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Michael Ruse Reviews The Edge of Evolution


The whole review can be found for free here.

One of the first things to note is repetition of a common fallacy about ID being illegal to teach due to the Dover decision. Michael writes:

IDT has been remarkably successful. George W. Bush is one among many who have stated flatly that it should be taught in schools alongside evolutionary biology. Although it is illegal to do so – another court case in Dover, Penn., in 2005 ruled that it, too, violates the separation of church and state – estimates are that at least 20 per cent of American schools already teach it. One suspects that it is not entirely unknown in biology classes north of the border, either.

It’s illegal to teach it in Dover, PA. One federal district court judge does not a federal law make, Michael. Not only is it illegal to teach it in Dover, it’s illegal to even mention it. No one was teaching it in Dover (another common fallacy). ID was mentioned just once in a brief optional statement at the beginning of biology class saying other theories of evolution exist aside from the one (Darwinian) that would be taught in the class and that students could, on their own recognizance, consult a book in the school library if they were interested in learning more about different theories. That, in the opinion of one district judge, was too much. But the fact of the matter is he’s just one judge in one district, his decision is only enforced on the Dover school district, and his decision was never appealed to a higher court in the federal circuit where you’d at least have three higher court judges weighing in on it instead of just one (of the lowest possible rank) federal judge.

But that isn’t the worst decision by far. In another federal court district containing Cobb County in Georgia it was ruled by a different federal judge that it was illegal to say that Darwinian evolution was a theory, not a fact. No mention of alternative theories of evolution was made in Cobb County. A simple sticker was placed in a biology textbook advising students that the section on evolution was theory, not fact, and should be critically considered. So what we have in Cobb County is effectively a law against questioning Darwinian evolution. Is that how science works now? Evidently if you’re a Darwin dogmatist that is indeed how it works. If someone has the audacity to question your dogma put them in jail! I suppose that’s progress. In the old days questioning church dogma got you burned at the stake. Now you just get fined or locked up, blackballed, and denied tenure. We should count our blessings I guess.

In yet another huge boner Michael writes:

If God really does have to get involved in His creation every time something complex needs producing, why does He not get involved in His creation whenever something simple but awful needs avoiding? Many genetic diseases are the product of just one molecule gone wrong. Surely an all-powerful, all-loving God could have taken five minutes off from creating the irreducibly complex to tweak those rogue molecules back into line?

This isn’t a scientific argument. Michael is invoking his idea of what a good God should be doing and using that to support a scientific fantasy about chance & necessity being the author of life. Let’s stick to science, Professor Ruse. We know for a fact that intelligent agency is cabable of goal-oriented tinkering with heritable traits in all kinds of life from bacteria to humans – it’s called genetic engineering. We know that such tinkering can accomplish things that unintelligent natural mechanisms alone have not been observed doing. In essence what we have is the sure knowledge that goal-oriented intelligent agency can tinker with genomes in decidedly ungradual ways not constrained by a requirement for functional intermediary steps versus only an imagined capacity for chance & necessity to do likewise. Surely any objective observer would at least not rule out a known capable mechanism in favor of an imagined mechanism. And that’s being kind to the imagined mechanism – the known capable mechanism should be considered the most likely suspect until such time that one or the other can be definitively shown to be true or false.

Ruse is very short on science, uses fallacies instead of facts, and draws on religious presumptions to support scientific hypotheses. In other words his review is par for the course. He argues like the typical Darwinian dogmatist. I wonder if a serious review of Behe’s book is ever going to materialize? Don’t hold your breath while waiting… court decisions, theological arguments, attempts to divide and conquer by alienating YECs from ID, and hand waving about imagined capabilities of unintelligent processes appears to be the best they can present.

