Intelligent Design

Shrill screeds best evidence for Darwinism?: I guess so …

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Someone recently brownbagged me this: Apparently, a shrill screed has been accepted for the science journal Gene on “Intelligent design and biological complexity”, announcing that

Europe so far blissfully seems to have remained relatively immune to the intellectual virus named “intelligent design”. This virus certainly is a problem in the country in which I have lived over the last thirty years, the United States, where about 40% of the people are said to believe that evolution never took place, that evolution is just a theory, not a fact, and a wrong theory at that. To give themselves an edge, the “creationists” – the dominant stripe of anti-evolutionists in the United States — have decided some years ago (Pennock, 2003) to dress up in academic gear and to present themselves as scholars who rise in defense of a legitimate alternative scientific theory, intelligent design. Clearly, in the US it is not sufficient to laugh off this disguise. Creationists have proven to exert a sometimes decisive influence on the American political process and thereby on world history. Their educational and political militancy, linked to erroneous beliefs, are weighty reasons to keep them in check.

It goes on. And on. And on, actually.

Well, if this is Gene‘s idea of science, Darwinism is clearly in a steep decline. If I did not know that already, I sure would now.

Essentially, they don’t have much evidence that Darwinism is true. So they must denounce anyone who doubts it.

If you want to know what intelligent design theory is really about, read tech guru George Gilder. Why be ignorant when information is free?

By the way: Thanks a zillion to all the people who bust a gut doing research into book titles, in connection with my two previous posts.

There is a career for you in the marketing sector of the book publishing industry. You need to be aware of the two-drink minimum, but apart from that …

Titles are a fine art. I should know. I came up with Faith@Science, By Design or by Chance? and Post-Darwinist, all pretty good. But it was a lot of work, especially on a one-drink maximum.

For those just joining us, pour yourselves a drink. In two  previous posts, I had said that I know Darwin doesn’t really matter if Michael Shermer must write a book claiming he does SO matter.

It’s amazing how much research got done on the word “Matters” in book titles. Someone can probably use it somewhere.

But I don’t see any reason to change my view that if Darwin really mattered, no one would be urging the point in a book title, when the ID controversy is actually hot, hot, hot.

23 Replies to “Shrill screeds best evidence for Darwinism?: I guess so …

  1. 1
    sophophile says:

    It’s amazing how much research got done on the word “Matters” in book titles. Someone can probably use it somewhere.

    Technology is a wonderful thing:

    1. Type “www.amazon.com” into browser and hit return. (5 seconds)
    2. Select “Search Books”. (5 seconds)
    3. Type “Matters” into the search box and hit return. (5 seconds)
    4. Page through results, cutting and pasting titles into the UD comment window. (a few minutes)

    Total time: 5-6 minutes.

    But I don’t see any reason to change my view that if Darwin really mattered, no one would be urging the point in a book title, when the ID controversy is actually hot, hot, hot.

    You still haven’t explained why the same reasoning doesn’t apply to a book titled “Children Matter”.

    But I don’t see any reason to change my view that if children really mattered, no one would be urging the point in a book title.

    Do you really want to commit yourself to a premise which yields such obviously nonsensical results?

  2. 2
    O'Leary says:

    sophophile: If you’ve got the time for all that you have described, you should definitely be in marketing.

    None of it is germane to the fact that Shermer’s book would not have been titled around “why Darwin matters” unless there is serious doubt about that fact.

    Frankly, I am bored with this topic and will delete future posts on it. Most blog readers will want to hear about issues around ACTUAL evidence for Darwin’s theory. Anyone got some?

  3. 3
    bFast says:

    This article sure sheds light on the “dispassionate” state of the journals, doesn’t it? Like, no wonder the research from IDers doesn’t find a journal to publish in.

    In truth, I think that there needs to be a formally peer reviewew ID journal. I suspect that there are a reasonable number of ID centric peers who could review each other’s work.

