Is Mainstream Science Dogmatic?

Many members of the Intelligent Design movement like to present mainstream science—which flat out rejects Intelligent Design—as being dogmatic and unwelcoming to alternative ways of thinking. Is mainstream science dogmatic? Yes and no.

On the one hand, science is anything but dogmatic. If one provides tight argumentation and evidence for a theory, even a theory that is seemingly crazy, they can overcome the healthy skepticism of their peers in the scientific community. Think of quantum physics. Is there anything more counterintuitive or ridiculous sounding than that a subatomic particle can be observed to be in two or more places at once, or that knowing something about one subatomic particle (e.g., that it is spinning upward) can allow one to know something about another spatially-displaced particle (e.g., that it is spinning downward) without even looking at it? The rise to prominence of quantum physics is about as clear a demonstration of openmindedness and a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads as one could ever ask for.

Well, maybe Science isn’t dogmatic across the board, but has a special no-exceptions door-slamming bias against religion. A quick look at the previous post on meditation and brain function provides a contemporary counterexample to this possibility. Meditation originated in the East, where it has served as a central pillar in the practice of a number of religious traditions. In recent decades it has become a fertile area of research in Psychology and Psychiatry departments around the world. Owing to overwhelming empirical support, instruction in mindfulness meditation is provided as a type of therapy for various psychological and somatic conditions at hospitals and mental health centres across the Western world.

It doesn’t really seem that science is dogmatically opposed to any kind of theory—religious or not—so long as the theory is testable, and is backed up by tight evidence-based argumentation. But herein lies where science IS dogmatic. Science is dogmatically committed to endorsing theories that are supported by evidence and dogmatically opposed to endorsing theories that are not evidentially justified. Science is dogmatically committed to discriminating against pseudoscience masquerading as legitimate science (e.g., Intelligent Design Creationism). The scientific community is not interested in research based on an infalsifiable and evidentially vacuous premises (i.e., the existence of an Intelligent Designer) which the researchers have already pre-decided is true and are merely looking to feed their confirmation bias. The Intelligent Design community is right: there IS an international scientific conspiracy. It is a coordinated effort to demand rigorous unbiased research on testable evidence-based hypotheses, to follow the evidence where it leads, and to not fund, reward or attend to research that is based on unabashed unreason and offers  no grounds for testing and falsification. It’s called Science.

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Comments
31 Responses to “Is Mainstream Science Dogmatic?”
  1. Frank Smith says:

    The scientist is not interested in what happens to a particular specimen of a chemical in a test tube, or a particular culture in a petri dish. He is interested in this only insofar as it reveals something about the general laws governing all similar cases.

    Given this point of view it is interesting to consider the implications, if Scientists are always looking for trends and not for individual cases then something is being missed. I would stand by the idea that individual cases are infinitly more important then general trend, as every general trend requires assumptions, which then justify the search for more information to confirm the orginal point. This process continues and further justifies more confirming research.

  2. ronbrown says:

    Why are individual cases infinitely more important than general trends? I mean, I could see how in some domains individual cases are clearly important–e.g., clinical psychology research. But even in these cases, I don’t see why the individual case is seen as being far more important than generalities that can be tested on and, if confirmed, applied to others. Could you go into this a bit further?

    As for the general trend requiring assumptions and justifying further information to confirm the original point, yes, assuming that a subset of a population shares a trait requires the assumption that, well, this trait is generalized across the population. This assumption of generalization is thus tested to see if it is an accurate assumption. While the scientist might personally prefer if the generalization holds, as it would get them a publication, there are strict and rigorous protocols in the scientific community to ensure that wishful thinking does not bias research and interpretations. In science, the standard operating procedure is to assume that the null hypothesis (i.e., no effect) is true unless demonstrated not to be by strong evidence to the contrary (e.g., findings with less than 5% chance of occurring by chance alone). In order for a scientific finding to be given credibility, it must jump through a lot of hoops. The research must convince the researcher him/herself. It will then very likely to scrutinized by local peers–e.g., graduate students, postdocs and faculty in the researchers department. Further scrutiny will also be provided at conferences. It will be rigorously analyzed by a panel of journal editors. If it manages to be published it will then be scrutinized by journal readers. If after all of this, the research conclusion is still standing, then it will be endorsed by the community and be included in what is referred to as scientific knowledge. But even once its in this esteemed category, it will still be further subjected to testing, refining and possibly eventual disconfirmation.

  3. Jeff Marshman says:

    This whole debate continues to perplex me (Science vs. Religion: specifically in the intelligent design vs. evolution).

    A few things:

    I am a non-theist. I have no vested interest in the question of God’s existence–either for or against

    An important caveat before I begin: I am taking it as given that there are some ‘legitimate’ and honest thinkers in both camps of the debate (whether or not I agree with them). I am disregarding the rabid fanatics on either side… talk that includes them usually just polarizes people and ends up missing the point.

    Now:

    Intelligent design has a great deal of explanatory power (arguably more than evolution)
    HOWEVER, it requires positing an entity equally if not more complex than the phenomena we are attempting to explain (i.e. the diversity/complexity of life)

    It is my assumption that this is where some ID advocates go wrong. ID has more explanatory power. They take this to mean that it is a superior theory. But, this is not the case. Evolution by natural selection, while ‘weaker’ in some relevant sense is FAR more parsimonious. The majority of the scientific community I believe is committed to achieving the most parsimonious explanations possible (think of the drive towards a grand unifying theory in physics for example, or how scientific theories that integrate a great number of phenomena without multiplying metaphysical entities are highly attractive). Inference to the best explanation is NOT inference to the most powerful explanation, but inference to an explanation that is SUFFICIENTLY powerful, while maintaining the highest degree of parsimony.

    It is not that the scientific community is biased against God or Religions of any sort (or, excluding militant atheists at least) it’s that they are MORE committed to parsimony. ID was clearly a very attractive (scientific) theoretical perspective on the diversity of life BEFORE Darwin’s theory offered us a plausible mechanism that was much simpler.

