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