    BTW, I didn’t want to spend the $30. I would presume that there is some attempt at a serious case for an NDE model of biological complexity made in this article. It would be inconceivable if there weren’t some meat to support this rant.

  4. 4
    Carlos says:

    I would guess that a specialty, ID-centric journal would be regarded as less prestigious than a journal widely read across many different fields, e.g. Science or Nature.

    Are ID articles regularly turned down at the big-name journals or even by the second-tier journals? Have Behe or Dembski considered filing, or filed, grievances against the editorial boards?

  5. 5
    John A. Davison says:

    The Darwinian gelding is not worth kicking any more. It is far and away the most failed hypothesis in the history of experimental and descriptive science. It was founded on the faulty assumption that evolution had an identifiable testable cause. The Darwnians even gave that cause a name. They called it Natural Selection. The early physicists also had a cause. They named their cause the Ether. The chemists named their cause Phlogiston. None of these causes ever existed. They are all figments of the human imagination which has no apparent limits.

    Organic evolution no more has an exogenous cause than does the development of the ovum into the newborn. The only role for the environment in both ontogeny and phylogeny was to provide a suitable milieu for those transformations to take place.

    The amniotic fluid that surrounds the developing mammalian embryo is not salty but is, like fresh water, low in ionic strength, like the fresh-water ponds in which our ancestral amphibians developed just as their amphibian descendents still do today. Just as the ancestal ocean is now trapped inside our bodies as our blood, so the ancestral environment in which we once developed is now also contained inside the female body as the amniotic fluid. Tha mammalian fetus was swimming before he ws born, literally skinny-dipping! And the placenta was his gill.

    A book that most certainly needs writing is the one with the title “Evolution Really Matters.” An even better title would be “Evolution Really Mattered” because, of course –

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  6. 6
    sophophile says:

    If you’ve got the time for all that you have described, you should definitely be in marketing.

    I guess you missed the part where I explained that it took 5-6 minutes total.

    None of it is germane to the fact that Shermer’s book would not have been titled around “why Darwin matters” unless there is serious doubt about that fact.

    Let’s see how your fellow ID supporters feel about Darwin’s importance. Phillip Johnson evidently felt Darwin mattered enough to write books entitled Darwin on Trial and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. William Dembski edited the collection Darwin’s Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement, and wrote the foreword to What Darwin Didn’t Know. Behe’s book is called Darwin’s Black Box. Cornelius Hunter wrote two books entitled Darwin’s God and Darwin’s Proof.

    Perhaps after convincing them that Darwin doesn’t matter you can get back to us.

    Most blog readers will want to hear about issues around ACTUAL evidence for Darwin’s theory.

    Okay — how about a discussion of evolutionary theory’s successful prediction of sex ratios?

  7. 7
    gpuccio says:

    I have started to read the whole article, and I think I will complete the task if I can, because it is really an interesting (and weird) experience! Meanwhile, I had to stop at the following, because I really couldn’t believe what I was reading:

    “Is biological evolution a theory? One concept of what is a theory has
    been formulated as “some set of hypotheses that have been confirmed by
    empirical evidence” (Svensson, 2005). Let us watch out: “hypothesis”
    implies uncertainty; “confirmation” implies probable correctness.
    According to the definition, a theory would be an uncertain conceptual
    edifice that has been shown to be probably valid. This probability could
    however vary from moderate to very high. The definition thus contains a
    potential for self-contradiction. The concepts to which it extends would all
    have to be characterized as uncertain (as “hypotheses”), and yet, at the same
    time, some of these concepts could be virtually assured to be true because
    very amply confirmed. To avoid the contradiction, it seems advisable to
    include an obligatory measure of uncertainty in the definition of “theory”, as
    has been done in the following dictionary definition (Webster’s New World
    Dictionary, 2nd ed., William Collins, Cleveland, Ohio, 1976): “a formulation
    of apparent relationships or underlying principles of certain observed
    phenomena which has been verified to some degree”. “To some degree”:
    this aspect of uncertainty of any theory seems to be in keeping with the use
    of the word theory for example in “theory of relativity”, since the theory of
    relativity indeed seems to continue to be on the look-out for further
    confirmation. For many decades, now – and this is worth pondering — no
    biologist in his right mind has been out to confirm the existence of biological
    evolution, given the overwhelming amount of evidence and of kinds of
    evidence in its favor. Thus, biological evolution as a process is now too
    certain for being considered a theory.”