    Darwin’s account offers us a way to ‘derive a stronger logic from a weaker logic.’ It is not a perfect theory, nor is it likely to be any sort of ‘final theory.’ Yet, it is clearly a step in the right direction. Unlike intelligent design, it asks very little in its assumptions. While it may be therefore weaker in explanatory power than ID, it is preferable as a scientific theory because of how little it asks (compared to the rather demanding assumptions levied by ID)

    It’s not that (all) scientists hate God or Religion, it’s that they are not willing to accept an much less parsimonious theory when there is a far more parsimonious theory that (continues) to show great prospect and is the framework behind a vast number of empirical research programmes.

    The militant ID people (I’m thinking specifically of this new Ben Stein movie: Expelled) seem to feel that the scientific community just hates God and Religion. This is not the case. We hate lack of parsimony. I believe it would be fair to say (if difficult to conceptualize) that IF intelligent design COULD offer a more parsimonious account of natural phenomenon than evolution by natural selection, then I believe the vast majority of the scientific community would embrace it.

    I believe that ID should be taught in schools, but for this specific purpose. It should be shown that ID offers more explanatory power than evolution. How it WAS the most attractive theory. However, it should be used as an example of how inference to the best explanation and the law of parsimony make evolution by natural selection more attractive to the modern scientist. It’s not that one theory is undeniably true and the other utterly false. It’s just that, given the methodological assumptions of science, one is more attractive than the other.

  4. ronbrown says:

    Jeff:

    Greetings. A response to some of your points and issues raised.

    Firstly, the issue of honest and legitimate thinkers on both sides of the debate. I would imagine that there are people out there that do not have a thorough understanding of the issues and what science is that are honest in their thinking about the issue, but I am not sure that there are proponents of ID who are knowledgeable of the debate and the nature of science and could be considered to be honest and legitimate thinkers regarding whether ID deserves to be in scientific research and education. ID is simply not science. ID offers no testable hypotheses/predictions and therefore is unfalsifiable. An honest thinker who knew the issues and how science works could not possibly view ID as a scientific paradigm. To address another point of yours, given all of this, ID may have been an attractive perspective before Darwin–and still is today among many–but has never been a legitimate scientific perspective.

    Next, I suppose by “explanatory power” that you mean a theory’s ability to explain and account for things assuming that the theory is true. As you pointed out, this alone does not make the theory good. I’ve never gone about reasoning on this issue from the perspective of parsimony. For me, I’ve always just gone at it from the perspective of evidence. I guess in a round-about way I was inadvertently referencing parsimony in reasoning, as you did, that positing a God forces one to subscribe to new unvalidated assumptions that are equal or greater in magnitude than the problem being addressed.

    I agree with you that it is theoretically possible for the scientific community to accept ID. Given persuasive evidence–e.g., God appears to millions and performs great feats in which he defies natural laws–everyone, scientists and non-scientists would come to believe in God the same way that they come to believe in I-Pods and airplanes.

    The only way I’d agree with having ID taught in science classes is as an instrument to show what science is by comparing it to pseudoscience, and to make points like yours.

  5. Xander Legere says:

    How does intelligent design explain the useless parts of our bodies? i.e. pinky toe, appendix, wisdom teeth

  6. ronbrown says:

    Xander:

    I’m not sure how they do it for all of them. In some cases I think they deny that they’re useless.

    Recently I’ve heard that research has shown that the appendix actuallly seems to have a function–it produces enzymes. Now, I did read this on an ID blog, but it was presented as if it was accepted by the wider community–and, yes, I realize it could still be BS, but I personally doubt that they were lying in this case.

    I dunno about wisdom teeth. And isn’t the pinky toe functional? We may not realize it’s value, but wouldn’t we be less well off without it?

    Another interesting question is how they account for the many many many examples of apparently suboptimal design–in humans for instance we have a visual blindspot because of where our optic nerve connects to the retina, the architecture of our backs make us very prone to back problems, before modern medicine a sizeable minority of women died in child birth–partly due to the vaginal canal being barely wide enough to accomodate the head, humans make systematic errors in reasoning, that our food and air share a common path creates a dangerous choking hazard, and on and on and on.

  7. Jeff Marshman says:

    To Ron’s response:

    I think criticizing ID on the grounds of falsifiability will get you into trouble. Science operates on axioms and assumptions–not vacuous ones, but not always falsifiable ones. Evolution can be construed as similarly ‘un-falsifiable.’ How exactly are you supposed to produced a well-controlled study in an attempt to falsify historical, longitudinal mechanisms such as those evolution posits?

    I’m not advocating ID. I’m on-board with evolution. I just don’t think you can deny that ID can and has been a scientifically legitimate theory. The only ‘un-scientific’ part of ID theorists in my mind (those who aren’t just insane) is that fact that ID violates one of the primary principles of theory selection (again, parsimony).

    Anyway, that’s all. In the end I think we pretty much agree on the broader issue.

  8. horatiox says:

    While supporting Darwinian accounts of evolution, I do believe that the more intelligent design theorists, such as Behe, raised a few interesting points. Darwin was not a biochemist for one.
    In so far as he points out the limitations of Darwinism, a Behe can be respected to some degree ( SJ Gould himself offered some modifications of orthodox Darwinian theory, did he not). At least in a logical sense a “Watchmaker” sort of Being who orders nature, established physical laws, etc. should not be counted as prima facie impossible.

    Unfortunately, the biblethumpers immediately seized upon IDT as evidence for creationism if not the infallibility of Scripture. I am not sure Behe intended that (though he didn’t seem to protest); Behe did not dismiss Darwin’s theory, or the fossil record, C14 dating, etc. The fundies have of course.