As expected, there is no "right of reply" for Behe in "science" journals. (See #18 above). So Behe is publishing his replies elsewhere. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/06/the_propaganda_against_behe.html http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNKMTTP938HTSPI MatthewTan
As per my comment #7, here is Behe's reply to the same fallacious point made by Coyne:
At some points in his review, it’s hard to know whether Professor Coyne simply has a poor memory, or is so upset with the book that he gets confused. He writes “For a start, let us be clear about what Behe now accepts about evolutionary theory. He has no problem with a 4.5billionyearold Earth, nor with evolutionary change over time .... and that all species share common ancestors.” “Now accepts”? I made that plain in Darwin’s Black Box over ten years ago. Throughout the controversy of the past decade over ID, almost every time my work had been cited in a newspaper or journal, it has been noted that I think common ancestry is true. Yet apparently that comes as a surprise to Coyne.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNKMTTP938HTSPI Do these 'reviewers' even read the book, or just each others' reviews? Charlie
DaveScot, That sounds reasonable to my sense of fair play. After all, the blind watchmaker pundits do claim that non-intelligent matter is capable of generating intelligence on this planet. Both sides have a, probably unknowable, something in back of their chains of thought. I guess "who designed the designer" is an equally valid question for both. This should have been obvious to me, but my philosophical bias probably got in the way. mike1962
Information is neither matter nor energy. It is metaphysical by very nature. Only intelligence can recognize it’s existence and discern it’s meaning.
As "recognition" and "desernment" are terms that describe the activity of intelligence, ultimately, only intelligence can recognize the existance of anything, or descern its meaning. This is least so with information, as computers "discern the meaning" of information all of the time. We clearly do not understand information, that is true. We can recognize some of it, but doing a good job of defining it, or establishing its characteristics is proving most difficult. As living cells are information-driven engines, we must come to a clear understanding of the characteristics of information. DaveScot, "[N]o one knows the origin of matter or intelligence and that if chance pundits don’t have to explain the origin of matter the ID pundits shouldn’t have to explain the origin of intelligence." This appears reasonable to me. bFast
mike1962 I'm saying no one knows the origin of matter or intelligence and that if chance pundits don't have to explain the origin of matter the ID pundits shouldn't have to explain the origin of intelligence. Both are unknowns and quite possibly unknowable. All we know is that both matter and goal-oriented intelligence that can manipulate matter are both extant today. DaveScot
Davescot, "Let’s just surmise that the origin of intelligence is the same as the origin of matter." So to clarify for guys like me, you're surmising that the origin of intelligence precedes the Big Bang? mike1962
Borne said: "Information is neither matter nor energy. It is metaphysical by very nature. Only intelligence can recognize it’s existence and discern it’s meaning." I don't disagree, but have a minor nit. I think, rather than making information metaphysical, what you're saying makes information phenomenological. In any case, that would mean that information can't exist without intelligence to create the phenomena. NoeticGuru
mike1962 If materialists don't have to explain the origin of matter then I don't see why ID should have to explain the origin of intelligence. Let's just surmise that the origin of intelligence is the same as the origin of matter. DaveScot
Yes, I know, the ID luminaries have largely taken the view that detecting design should be irrespective of whether the cause is known or not. But I, personally (admittedly very dim witted by comparison), am not so sure about this anymore. It seems like the answer depends on the nature of intelligence. Is it merely matter in a particular arragement or not? If so, how could the first intelligence come to exist? If not, what is it’s nature then?
Wow, I have not read such genuine philosophical thinking from you before. If intelligence is a mere mechanism, then computers (will some day) have intelligence. My experience with AI suggests that we're really dealing more with "some day" than with "have". I have certainly never heard any programmer suggest that a program has achieved "consciousness". What we know so far is that "amount of knowledge" isn't the key to consciousness, as it is clear that the internet contains more facts than any person knows. What is also clear is that it is not trivial for a conscious intelligence to manufacture conscious intelligence. (It is not clear that it can be done at all.) However, lets say that it can be done. Lets say that computers eventually become self-aware, conscious, intelligent beings. Does that prove that man is the product of a consciousness like ourselves, an intelligent force that is born, lives and dies? It certainly would prove that this is a possibility. However, we still have that nasty matter of the big bang to contend with -- the fact that the universe, to the best of our knowledge, has a beginning. Because the universe has a beginning, we cannot have an infinite chain where the designer of us was designed by a predecessor designer who was designed by a pre... So either a conscious, intelligent being must be able to spontaneously come about, or conscious intelligence must somehow preceed the big bang. As current physics understands it, that means that the intelligence must preceed time itself. bFast