    That’s incredible, really beyond any imaginable limit. I think Einstein must be screaming in his grave. So, theory of relativity may be still called a theory, because it still needs confirmation, while evolution is, as all know, a fact! And why? Because: “no biologist in his right mind has been out to confirm the existence of biological evolution”. What a sad statement about biologists!
    This guy (the author of the article) must really be in a deep state of confusion regarding the process of knowledge, the meaning of the word “theory”, the meaning of the word “fact”, and probably many other fundamental concepts. I usually don’t believe in polemics and fights, I think that discussions about knowledge should always be respectful and serene. But if this is the cultural level of approach to the problem, we are really in a very sad situation…

  8. 8
    Bob OH says:

    I would presume that there is some attempt at a serious case for an NDE model of biological complexity made in this article.

    There is a discussion of this, yes.

    Bob

  9. 9
    tribune7 says:

    sophophile — Okay — how about a discussion of evolutionary theory’s successful prediction of sex ratios?

    And how does predicting sex ratios of ants and wasps according to their reproductive traits predict changes to their genome or show descent from a common ancestor via RM/NS?

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    I find it interesting that Denyse’s original post, on Michael Shermer’s book contained a lot of content for discussion and yet nearly all the discussion has focused on Shermer’s title. Denyse did bring it up, I agree but to show that Shermer’s use of the word is ironic. Does whether the word “matters” matter is a silly argument. I would suggest that everyone ignore the title and focus on what really matters. The endless examples of the usage of a common word such as “matter” in a book title seems more of an attempt to impugn Denyse on a really peripheral matter than a serious discussion on anything.

    I think Shermer would have never written his book if there were no controversy or that Darwin was based on any rock solid evidence. There would be no need to. Most books on this topic are written to their respective echo chambers. For those outside the echo chambers the Darwinists have the most to lose since most in our culture have been inculcated with Darwinism in school and accept it not because they understand it but because they think it must be true because it is taught everywhere as basic science.

    Folks, that is what this website and the fight is all about. To allow a criticism of Darwinism into the education system. When that is done there will be a book a few years later titled “Why Intelligent Design matters” or “Does Intelligent Design really matter?” And I am not sure if either book will matter because people are intelligent enough to decide for themselves if they are presented the arguments and counter arguments in their education.

  11. 11
    Benjii says:

    The quote should’ve been written like this:

    “Europe so far blissfully seems to have remained relatively unimmune to the intellectual virus named “darwinism”. This virus certainly is a problem in the country in which I have lived over the last thirty years, the United States, where about 40% of the people are said to believe that evolution never took place, that evolution is just a theory, not a fact, and a wrong theory at that(Why bother, they may be correct?!). To give themselves an edge, the “darwinists” – the dominant stripe of evolutionists in the United States — have decided some years ago (Pennock, 2003) to dress up in academic gear and to present themselves as scholars who rise in defense of a legitimate scientific theory, philosophical darwinian materialism. Clearly, in the US it is perfectly sufficient to laugh off this disguise. The Darwhiners have proven to exert a sometimes decisive influence on the American political process and thereby on world history. Their educational and political militancy, linked to erroneous beliefs, are weighty reasons to keep them in check.”

    Re-paraphrased from the “Genes” scientific journal

  12. 12
    John A. Davison says:

    I wouldn’t dirty my fingers writing a book about the Darwinian hoax. My published papers and those of my sources have already done that many times over.