    The IDT speculations on original conditions are not completely without merit, though they error in assuming that IDT somehow supports monotheism. Yet, if, as some IDT people say, you were dealt 1000 blackjacks in a row, you would probably start to question the game, wonder if it were rigged–or in terms of evolution, you would begin to think that Darwinian accounts of evo. were perhaps inadequate. Not sure that the IDT analogy holds–but they believe it does. The parameters for organic life ARE very strcitly defined.

    Popperian falsifiability may not be completely irrelevant in this context; at the very least, the IDT people make an existence claim about nature, and suggest theology is a matter of evidence. So, the IDT hypothesis is falsifiable, in the sense of disprovable–and subject to verification, in the same sense as any other empirical claim (doesn’t Dawkins argue this way?/)). One might say the Black plague (and all sorts of other diseases) provides some evidence against the hypothesis, unless one wants to grant a sort of J.W. Gacy sort of Designer.

  9. ronbrown says:

    Jeff:

    There are many ways in which evolutionary theory could be falsified. Here is one: the finding of organisms of high functional complexity too early in the fossil record would be strong evidence against evolution as these organisms are supposed to come later, evolving out of less complex organisms.

    Back to ID, it’s not science, man. It is based on no evidence and makes no testable hypotheses (predictions) and is therefore unfalsifiable. It adds absolutely nothing to our understanding of anything.

    ID in a nutshell: God did it. They deny that this is the position, but it is. They say that certain structures are irreducibly complex—I don’t see how they could have ever evolved in a piecemeal fashion. WEll, actually, they would say that these structures could never have evolved. But once they started saying this scientists were coming out of the woodwork completely destroying them, presenting very plausible evolutionary explanations for example after example of supposed irreducible complexity proposed by IDists. A few examples are flagella, the cytric cycle, and the bombardier beetle, if you want to look them up.

    I’m too tired to get into the other of the two main ID arguments: specified complexity, but here’s a link to the Wikipedia article in which it is presented in a very unfavourable light: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specified_complexity

    Anyhow, to recap: ID is based on no evidence, makes no testable predictions, and it contributes absolutely nothing to our understanding of anything because all it is is one big argument from ignorance (i.e., I don’t understand this, therefore God did it). Actually, ID is worse than an argument from ignorance, because ID looks at what science has accomplished, searches for or fabricates holes in the scientific understanding, presents these real or invented holes as if they were evidence for ID (when at most, all they could possibly be evidence for is “We don’t know”), and hears time and time again rebuttals to their claims but keeps on making the same claims to audiences who hadn’t heard the rebuttals. This is not just any argument from ignorance. It’s an argument from ignorance that goes tries to create illusory ignorance to support its God theory. There is nothing scientific about ID.

  10. ronbrown says:

    Horatiox: I will reply to you tomorrow.

  11. ronbrown says:

    Horatiox:

    Apologies for the delay in replying.

    I haven’t read Behe and have no interest in doing so. He is not what you think he is. He absolutely is trying to bring religion into science. He is not following the evidence where it leads and making honest rational hypotheses. His primary argument, irreducible complexity, has been slapped silly. The claim that a functionally complex system which requires all of its parts to function cannot evolve by natural selection is something that no scientist of his educational qualifications should be ignorant enough to make. Not all evolution is by natural selection. And moreover, no one assumes that evolution is goal directed. While a current complex system may be useless if it is missing one of its components, that doesn’t mean that the components couldn’t have initially evolved for other purposes and only later have been cobbled into a new multi-component integrated functional system.

    Even Stephen Colbert ripped him on this. Behe gave his infamous mouse trap example–if you take one piece of the trap away it is useless, and Colbert, in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner, responded “yeah, because we all know that none of those components have any other possible uses”, and of course the crowd let out a big laugh. And despite this, Behe just repeated that you can’t evolve a mouse trap.

    And this leads to another example of dishonestly by Behe and people like Dembski. No matter how many times scientists—honest scientists—refute their inane assertions, they’ll just get up the next morning and keep on making them as if they’d never heard a counterargument that they could not address.

    As for a “watchmaker” not being disqualifiable a priori, I agree. However, what I disagree with is acting as if this possibility is a respectable backdrop for science. It is nothing but an argument from ignorance accompanied by a pesky infinite regression—it accomplishes nothing other than providing a laughable demonstration of the proponent’s personal ignorance, one-sidedness and thoughtlessness. It is based on no evidence and makes no testable predictions, and is thus not science. Moreover, it falls to the logic of a 7 year old. It is more than simply not science. It’s just embarrassing.

    Next, don’t be under the illusion that IDT was created as an innocent and religiously unmotivated scientific approach that the fundamentalists caught wind of and gravitated toward. IDT is integrally tied to the religious right. It is a direct descendant of Creationism. It is nothing more than Creationism cloked in scientific terminology where possible. IDT is simply an evolved form of Creationism, resulting from cultural selection which rendered Creationism unfit for survival in the educational and scientific ecosystems. Because of the US Constitution, Creationism has no way of getting into the school. IDT is an attempt to sneak it into the classroom by dressing it up as science. Even Judge John Jones, a conservative judge appointed by Bush, is of this position, hence his ruling against the IDCreationists in the Dover trial. You may have heard of the “Big Tent” metaphor. This is an effort to unite young earth creationists and old earth creationists who want Christianity to be brought back into the educational system.

    The blackjack analogy doesn’t work. All arguments which say things like things are just too perfect are looking at things the wrong way in assuming that things are just perfect for us. First off, things are not perfect. I could rhyme off a list of imperfections if need be (e.g., our backs are prone to back problems, w/o medical procedures a notable minority of women would die in child birth, we have a visual blindspot, having our air and food paths unite creates a choking hazard, we make systematic errors in reasoning). Secondly, maybe the universe isn’t fitted to us. Maybe we’re fitted to the universe. That is what evolution does: selects for organisms that are better fit to survive and reproduce. And if the argument is that life couldn’t have survived in a universe even slightly different from ours, there are a number of replies. Firstly, we have only found life on a miniscule fraction of a huge universe. Secondly, for all we know there are other parallel universes (is this any less plausible than assuming God?) with a variety of different initial settings, some conducive of life, some not. Third, while a universe with different settings may not be habitable to life was we know it, perhaps something analogous to what we call life would have emerged in a different universe. The fine-tuning and cosmological arguments are remarkably weak.

