continues to insist that we are all lumped together as puppets in the ID Movement. Readers are invited to ponder the differences.
There it is.
Here Nick is talking about”¦..us. So y’see, we’re either Creationists or Confused. Surprise, surprise. Most ID critics come to the table with their stereotypes firmly in place, believing that all ID proponents are either stupid (confused); deluded (confused); and/or dishonest. The purpose of coming to the table is then twofold: a) Defeat The Enemy and b) Confirm the Stereotype.
All else follows. >>
There is some even more serious explaining for NM to do.
What are we to conclude when, having been cogently and repeatedly corrected on the record FOUR years ago, NM is still willfully dancing wrong but strong?
GEM of TKI
PS: The “answer” as just linked:
>> Stickin’ with ID
“Hey Mike, since your views about Intelligent Design are so different from mainstream ID, why do you insist on calling them ‘ID’? Why don’t you come up with a new name?” For those who have these questions, I provide you my reasons.
1. It is logical to hypothesize ‘intelligent design’ when hypothesizing about the first life forms that were designed by an intelligence.
2. The basic idea of ‘intelligent design’ was hatched in the context of the origin of life.
3. Because there is no rigorous theory of ID, there is a good degree of plasticity associated with the concept. I view, and have always viewed, Intelligent Design as a part of a larger teleological viewpoint that extends back to the Ancient Greeks. This view is supported by mainstream university professors. On the other hand, Ken Miller asserts that ID was used as a reaction to Darwin:
4. If I were to change names, this would be viewed by many critics as an attempt to “evolve ID” for socio-political purposes. By retaining the label ‘ID,’ I am clearly acknowledging that I do not think my views deserve a place in the science classroom (as a Federal Court has ruled).
5. It’s too late ““ the book is almost ready for the printer (okay, that one was just a shameless plug).
Now, someone may not agree with my reasons. Fine. But what they would need to show is that my reasons are unreasonable. >>
F/N 3: Luskin weighs in, underscoring that the “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” labelling is a willfully malicious talking point, maintained drumbeat style in the teeth of patient and repeated correction.
remember, folks, this is all the same old same old, from FOUR and more years ago:
>> Casey Luskin Says:
February 25th, 2007 at 11:51 pm
Hmmm….I hadn’t been back to this thread since I first posted. I made one a comment which was on the topic of this thread, but then Nick Matzke of the NCSE immediately starts talking about something irrelevant–asserting I support “special creation” of humans and apes and then purporting to tell people about my personal religious views. Why did Nick do that? It’s because the NCSE has an “always-bring-it-back-to-religion-but-don’t-talk-about-the-real-issues” strategy. For the lurkers watching, Nick ‘s behavior should tell you something.
Nick wrote: “Luskin’s objections to the evidence for the common ancestry of apes and humans are consistently pitiful.” I’ll repeat something for the group I wrote to Nick in an e-mail a while back:
“Come on Nick, why do we have to use invectives here? We can be friendly and just use arguments.”
It’s saddening that Nick has to behave like this, as Nick then wrote: “he clearly believes in the separate ancestry of humans because his reading of the Bible tells him so in Genesis”
Actually, the truth is that in 2005, Nick made similar false claims when he purported to represent my viewpoint, and I responded to them on the IDEA Center website at http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1364 In this response to Nick, I wrote:
You should all read that page if you have time–it’s very revealing to show how Nick purports to represent what people believe, and then fails to retract it even when he knows it is false.
Yes, I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe that Genesis disbars the possibility that humans share might common ancestry with other species. Genesis is not relevant to this discussion, because I think that the data give me no compelling reason to accept human common ancestry with apes. I base my views upon the fossil evidence, and the lack of conclusive and compelling arguments from the molecular data.
Nick, why do you treat me like this and misrepresent my position? I argue using evidence and you respond by claiming that I’m wedded to some particular interpretation of Genesis where humans cannot share common ancestry with apes. Your immediate statement of false claims makes it clear that you have some deep, internal dislike of me. Am I correct?
Comment by Casey Luskin — February 25, 2007 @ 11:51 pm >>
In short, the drumbeat repetition of smearing talking points — even in 2007, the matter was being recycled form corrections stubbornly ignored in 2005 — is WILLFUL.
GEM of TKI
Why should we expect anything else? Being surprised at the intellectual dishonesty of the anti-ID crowd is like being surprised when a rattlesnake eats a mouse. It’s what they DO. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to over the last 8 years or so.
A rattlesnake is not morally governed; a man is.
For a man to live like that [i.e. like a conscienceless predator], is a sad degradation of the man.
One to be pitied, and to be called to repentance, a wholehearted change of heart and mind leading to an amended way of life.
GEM of TKI
I agree completely. Romans 1:18-22 pertains. This isn’t about intellect, it’s about will. And for whatever reason, a lot of these people are bent, bent, bent.
Actually, I’ve noticed, and it could certainly be my lack of communication skills playing into this, but even in discussions about reason, I can’t seem to get any traction. Do you suppose they are “smart” enough not to even get on that road, knowing where it will lead? Or maybe it’s an empiricist leaning that just ignores reason and what can be known from that. Reason never seems to count as evidence even though sense experience is unreliable and reason always is. Not to mention that the scientific method uses inductive and abductive reasoning all the time. Ah well, it’s interesting in a way but nothing to obsess over.