    The truth is not subject to debate or even to discussion, only to discovery and disclosure. Get with the program. You don’t see people talking about Phlogiston or the Ether do you? Then why oh why must one give any credence whatsoever to the biggest intellectual disaster of all time?

    “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so little to so many”
    after Winston Churchill

    “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
    George Bernard Shaw

    I know George. I am doing my level best.

    “First make yourself unpopular, then people will take you seriously.”
    Konrad Adenauer

    Nonsense Konrad. I already tried that. All it does is get me banned, vilified or worse, ignored.

    “He that I am reading seems always to have the most force.”
    Montaigne

    So don’t read so much. Instead –

    “Study Nature not books.”
    Louis Agassiz

    That is exactly what everyone of my sources did and did exceedingly well.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  13. 13
    tinabrewer says:

    I wonder what readers here have to say about the phenomenon which is currently taking place in the blogosphere with regard to the ID/Darwinism debate: nearly all of the postings I read here declare with supreme confidence that the matter is nearly settled in favor of ID, that its just a matter of time, etc. whereas when I visit all of the anti-ID sites, with as much confidence it is constantly announced that there is absolutely nothing to ID and that its a dead horse we shouldn’t bother whipping. What is the psychology behind THIS interesting similarity?

  14. 14
    John A. Davison says:

    The Darwinian gelding died in 1873 when Mivart published “The Genesis of Species.” Why people keep kicking it is beyond me.

    “Science commits suicide when she adopts a creed.”
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    That, incidentally, is the sole frontispiece to Leo Berg’s Nomogenesis, in my opinion the greatest single evolutionary tome ever published. Once of these decades they will be discussion Bergian evolution. Trust me, but of course you can’t, can you?

    “A past evolution is indeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  15. 15
    Mark Frank says:

    Re #11. Tina – isn’t this absolutely standard for any conflict? In any war both sides claim they will win eventually almost upto the point they are wiped out – remember comical Ali? Being seen as the eventual winner boosts the moral of your troops, demoralises the opposition, and helps recruit others to your cause.

  16. 16
    Tom English says:

    Tina,

    “What is the psychology behind THIS interesting similarity?”

    Great question. UD and PT seem to be flip sides of one coin. I often think of William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” — especially “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

    The full poem is at http://www.poemhunter.com/p/m/poem.asp?poem=14033 .

  17. 17
    jerry says:

    Tina,

    Echo chambers explain everything. There are small groups on either side who essentially talk only to each other. A recent phenomenon has been the appearance here of a few brave souls such as Darrell Falk and Allen MacNeill who have credentials and espouse the Darwinian philosophy. They are in our echo chamber. They don’t stay long but I hope they come back. We should treat them nice when they come even if they seem to espouse what we think are contradictory conclusions.

    In my last 100 or so social outings; dinners, parties, shooting the bull sessions, plays, concerts, sporting events, fishing trips etc. the topic of evolution came up just three times and only briefly. No one but my self criticized Darwinism. No one seems to care and they are probably being polite to me so as not to offend me. I would guess that everyone at these social outings has been taught Darwinism in school or understands what it is about. Darwinism is a very simple, very plausible explanation for a lot of natural phenomena so it is easy to extrapolate to more complex things. For most, they are not aware of its weaknesses. It is just not something they ever think of. It is what the Intelligent Design movement has to fight against, not just the intransigence of the Darwinists.

    Until we realize we are only affecting a very small number of people, we should be less cocky about our successes. Especially given Dover and Kansas.

  18. 18
    tribune7 says:

    Tina — what it means is that the matter is not settled.

  19. 19
    tribune7 says:

    OK, John

    Who is Leo Berg and what is Nomogenesis?

  20. 20
    John A. Davison says:

    tribune7 in post # 16

    I reserve the right to refuse to respond to your question on the grounds that it should not be necessary. Sorry about that.