    Theology is not a valid source of evidence because it is what is making the claim. If I write a book saying that a pink unicorn is God no person in their right mind would consider the book itself to be evidence. The only way this would be so is if the book made incredibly compelling arguments, which the Bible clearly has not done, nor has any publicized Christian that I have heard of in the last 2000 years.

    Finally, IDT is not falsifiable. What could falsify a theory that makes no predictions other than than the appearance of design (which can also be accounted for by evolution, which actually is backed up by evidence) and arguments from ignorance? One might say “well, you could disqualify the arguments from ignorance by just figuring things out”. The problem is that every time this happens, Creationists will just latch onto something else we don’t know. They will never run out of things to point to because we’re never going to have absolute knowledge of everything.

    Thanks for writing.

    Best, Ron

  12. Jersey says:

    My biggest problem with science is about these teachers who push everything onto children and teenagers as if it were like religion. The teachers show you theory, make you test theory yes, and then learn the same conclusions…but only sometimes. My fellow students and I have been taught by teachers straight from the book without any room to think for ourselves – it was like they were indoctrinating us, not educating us. Teaching via education should allow us to think for ourselves, not to restrain our thinking capabilities, with is what indoctrination is all about.

    My problem with ID is that I see it as a somewhat evolved form of myth – but it is still a myth because it is relying on supernatural beings to explain something human observation has yet to fully examine and comprehend. If you want ID in school, teach it in social sciences or social studies or philosophy class!!!

    Just remember though – there are more things in the heavens and on earth than any theory, religion, or philosophy could ever explain.

  13. ronbrown says:

    Jersey: Don’t get me started on the public school systems… Their ability to suck the profundity and meaning out of what they teach, provide a highly passive and unengaged educational setting, and to teach kids good reasoning skills and skills to live a good balanced wise and fulfilling life is just depressing.

    Many of these problems are due to funding issues, but some of them could be mitigated greatly. Students should not be asking in their 12th grade why math is important. I don’t see why forcing students to read Shakespeare is a more valuable exercise than having them read philosophies on wisdom, learning critical thinking skills, being taught meditation, and the like. So much of what is in school offers so much less to the students than things that are left out and could easily and affordably be implemented.

  14. Markusha says:

    Ah, where to begin here? How about the legitimacy of using ignorance as the basis for dismissing a scientist’s work?
    Ronbrown says: “I haven’t read Behe and have no interest in doing so. He is not what you think he is. He absolutely is trying to bring religion into science. He is not following the evidence where it leads and making honest rational hypotheses. His primary argument, irreducible complexity, has been slapped silly.”

    Statements claiming that another’s work is illegitimate, erroneous or that it lacks any rational hypotheses, or any other such thing are not possible without first examining the work in question, and then forming one’s own arguments against that work’s conclusions. You cannot claim that a theory (or hypothesis) is debunked without debunking it, which requires an intimate knowledge of the theory with the specific and undeniable FACTS to back up the critique. The natural question comes to mind: “If you haven’t read the work, how do you know Behe “is trying to bring religion into science”?

    No amount of throwing around such “arguments” does anything to undermine I.D., though it may convince the untrained and ill-informed.

    Come on guys, post something that really proves something.

    Another great quote was “Not all evolution is by natural selection.” Please explain: What is the scientifically verifiable mechanism of evolution without natural selection? And remember: We’re talking about macro, not micro evolution.

  15. L. Ron Brown says:

    Markusha:
    IC has been slapped silly. It assumes that the complex functional structure was being planned on and fails to consider that component parts could have initially be valuable in serving other functions before serving a role in a current complex functional system.

    I really don’t have time to sit here and have this argument with you. If you really want to see some responses, Go to http://www.talkorigins.org, a website dedicated to addressing ID and Creationist claims, run by scientists.

    Keep in mind: ID is not respected AT ALL by the grand majority of scientists. The euphemistically named “Discovery Institute” has been trying to rally scientists to sign a dissenters of “Darwinism” petition for years and have only amassed 730 or so names. This is absolutely pathetic. This means that well over 99% of the world’s scientists are in opposition of this group, which is made up probably entirely of devout religionists (if there were even 2-3 exceptions to this claim in this list, I’d be surprised).

    As for other mechanisms of evolution. Natural selection is required for the development of complex functionality. But other mechanisms of evolution include genetic drift—which is divergence and speciation due to reproductive isolation.

    If you really want to learn about why scientists don’t respect ID, go read TalkOrigins. But I really have no interest in spending weeks bickering with someone who probably is only defending ID because they are a Christian literalist and will not change their minds anyway.

    But since you’re getting all aggressive toward me, I should ask you: what is the evidence for Intelligent Design? What argumentation is there for ID that does not result in positing something that is just as if not more puzzling than the question you’re trying to address, and that does not depend on arguments from ignorance?

  16. L. Ron Brown says:

    Here’s the link on Irreducible Complexity (IC) from TalkOrigins: http://talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html

  17. Markusha says:

    RonBrown: My intention was not to “get all aggressive” toward you, but merely to point out that if you would read Behe’s work and then critique it on its own merits with data, facts, etc., it would go a long way to legitimizing your dismissal of I.D.

    You state: “It assumes that the complex functional structure was being planned on and fails to consider that component parts could have initially be valuable in serving other functions before serving a role in a current complex functional system.”

    The problem with this assertion is that the biological systems that Behe discusses in his work contain component parts that are ONLY used in those systems, and are not found in other systems, such as the specific proteins only seen in the cascade that produces blood clotting or eyesight.