MatthewTan Yes the fight over at amazon.com is really funny. Few darwinists are there who seem to spend all their time to dispute any positive review of the book. Specially the guy named John Kwok, you can tell he's really angry :D IDist
DaveScot, "Surely any objective observer would at least not rule out a known capable mechanism in favor of an imagined mechanism." The problem, however, is that they have trouble with the regress regarding our intelligence. They want to know where the putative intelligence from whence we sprang came from, and so forth. At some point you have to deal with an initial intelligence. Yes, I know, the ID luminaries have largely taken the view that detecting design should be irrespective of whether the cause is known or not. But I, personally (admittedly very dim witted by comparison), am not so sure about this anymore. It seems like the answer depends on the nature of intelligence. Is it merely matter in a particular arragement or not? If so, how could the first intelligence come to exist? If not, what is it's nature then? Why does it matter? Because the "imagined mechanism" to which you refer is no more "imagined" than a putative intelligence in the cosmic past. Neither are empirically verifiable thus far. Blind watchmaker devotees say we are anintelligence that has arisen independently, and you say that we are not, or may not be, and that we should assume than an intelligence preceded us based on the fact that we are intelligent and can design things. There's no logical reason to accept one over the other on that basis alone. Am I missing something, Dave? mike1962
"...others have to spend time refuting it." Indeed, who has refuted it? Thus far no one. Certainly not Ruse. And if ID were as patently, obviously wrong, as Ruse and cie. boldly proclaim, why should anyone need to refute it in the 1st place? No one sanely tries to refute 2+2=4. They keep trying to refute ID. Not because there is anything wrong with it's tenets but because they simply don't like it. But refuting ID adequately is as easy as refuting the existence of mind (information is a mind thing). Can't be done. And all attempts to refute mind imply mind. Do the math... Borne
You all have missed the most important part of the review: "I know my fellow evolutionists will like the book, because now they have the excuse to write yet more articles against IDT. For myself, with so many important issues waiting for attention in our society, I am just a bit depressed that anyone would think that something like IDT is worth pushing or that it gains so much attention others have to spend time refuting it." Is it just me or does this sound like Ruse is essentially saying, "shut up, I don't want to talk about it, you're just stupid"? johnnyb
PaV says: "Only the “Believers” will be totally blind to what is patently obvious." This is the truth. Once the "no god allowed in the door" mentality is swallowed and assimilated by a person, they become incapable of seeing the whole truth about nature. A mental block is engraved upon their minds so deeply that nothing but a very rude awakening can shake it off. ID inferences are made by every human, everyday. They are intuitively made and accepted as obvious. For example, you walk through a forest and come upon a group of stones piled in such a way that the pile makes 4 walls, a doorway and a floor. There is also a series of uniformly shaped planks of wood on top. You automatically infer that the pile is an intelligently designed construct because you already know that cabins do not occur naturally. That's abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation) and is used everyday by forensic anthropologists, archaeologists and indeed by every one of us. See abductive reasoning "Under this principle, an explanation is valid if it is the best possible explanation of a set of known data. The best possible explanation is often defined in terms of simplicity and elegance (see Ockham's razor). Abductive validation is common practice in hypothesis formation in science. " The above example is simple. DNA/RNA is not so simple. It is nature. And it looks uncannily like human engineered factory operations - only superior by orders of magnitude. Q: So how can we adduce ID by looking at DNA? A: By examining it's information constructs, it's coordinated, concurrent information cut, copy, paste, correction and data transfer systems and it's inter operative, communications channels and protocols. Information is neither matter nor energy. It is metaphysical by very nature. Only intelligence can recognize it's existence and discern it's meaning. Symbolic languages do not arise by themselves. No more than human languages. They absolutely require intelligence because information does. Language implies symbolism. Symbols require intelligent definition and convention. Language also implies communication. Communication requires the sender/receiver paradigm and deciphering algorithms which in turn intrinsically require intelligence. There's no way out. Indeed, ID is patently obvious to all but they whose minds have been cut off from the obvious by methodological naturalism's embedded mind locking effects. NDE's mind side effects will no doubt become an example in cognisance-impairment psychological studies of the future. ;-) Borne
