Tuesday, 12 June 2012

On the Evolutionary Road to Damascus 2

My original blog at Nature Network is due to disappear fairly soon, so I thought I would bring back one or two old posts. This week I am re-visiting a brief series of posts on evolution and the alternatives from 2008:



This is the second in my series of linked blog entries on my experience of being converted (or not) to intelligent design.

The first of the books I read was What's Darwin Got to do with it? by Robert Newman, John Wiester and Janet and Jonathan Moneymaker (I just love the polarity of the comments on Amazon). I mostly started with this as it was in friendly cartoon form (not unlike one of the Horrible Science books) so seemed a good way to pick up the main themes quickly.

I'm going to start with two points from here: what labels to use, and whether intelligent design has any scientific legitimacy.

The book is in the form of a friendly debate between two professors, and they start by ditching the terms creationism and evolution, in favour of intelligent design and darwinism. I half agree. They dump creationism because it's a loaded term, making you think of a young Earth, only 10,000 years old and a literal creation in six days. This, they imply, is garbage. So we'll adopt the less loaded intelligent design. Fine.

They dump evolution because they don't dispute the evolutionary process by natural selection on a small scale. Fine so far, but I can't accept the substitution of darwinism. To me, the 'ism' makes it sound like a religious belief - one of a strictly godless world where everything is mechanistic. That too is a loaded term. So I can't go along with the book here. I'll use a new term, evolutionary design (where the D word is in implied inverted commas), to encompass the full panoply of evolution.

Now some would say, there's no need to dispute this at all. It's 'obvious' that science shouldn't even consider the possibility of intelligent design. But I'll go along with the book in saying this isn't a good scientific viewpoint. You don't dismiss things arbitrarily because they are different. Of course this doesn't mean you can examine everything - nothing would ever get done if I expected equal time to be given to the great green Arklseizure theory, for instance. But intelligent design is rather less bizarre.

Specifically, I'd say intelligent design deserves examination, because it's a theory that works quite well be inference. This is, of course, Paley's 19th century argument about finding a watch and inferring a watchmaker. While this doesn't prove anything, it makes the concept worth considering. We can't dismiss inference in science - almost all cosmology is based on inference one way and another, for instance.

Note that this does NOT mean I accept that intelligent design should be taught in schools. There are lots of alternative theories that shouldn't come into the curriculum (e.g. alternatives to the big bang) because there just isn't time, and it's confusing at the level it's taught. Same here. The curriculum should mention that all scientific theories are current best understanding and likely to change, but should not waste time on the alternatives. However, the quite logical inference protects ID from being instantly discarded.

At this stage, then, 1 1/2 points to the book, 1/2 a point against it. In the next post I examine the key arguments and decide whether this book has changed my thinking.

3 comments:

  1. "Now some would say, there's no need to dispute this at all. It's 'obvious' that science shouldn't even consider the possibility of intelligent design. But I'll go along with the book in saying this isn't a good scientific viewpoint. You don't dismiss things arbitrarily because they are different."

    And yes, ID is "less loaded" than young earth creationism, and this I feel is a good thing, it makes the concept [or ^ assessment] of evolutionary theory a little more loaded. But better stated, I feel that it makes evolutionary theory 'holistic', in the sense that it now encompasses a more complete collection of tentative parameters.

    Addressing your first point, 'Different' yes, than evolutionary theory as postulated by Darwin in 1859, but more cohesive, in that it extends its reach, but 'less loaded' than YEC philosophy, and from my view, a more 'holistic' approach to an objective and non-coerced and inhibited approach as dictated presently by those who rule the day, AAAS et al.
    But does ID approach science superfluously? One of the principal things enumerated by Wikipedia* at their Intelligent Design page as a criticism of ID is parsimony, or what Occam's Razor highlights, and what ID violates.
    They add:

    • Lack of consistency
    • Lack of usefulness
    • Lack of testability and falsification, and
    • Non-progressive, or adjunctive to previous theories

    They actually state it conversely, with the above qualities being requisite to a scientific theory, and which they declare to be lacking by introducing 'design' as a parameter. Other negative attributes they list are"

    • A god of the gaps approach
    • A leap to incredulity
    • A contemporary adaptation of creationism, and thus
    • Religion in disguise

    And they go on to cite the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial as a clincher for these views, but begin with a misstatement, and one made on pg. 8 of Judge Jones' decision, stating:

    "Fundamentalist opponents of evolution responded with a new tactic suggested by Daniel's reasoning which was ultimately found to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, namely, to utilize scientific-sounding language to describe religious beliefs and then to require that schools teach the resulting "creation science" or "scientific creationism" as an alternative to evolution.

    Jones correctly cited 'creation science' as an 'alternative' to evolution, based on its Creationist flavor at the time of the Daniel v. Waters trial, and subsequently the Edwards v. Arkansas trial. But on the Wiki page, they now define ID by the same phrase.

    Wiki is flat wrong, in that ID, properly defined, is an adjunctive hypothesis within evolutionary theory. The improper use of the word 'alternative' adds fuel to the current brush fires, by inferring the ID denies evolutionary theory in toto, which it plainly does NOT.

    Clegg concludes with, "Specifically, I'd say intelligent design deserves examination, because it's a theory that works quite well be inference."

    You're close. While not a theory per se, it is a valid investigatory hypothesis ,within the current theory, and for those who continue to refuse to accept a viable and tentative reality, they themselves, and AAAS in particular**, are behaving in a manner that manifests as a true enemy of science. And you can quote me.

    Cheers,
    Lee Bowman
    Phoenix Arizona, US

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design#cite_note-127
    ** http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml

    PS: Wikipedia can be useful as a resource. It can also distort the facts.

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  2. For purposes of practical application, science needs to move beyond the big bang theory. The technology that will open the door of the next age will not be found by observing outer space but by understanding how particles are constructed. The geometry of outer space vectors down into quantum space (q. space) and so, one defines the other. Current technology can avail science to quantum studies more readily than cosmological pursuits. Contemporary science can’t produce a signal strong enough or fast enough to get the information we need about outer space. However, we can produce a signal capable of charting the inside of a neutron. This can be done by theorizing the geometry of space and then producing a computer program capable of finding the frequency necessary to get us inside of an “electron conduit”.

    Electrons flow from the sun in quantum conduits of varying sizes but one geometrical configuration. Within these conduits, electron flow is directional. Logically, relative opposing pressure is what we’re looking for. In other words, we need to match the frequency of the conduit to the direction we want to send a signal. Most importantly, the frequency signature needs to contour to the geometry of space or in this scenario q. space! This is why advanced craft are configured in a certain way.

    What we are ultimately talking about is “other dimensional science”. [more….]

    http://www.divineadvancedhumanbeings.com/why-the-big-bang-never-happened-and-why-we-need-to-know-it/

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  3. Thank you Divine for your comment - it isn't a lot to do with the post, and I'm not ecstatic about people linking to their websites in comments, but it doesn't appear to be spam, so I will let it go.

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