    So, his overiding (paraphrased) question remains unanswered: “How could a complex system made of many specific component parts arise by means of natural selection when those component parts needed by the system are not used in nature, except in the system itself?”

    Put another way, evolution is dependent upon the utility of various systems and/or their components, a lack of utility or functionality being the cause of their being selected out and eliminated. If such proteins developed on their own without any functionality, then why wouldn’t they have been selected out? Without functionality or utility how can there be descent with modification? If they functioned in other systems prior to being used in blood clotting or eyesight, then why do we not see them in other systems today and were they “transferred” over to the other system intact? There are many such examples of complexity and the questions about Darwinism that arise from such observations.

    Behe is merely pointing out the heavy burden that Darwinism bears:
    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Charles Darwin

    Also, your statement that “ID is not respected AT ALL by the grand majority of scientists,” though it might be true, does not lend any power to your arguments agains ID, simply because a majority doesn’t prove anything. There are many examples from history when a majority believed something that was later proved false. A vast majority of scientists once believed that the universe was eternal, all there ever was and all there ever will be, but that has changed drastically, a strong majority now holding to the belief that it had a definite beginning in space and time. A belief based upon observation and data.

    One question for you: Why is it that a great majority (as high as 65%) of the world’s astronomers believe in the existence of God?

    Thanks for the opportunity to dialog. I too do not “have the time” to get into an argument, but it is stimulating and I do respect and enjoy your posts on this site. By the way, I am not a “Christian literalist,” though I’m not sure what you mean. I am just one who has enquired after the truth ever since my first course in paleontology. I was once an adamant evolutionist like yourself.

  18. L. Ron Brown says:

    Can you site figures for this claim about astronomers?
    I can cite figures to you showing that 93% of America’s National Academy of Science is non-believing, that scientists as a whole are less-believing than the general population, and that more established scientists are less religious than less established scientists, that disbelief is increasing over time within the scientific community (and apparently outside of it in many nations). What all of this shows is that scientists, those who study the workings of the universe for a living, are less likely to believe than those who do not engage in such life-long dedicated study, and that over time as more is learned these scholars are believing less and less.

    As for structures only being used in the system that they are a part of, TalkOrigins addresses this. For one thing, just because the part is not currently used for something else does not mean that it never was.

  19. The problem with Behe’s nonsense is that it is another of these “I get to make this claim until you prove me wrong theories” which is the opposite of science. Science works by “I’ve tried everything I can think of to prove this theory wrong, but it is still holding together, why doesn’t everyone else take a kick at it.”

    Claims of “irreducible complexity” will be defeated one after another, but Behe and the ID boneheads will just trot out another and another and another. Each will fall in turn.

    All irreducible complexity predicts is that IDer’s hope real scientists will have trouble explaining something so they can crow. Science is founded on things we have trouble explaining; until we don’t any more and move on to new things.

    Irreducible complexity fails to be science because it fails to predict anything that can be tested by science. As such, I don’t see why anyone needs to read it to critique it. Personally, I have never read the Bible, yet I can assert that the world was not created in 7 days and is certainly more than 6000 years old. Same thing with Behe. If he were making a testable claim with scientific merit, people everywhere would be fronting cash to actually test it. Look how much money was spend on the Large Hadron Collider.

  20. Markusha says:

    To respond to what appears above, I would say that at least I.D. is working with a myriad of observational data. The systems analyzed demonstrate the concept, giving birth to the theory. Evolution, on the other hand cannot make this claim. The intermediary species do not exist (at last estimate at least 75,000 would be needed for a new species to arise from another, whereas the largest definite number seen in the record is 3 or 4), and it cannot be tested in the laboratory. Even the mechanisms involved are under severe scrutiny, giving rise to all the new ideas such as Punctuated equilibria, etc. That’s why, folks, it remains a theory.

    The requirement of science is not that it must predict things, it is that it explains the cause of observable phenomena. It is the study of causes. All the predicting in the universe means nothing if a definite cause cannot be demonstrated, though observed causes certainly enable us to make predictions. If evolution is the cause of life, then not only would we be able to verify its existence in the rock record, we would also be able to predict its occurence. Yet, where do we see this marvelous speciation in action, even on a very gradual scale? Nowhere.

    As far as the statistic on astronomers that I quoted, I will find the source and provide it. Also, numerous polls have been conducted that show indisputably that the same percentage of scientists are believers as the general population. This is statistical fact, and I can provide an exhaustive list of the brilliant scientists who are believers, many of whom being nobel laureates. In fact, if it weren’t for the church, modern science would never have been developed. Just read any history of science.

    I did read through many of the articles on the TalkOrigens site, and find them severely lacking. The reason? They simply use repetition and conjecture to try to refute ID. Conjecture, when it is not based on observation, is never anything more than conjecture or mere extrapolation. One example on the site was a bacterium’s use of a pre-existing protein in breaking down a new and toxic substance. But this is not a refutation of ID, since the protein is nothing new, only the man-made toxin is. ID does not try to refute adaptation, it is merely a viable explanation of the complexity of life in the absence of any truly demonstrable alternative.

    Saying something over and over, e.g. “ID has been slapped silly,” does not make it true. Truth must be verifiable. Therefore, evolution and ID both remain theories. Since it has had so much time (as the flat earth societies once did) in the oven without being verifiable, it is evolution that has the burden of proof, if we are going to be truly scientific about this thing.

    As far as astronomy goes, the implications of the big bang are obvious, thus the great number of astronomers who believe in God. It is philosophically impossible to be an atheist without a universe that is eternal, since atheism posits an eternal universe as the cause of all other effects, including life. A finite universe implies a cause. For every action, there is a cause. And if the universe, which is by definition the four dimensions of space-time, is a finite phenomenon, then it must have been caused by something (or someone?) that is beyond its finite dimensions, something infinite.