Interesting fight going on at Amazon "Edge of Evolution" Behe's discussions-comments page. I find the following quote noteworthy, written by somebody who called us "IDiots": Dear Mary, Intelligent Design (and other virulent flavors of Creationism) is alive and well not only in the United States, but in Canada, New Zealand, Austalia and South Africa too. Much to my amazement, Ken Miller noted in a talk he gave last spring at the American Museum of Natural History that nearly 40% of the British public are highly skeptic of evolution. So, unfortunately, this isn't just a peculiar American brand of intellectual nonsense (For more details, including some discussion of Islamic creationism, you can look at the online resources of the National Center for Science Education (www.ncseweb.org).). Appreciatively yours, John http://www.amazon.com/gp/discussionboard/discussion.html/ref=cm_blog_dp_db/002-1611024-5243226?ie=UTF8&pt=personalBlog&aid=PlogMyCustomersAgent&ot=customer&pd=1181101521.83&pid=PMCA3DGRQ0IO7KYQ2at1181101272&store=yourstore&cdThread=TxKPKII8BFYSFE&iid=A3DGRQ0IO7KYQ2&displayType=AmazonConnect MatthewTan
Who is Michael Ruse? Isn’t he the American Richard Dawkins?
He's a stealth Wedgie, and valuable informant to the ID proponents. Recall this amusing episode: Remarkable exchange between Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett Ruse co-edited a landmark book with Bill Dembski, entitled, Debating Design. scordova
Something interesting from Michael Ruse, Darwinist Michael Ruse acknowledges that: ‘It would indeed be very odd were I and others to simply characterize “science” as something which, by definition, is based on (methodological) naturalistic philosophy and hence excludes [intelligent design].’[51] In a speech given at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993, Ruse conceded that: ‘philosophically one should be sensitive to what I think history shows, namely, that evolution. . . involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically.’[52] Little wonder, then, that: ‘A central claim of the ID movement is that if science education is to be other than state-sponsored propaganda, a clear and principled distinction must be drawn between empirical science and the materialist philosophy that drives contemporary Darwinian theories of biological origins.’[53] [51] Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian be a Christian?, p. 101. [52] Michael Ruse, quoted by John Angus Campbell, ‘Intelligent Design, Darwinism, and Public Education Philosophy’, in Campbell & Meyer (ed.’s), Darwinism, Design, And Public Education, (Michigan State University Press, 2003), p. 30. [53] John Angus Campbell, op cit, p. xii. http://www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_idtheoryoverview.htm#_ednref51 MatthewTan
Behe gets published if it has nothing to do with ID. Behe does not get published if it is ID - even when Behe is answering challenges and accusations to his book/theory in those "peer-reviewed" journals. There is "no right of reply" here. In Singapore, the Government insists on the "right of reply" if something negative about the Government is published. You either conform to this Singapore law, or you withdraw from Singapore market. And all the major liberal Western publications decide to conform to this law to stay in the market. (They can't even accuse Singapore for restricting freedom of information - because the Law allows for the circulation of photocopies of the withdrawn or restricted newspapers/magazines). Maybe you guys in America should also insist on the "right of reply". *** There are only "Darwinists-reviewed" journals in real life. All "peer-reviewed" are "Darwinists-reviewed". *** MatthewTan
Just for my own information, is Behe having problems getting published in peer reviewed journals? Considering the swift dismissal in most of these reviews, and the overtones of anti-ID-scientists, I am wondering if Behe is even being taken seriously as a scientist. This will be a nother book to add to my list. I am finding it quite surprising how controversial this ID material is... Almost seems like I should be compelled to read it to stay in current events, not for mere pleasure. Have a good Monday guys. bork
Ruse's review is fairly pathetic. I've just begun reading Behe's book and it is quite clear that, just as in Darwin's Blacck Box, Behe once again examines evolution from a molecular biology point of view. His point of attack, if you will, is an organism (the malarial parasite) that has been well studied at a molecular level. He chooses the malarial parasite for the very scientific reason that there is more known, molecularly, about this parasite than any other rapidly generating organic system. You would think "scientists" would be interested in what Behe finds out. But, no, they seem interested only in calling Behe names and in nitpicking his mathematics here and there. I have yet to get much further, but suffice it to say, all reviewers to date have missed what is essentially Behe's main point: that when we examine "Darinism" at a molecular level, it turns out to be extremely limited in what it can do. I point out the molecular side of things because---reviewers to the one side---my hunch is that the educated reading public will find this book quite persuasive. Only the "Believers" will be totally blind to what is patently obvious. PaV