    A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  21. 21
    gpuccio says:

    Dear Moderator(s),

    Just to understand: I posted a comment on this thread about two days ago, and it has not appeared. Was it not received, or blocked for some reason? (I don’t think there was anything questionable in it, but I could be wrong).
    If you prefer, you can e-mail me (gpuccio@neomedia.it)

    Thank you,
    Giuseppe Puccio

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    Giuseppe,

    Your comment is #7. Yes, it is amazing what biologists will say or what journals will allow to be printed. Some have become corrupted and political.

    Evolution is a fact in the sense that there has been a steady increase in the complexity of life forms over time reaching humans as the most complex. What is not known is the mechanism for the origination of all the species. Many species may have arisen by natural selection but for a very large percentage there is no evidence how they started. So in reality for much of evolution there are no proven hypotheses, only speculation. But in the journals and in the textbooks the mechanism for the origin of new species is treated as a certainty and is identified as Neo Darwinism.

    Sounds dishonest to me. The fact that most do not speak out at this dishonesty says something about the scientists in the field.

  23. 23
    gpuccio says:

    Jerry,

    thank you for your comments. I agree with you on most things. I just would like to specify better my point of view about the meaning of some critical concepts:
    A fact, for me, is something which is observed, consistently or anyway under controlled and if possible reproducible conditions, and which is described unequivocally. Ideally, a fact should never change, although our observation and description of facts is not perfect and therefore subject to error or imprecision.
    A theory, on the contrary, is a product of the human mind, whose purpose is to explain known facts and, if possible, to predict new facts. A theory originates as a hypothesis trying to connect and explain known facts, and usually involves the use of abstract tools which are exquisitely mental, like mathematics and logic. Hypotheses postulate abstract concepts like casual relations. A hypothesis, if proved to some degree by facts, can be called a theory.
    Theories have different degrees of importance and of acceptance by the scientific world. The theories of gravitation and relativity, as well as the quantum theory, are of critical importance to our scientific understanding of the world, and are widely accepted. The various forms of string theories are certainly important, but not universally accepted.
    Even if consistently proven by scientific observations (facts) through centuries, a theory always remains a theory, and can never become a fact, because facts and theories are, by definition, different things. Even Newton’s theory of gravitation is still, thanks God, a theory, and that in no way diminishes its importance.
    In principle, any theory can be at some point proven wrong, or incomplete, or be formulated in a more general way or in a new context. That’s what happened to Newton’s theory of gravitation when Einstein formulated his theory of general relativity. Usually, an accepted theory is reformulated because of the emergence of new facts, or of a new intellectual context. In any case, the facts which originated a theory remain true, even if the theory is proved wrong.
    So, the theory of evolution is, in the best case, a theory, more or less proven by facts, and in the worst case (which I would favour), a hypothesis largely unconfirmed by any fact. Evolution, in any of its multiple incarnations (random mutation plus natural selection, punctuated equilibrium, and so on) is always a model trying to explain some known facts. It can never, by definition, be a fact.
    Facts are, for example: the existence of biological beings, all the reliable observations about them, including what is known about their genetic material, the observed similarities in genetic material and/or in morphology suggesting continuity (but, again, facts only suggest hypotheses, and continuity is anyway a hypothesis).
    Darwinism and neo-darwinism are theories. ID, in its various forms, is a theory. Confrontation between different theories trying to explain the same facts is absolutely physiological and constructive in science. I would say that it is the essence of science.
    Finally, a last comment about explanations and predictions. As said before, a theory is trying to explain known facts. That’s the way it originates. A theory, once formulated, can, in some cases, predict new observable facts. If such facts are then observed, they can be said to give further support to the theory (that was the case, for example, with the theory of relativity). There is no doubt that a successful prediction is a strong argument in support of a theory. But we should speak of prediction only if a theory predicts new facts, still not observed or known at the time the theory is formulated. In all other cases, the theory is only trying to explain known facts.

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