    It may be difficult for many to swallow (it was at one time for me), but it is atheism that is being proven out of existence, with naturalistic evolution being a casualty of new discoveries as well.

  21. Funny, for someone who makes lots of claims, there is no evidence offered. Aside from the wackos in the US and the wackos in the middle east, religion has been in steady decline in western countries. Atheism has been the rational alternative since before Christians imagined up JC and it will likely be the rational alternative for a long time after Christians are supplanted by some other cult.

    You say atheism is being proven out of existence, but you offer no proof. Even if ID isn’t complete nonsense, why not just assume aliens? Maybe Ron is wrong about Xenu.

    The idea of god is a non-starter. It always has been.

    As for science, it’s pretty clear the test of a theory is that it both explains and predicts. A theory that doesn’t predict anything new isn’t worth much.

    Evolution and all the science that goes with is predicts that we will find things in the fossil record, in the DNA record, and is tested every day around the world. What is it that ID predicts again? For that matter, what exactly does it explain that evolution can’t explain?

  22. Stoobs says:

    In order to qualify as a theory, a hypothesis must accomplish several things – it must be formally laid out, it must be used to make predictions, and those predictions must be verified in a laboratory setting, by both the researcher and the scientific community in general, despite their best efforts to dispute it.

    Only after passing this extremely stringent requirement does a position become a theory. Intelligent design not only fails to meet these criteria, it is not capable of meeting them. Quite simply, it is NOT a theory in the scientific sense of the word – it is what we call an ad hoc hypothesis. Ad hoc hypotheses are not amenable of disconfirmation, by their very nature, and therefore are of no interest to science.

  23. Stoobs says:

    In response to “It is philosophically impossible to be an atheist without a universe that is eternal, since atheism posits an eternal universe as the cause of all other effects, including life.”

    You are completely wrong, because you assume your highly simplistic conception of time is correct. In fact, it is highly probable that time, space, and causation are all functions of our perceptions, rather than of the nature of the universe. They are arbitrary sorting systems which we have evolved to use because they are useful, rather than having anything to do with the fundamental nature of reality.

    Once you realize that time is a function of perception, rather than anything fundamental to the universe, such problems go away. It is entirely possible, given the way space-time functions, that the universe was caused by something that hasn’t actually happened yet, since strong gravitational fields (such as the one which would presumably be found at both the big bang and big crunch, should one occur) warp time as much as they do space.

    I’m not claiming knowledge here – I have no idea how the universe began. Ignorance, however, is no reason to start making up invisible friends to explain stuff.

  24. Markusha says:

    You guys have revealed the problems and falacies with evolution yourselves:

    Thisbusymonster: “Evolution and all the science that goes with is predicts that we will find things in the fossil record, in the DNA record.”

    That is exactly the problem with evolution, and the fact that you haven’t dealt with here: We don’t find what is predicted by evolution in the fossil record, period.

    Stoobs:
    “In order to qualify as a theory, a hypothesis must accomplish several things – it must be formally laid out, it must be used to make predictions, and those predictions must be verified in a laboratory setting, by both the researcher and the scientific community in general, despite their best efforts to dispute it.”

    Again, you have pointed out the great problem with evolution: The minimum requirement for a mere hypothesis is that it is testable in the laboratory. There is absolutely no way to test evolution in the laboratory. If you can’t test a hypothesis, you cannot really move to the next step and make that hypothesis a theory.

    Stoobs:
    “In fact, it is highly probable that time, space, and causation are all functions of our perceptions, rather than of the nature of the universe. They are arbitrary sorting systems which we have evolved to use because they are useful, rather than having anything to do with the fundamental nature of reality.”
    Once you realize that time is a function of perception, rather than anything fundamental to the universe, such problems go away.”
    “I’m not claiming knowledge here – I have no idea how the universe began.”

    I’m amazed here, Stoobs: You’ve now entered the realm of metaphysics, only without any basis in logic or fact! Your imaginary “perceptions” are the most convenient way to just ignore the implications of science. You can’t simply explain scientific fact away through some metaphysical construct to make the problems with a false worldview “go away.”

    The only reason why none of you are dealing with the facts I have presented is because they are indeed facts.

  25. Markusha says:

    To demonstrate the “proof” that I have been acused of not providing, I’ll just let a small sampling of the scientists speak for themselves. Just read the many books and articles written by them, and you’ll understand the evidence:

    “A superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” Fred Hoyle, Astrophysicist

    “The laws [of physics] seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design, which is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming.” Paul Davies, British astrophysicist

    “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”
    Astronomer George Greenstein

    “The modern cosmologist … gazes at the sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God, not in angels (as the medieval theologians), but in the constants of nature.” Tony Rothman, theoretical physicist

    “One would have to conclude either that the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle (fine-tuning for life) are only coincidences or that the universe was indeed tailor-made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor!”
    Bernard Carr, Cosmologist

    “The problem here is to try to formulate some statement of the ultimate purpose of the universe. In other words, the problem is to read the mind of God.”
    Freeman Dyson, Physicist

    “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.” Vera Kistiakowsky, MIT Physicist

    “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say “supernatural”) plan.
    Arno Penzias, Nobel prize winning physicist, Co-Discover of the Cosmic Background Radiation

    “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design….Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”
    Edward Harrison, Cosmologist

    So, gentlemen, with their words I’ll just leave it up to you: Either deal with the observations and data streaming in providing “prima facie evidence” for the supernatural origin and design of the finite universe, or just ignore it because you hate the idea of a God. That is why Darwin’s theory became so popular in the first place: People wanted to get rid of God. But if Einstein and so many other great scientists could finally come to grips with the evidence and acknowledge God, then only ignorance or stubborn pride prevents any of us from doing the same.

  26. thisbusymonster says:

    I think you have clearly demonstrated one thing with your last two posts. You are nearly completely ignorant about how science actually works and you have no understanding about what constitutes proof.