I believe the first amendment of the constitution states something to the effect: the Government shall make no law establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. By the Dover court mandating the teaching of only "atheistic" naturalism and prohibiting the solid counter points of the Theistic Philosophy, The Judge in Dover in reality made a law establishing a religion (atheism) while preventing the free exercise of another (Theism). It is extremely clear from the constitution that the Government has no right to dictate a "strictly atheistic" explanation in the science classroom and should remain staunchly neutral in the area of scientific inquiry! Contrary to popular opinion, Having two points of view in the science classroom stimulates the search for truth in students, while it also reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. Students are not idiots, as many parents can testify children are dangerously curious and will quickly master the strengths and weaknesses of each theory of origin. It is apparent that having such a environment in science class will make for students who are very good at critical thinking and this will make for much stronger scientists in the future. bornagain77
Would it be legal for a science teacher in Dover to send kids to the library to find a book that contains such theological arguments for evolution? Has Ruse written one? Did Charles Darwin? Yes. It's called "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." :-) joseg
I think it's interesting to note that Darwinist shout from their lofty perches that we need to look at science, but when they are presented with a good counter argument they resort to challenging the nature of God. Why pick on God, why should God always do it their way. What they are in fact saying is, if I were God I'd do it this way. That's just a funny was of saying I'd like to be God or think that I am God! vpr
"They claim no metaphysics are involved in their “science” but pull them out at will when deemed needful i.e. when they have nothing better to say." Yeah I noticed that as well. Funny how "religion has no place in science" is commonly uttered by them up until it serves as a useful rhetorical device to attack someone with. Can't say i'm too surprised though. Jason Rennie
"Surely an all-powerful, all-loving God could have taken five minutes off from creating the irreducibly complex to tweak those rogue molecules back into line?" Here is the most typical error of reason that atheists and Darwinists make ubiquitously. They claim no metaphysics are involved in their "science" but pull them out at will when deemed needful i.e. when they have nothing better to say. Of course the obvious thing here is that the atheist always creates god in his own image and then wonders why a real God doesn't act like his imaginary, pathetic little Santa Claus god. Worse - then they congratulate themselves for being smart. Which reminds one of something some one said a long time ago: "While boasting of their wisdom they became utter simpletons..." Borne
I think Ruse is worse than most. A vast majority of the time, he'll simply appeal to his status as a self-proclaimed Darwinist as though we were supposed to glean some meaningful content from it. He does it all the time -- in every article, and every interview I've ever read. It's kind of pathetic. NoeticGuru
Comments by Behe on his new book are available here: http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2007-06-13T14_11_59-07_00 GilDodgen
"But the spreading legend that needs to be nipped in the bud is this:" I've noticed that lately too. On another site, someone pointed out Behe's belief in common descent and pawned it off as 'Look! ID proponents are now saying that they believe in common descent!' - Stressing that it's a tactic, a change from the past, and likely insincere. The fact that ID doesn't demand a denial of common descent (though I'm sure there are IDers who do deny it) likely terrifies many who view darwinism as owned by people of their own philosophical worldview. Accepting all of 'their' data, but looking at it with a perspective, even assumption of design is entirely reasonable. But I have a feeling that many think, if science isn't a weapon exclusively available to pure naturalists/materialists, well - then what's the point of science? nullasalus
Not much to say about this one. It's mostly the same old 'IC has been refuted' - for which we can take Ruse's word. He includes a few cheap pot-shots ( "nutty", "silly" ), an interventionist strawmen and an appeal to what Ruse's God (if he had one) would have done. He mixes this with a little fear-mongering about the deadly ID, its "terrifying" ideas, and the creationists who are waiting in the wings for the defeat of Darwinism before making their real demands. But the spreading legend that needs to be nipped in the bud is this:
What does surprise me is how emphatic Behe now is in putting a distance between himself and the older Creationists. For a start, he stresses his commitment to evolution. He thinks the world of life is as old as is claimed by any more conventional biologist. He also wants to give natural processes of change a role in life's history.
Behe is saying nothing on this subject that he hasn't said all along. He has always accepted the geological timelines and the activity of NS and RM. He came to ID as a Darwin-believing biologist. Miller reviewed DBB and admitted that he and Behe share a common view of the evolutionary history of life on earth, including the fossil record and man's descent from apes. This is not a new admission or a retreat on Behe's part. If anything, he is far more audacious in his claims this time around and is making much bolder statements. Charlie
"..one circuit judge..." You mean one district judge. "...higher court in the federal district..." You mean a higher court in the federal circuit. Good points, though, about Dover just having a disclaimer, not actually teaching ID, and it being just a decision by a trial court. Chris

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