    A handful of out of context quotes proves nothing about your claim that 65% of astronomers believe in god. Einstein’s “God does not play dice with the universe.” quote doesn’t make him a theist. He repeatedly throughout his life asserted his atheism. God was just a convenient analogy. Proof would be some kind of actual study, real survey, or meaningful statistics of some kind.

    As for unproven assertions, where is the proof for your assertion that what evolution suggests we should find in the fossil record is not there. There is a clear record of increasingly complex life forms, which is exactly what we’d expect. Again, proof would constitute something published in a credible peer reviewed journal. Don’t even suggest there is some kind of conspiracy to suppress creation / ID. The scientists who proves creation is the next Albert Einstein and anyone with proof wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. So far, all there is is embarrassments like Behe, who has been disavowed by his own department and publicly humiliated in court. Behe doesn’t count for anything.

    For your information, a lab doesn’t have to be a room in a brick building. The “lab” that Einstein used to prove relativity was two stars, the sun and the moon. Measuring the distance between the stars during and after a solar eclipse provided the data to verify his theories. A “lab” is just a controlled experiment where predictions are made and test are performed.

    Before you make ridiculous claims that no experiments can be performed, spend more then 10 seconds searching with Google. There are lots of references, and that’s not even using Google Scholar which searches academic literature.

  27. Markusha says:

    Thisbusymonster: How much does calling someone names disprove what they say? Or how much does it prove to claim that what they say is “ridiculous” without dealing with the facts they present?

    Why should I bother with this? I guess it’s just the hope that you’ll take an honest look at the data or something. My proof is the rock record itself. Have you ever studied it? Do you even know the basic principles of paleontology? I already dealt with the issue of the rock record. Can you demonstrate the intermediaries? Has anyone? No, thus the many new attempts to harmonize Darwinism with the evidence. The fact is that species just appear with no transitional forms – one of the things Darwin himself said would cause his theory to “break down.”

    Dawkins and Steven Jay Gould themselves readily admit that evolution cannot be tested as other theories can. If what you say is true, what are the experiments that have demonstrated the theory’s legitimacy?

    You’re unable to deal with any of the statements, so you tell me to “google” it. All the literature shows is possible explanations, nothing that truly tests the validity of the theory, only conjecture of how it might work. I’ve been reading the science literature on the subject for years, have you?

    Yet another example is your comment about Einstein, who in fact told a young physicist: “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” This happened after he had spent years looking at the evidence.
    He wasn’t a Christian theist, but he did become at least a deist.

    The greatest problem with evolution is the fact that it does nothing to explain the origin of life (The Cambrian Explosion), but I assume that you are not really interested in the facts. All I am trying to say in all of these laborious posts is that it is far better to actually examine the data and seek the truth, rather than just ignore what the science really tells us and hope the idea of God will go away.

    Some estimates of the number of astronomers who are theists say as many as 90% of them are. I chose a conservative estimate from a book by the Astrophysicist, Hugh Ross. As far as the many scientists who do in fact believe in the Christian God, just read the following list if you have the time:

    http://www.tektonics.org/scim/sciencemony.htm

    I also wonder how much it bothers you that the past century’s greatest apologist for atheism, Antony Flew, is now a theist? You can read why here:

    http://theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/21PbAr/Apl/FlewTheist.htm

  28. L. Ron Brown says:

    A few quick comments and questions to Markusha:

    Firstly, apologies that I have been so inactive in this (as well as other discussions). Being busy with posting and, of course, living a life outside of the blog, leaves me with less and less time to take part in the increasing number of indepth conversations that are sprouting up. But I’m definitely really happy that they are happening.

    So, questions and comments:

    1) Where are the official stats on theism among professional astronomers. You are not the first theist I’ve come across to make claims that most astronomers are theists. However, I’ve never seen the data—I took a quick glance at your link but didn’t see any stats. But, on the other hand, I have seen data suggesting the exact opposite of what you claim. Data indicating that scientists are less likely to believe than the general population, that disbelief is increasing over time, and that higher status scientists are more likely to disbelieve than lesser status scientists. Among National Academy of Science scientists (the highest status scientists recognized in America), the percentage of nonbelievers is 93%. If I recall correctly, the highest percentage of believers by discipline was mathematics, at 14-15%. The life sci NAS members comprised 95% nonbelief.

    Transitional species. Fistly, as far as I understand, not all types of strata (e.g., rock compositions) are able to sustain fossils for prolonged periods. Thus, gaps in the fossil record are guaranteed and to expect that every transitional fossil be present is to set an unattainable standard. Second, how many transitional species/fossils will ever be enough? Why doesn’t the existence of known historical and contemporary species of bacteria, simple multicellulars, simple and complex aquatic species, amphibians and reptiles, lower and higher mammals, and humans impress you as transitional forms? Especially when the fossil records and comparative genetics, anatomy, embryology and cognition seem to paint a pretty unified picture in favour of dissent with modification, or evolution?

    Could there ever be enough fossils for Creationists to change their minds? If there are two species, A and B, the Creationists will say “well, where is the transitional fossils between A and B?”—even if the genetic, embryological, anatomical and cognitive dissent trees from A to Z all seem to point in the same direction. And then if A.5 is found between A and B, they’ll start asking “Well, where iare the transitions between A and A.5, and A.5 and B? And if A.25 is found, they’ll ask the same questions again. When is enough going to be enough?

    Antony Flew. My understanding is that be never became a theist, but a deist.

    As for Einstein, at the very most he was a deist who had no intellectual respect for specific theism.

    Final point: Even if all of science were to be disqualified full-stop tomorrow, that would not give us any reason at all to be confident in any particular religion. If there was a Creator, it could have been any of an infinite variety of potential Creators up to and including the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Secondly, whose to say that a Creator would even be necessitated by a disqualification of mechanistic gradual change? You may say “Well, what else could it be?”, and I would answer with “I don’t know”. But I would also say that just because none of us may be able to fathom a third option doesn’t mean that we can declare that a third option is impossible. We can all admit that human cognition and understanding is anything but complete. Our inability to conceptualize a third option would hardly be definitive evidence against such a thing. Does this mean that there *is* a third option? No. But I see no grounds for disqualifying the possibility.

  29. Markusha says:

    Ron Brown,
    No problem. I appreciate your responce and your candor. Also, it’s refreshing that you are thinking rationally about the issues.

    First, the official stats. As you may be aware, statistics is a tricky business. Much depends on how a question is phrased. There are all kinds of conflicting statistics out there. A very good study I recently saw was found in the book “Science and Christianity – Conflict or Coherence” by Dr. Henry Schaeffer, who is a well-known molecular physicist. Unfortunately, I had borrowed the book from someone and returned it. He cites a careful study that showed that it is a misperception (perhaps it’s even misinformation, I’m not sure) that scientists are less likely to believe in God than the general public. The study was a non-partisan one and concluded that roughly the same proportion of scientists are practicing Christians as the general population. His book lists the many accomplished modern scientists (nobel laureates, etc.) as well as those from history who fervently practice/d their faith. Scientists, according to the study, are as likely to believe as truck drivers. The list he provides of famous scientists who are also Christians today is quite impressive.

    As far as what I said about astronomers earlier, my quote was: “Why is it that a great majority (as high as 65%) of the world’s astronomers believe in the existence of God?”

    I did not say that a majority are theists. This may be true, but I haven’t seen anything more than adectdotal evidence of such a claim, such as that found in Dr. James Kennedy’s fairly recent book, which states that over 90% of them are. I believe that 65% is probably pretty accurate and perhaps on the low side (one of Dr. Hugh Ross’s books states 70% as the proportion of Christian astronomers).

    Regardless, the point is that I said that a majority believe in God, which means that they are either theists or deists. I never claimed that the majority are theists.

    On the rock record, you state the following:
    gaps in the fossil record are guaranteed and to expect that every transitional fossil be present is to set an unattainable standard. Second, how many transitional species/fossils will ever be enough? Why doesn’t the existence of known historical and contemporary species of bacteria, simple multicellulars, simple and complex aquatic species, amphibians and reptiles, lower and higher mammals, and humans impress you as transitional forms? Especially when the fossil records and comparative genetics, anatomy, embryology and cognition seem to paint a pretty unified picture in favour of dissent with modification, or evolution?

    Could there ever be enough fossils for Creationists to change their minds? If there are two species, A and B, the Creationists will say “well, where is the transitional fossils between A and B?”

    First off, It’s not that I or anyone should expect that “every transitional fossil be present.” But certainly we should expect at least nearly enough transitional forms for speciation to be demonstrable in the record. I mentioned before that the greatest number of morphological changes that can be demonstrated in the rock record is four, seen in the so-called “canid to cetacean” sequence. When evolutionary biologists have stated over and over again that an absolute minimum of 75,000 morphological changes is required for speciation, then there certainly is not enough seen in the record. And, as I understand it, this number was recently modified up to over 100,000. The species to species sequences cannot be demonstrated.

    As far as what you said about strata, some incredibly complete sequences of the geologic fossil record have been found over the past century in places like China, the western U.S. and Canada (where I have spent most of my time rock-hunting – I studied geology in New Mexico), parts of Europe and elsewhere. But even when we find well-preserved fossil sequences, we do not see the transitional forms (read: the number of morphological variations required to demonstrate the most basic form of descent with modification) that are supposed to be there. Three or four fossils in a sequence will never be enough.

    The forms of aquatic life, insects, lower and higher mammals that we see alive today do differ from life on our planet during other geologic periods, but certainly they do not provide nearly adequate evidence of macro evolution. Many of the higher mammals, for instance, possess a high degree of genetic variability, such as the families canidae and ursidae. And that’s what explains the various forms. Through selective breeding genetic variability can be optimized to produce widely different forms. This phenomenon even exists among cephalopods. But all it demonstrates is a micro form of evolution, adaptation based upon existing genetic material. It’s just not possible to demonstrate mutation among existing species. The same holds for bacteria, which are incredibly adaptable. Those forms that do not possess the genetic variability do not adapt, though they are very well-suited to their niches in the various biomes they inhabit. This is the case for insects.

    You also mentioned the fields of genetics, embryology, etc. Here is where Darwinists are on especially thin ice, since those fields have provided even more evidence than in other areas of research that evolution could not have been the mechanism. The genetic code and complexity of DNA is what finally convinced Antony Flew that evolution is impossible, and that life was designed. The more we learn in the field of genetics, the more the evidence mounts against, not for macro evolution. In a recent analysis of male and female human DNA that sampled DNA from many of the worlds races, geneticists found that all males are decended from one male, and after studying the female DNA found that all females are descended from one female. The crazy thing is that they even called them “genetic Adam” and genetic Eve.” And the theory of “Embryonic Recapitulation,” which states that embryos develop along the same lines as their evolutionary forebears, is now dead. Why? Well first of all, they haven’t found enough evidence to classify it as anything more than a hypothesis.

    Second, there has been only one Nobelist in embryology (Hans Spemann) because so many other good embryology investigators had been focusing on evolution and failing. Many investigators gave up their work in disgust long ago because they ran into dead ends trying to fit their embryological data into an evolutionary context. An example of the many exceptions to the hypothesis of recapitulation is that in an evolution scheme the spinal cord is present before the brain, but in embryology the brain develops first. But, isn’t evolution supposed to be the thread that holds all of biology together? 50 years ago we knew, and still realize today, that Darwinian recapitulation is not part of any such thread (see Bergman, 1999; Wells, 1999a).

    Well, this is fun to discuss these things and I appreciate your levelheaded approach. I just stumbled onto your site here by accident. I’m about to travel a bit so will not be able to post. Keep searching…the truth is out there.

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