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thprop
09-01-2009, 10:25 AM
A lot has been happening - rather than comment now, I will just pass along this post from Jerry Coyne (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/sean-carroll-and-carl-zimmer-quit-bloggingheads-for-promoting-creationism/trackback/). I imagine there will be a lot more on this.

Sean Carroll and Carl Zimmer quit Bloggingheads for promoting creationism

Bloggingheads.tv was founded (and still largely run) by Robert Wright, and was once funded by the Templeton Foundation. What does that tell you? For one thing, to expect a lot of faitheism and sympathy for religion — even on Science Saturday, where it doesn’t belong. But what I didn’t expect was sympathy for creationism. Although Bloggingheads, which features online discussions between pairs of writers, scientists, or scholars, has featured some really good stuff, it now seems to be tilting dangerously toward woo.

First there was a discussion on Science Saturday between historian of science Ronald Numbers and Discovery Institute young-earth creationist Paul Nelson — a discussion notable for oodles of mutual back-patting but a dearth of criticism of Nelson’s insane views on the age of the earth. More recently, Bloggingheads featured another amiable chat between ID creationist Michael Behe and linguist John McWhorter.

Listening to the Behe/McWhorter love-fest, physicist Sean Carroll, who runs the superb blog Cosmic Variance, had enough: (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/trackback/)

I couldn’t listen to too much after that. McWhorter goes on to explain that he doesn’t see how skunks could have evolved, and what more evidence do you need than that? (Another proof that belongs in the list, as Jeff Harvey points out: “A linguist doesn’t understand skunks. Therefore, God exists.”) Those of us who have participated in Bloggingheads dialogues before have come to expect a slightly more elevated brand of discourse than this.

Various bizarre things ensued: the LoveFest disappeared and then reappeared on the site, unconvincing reasons were given, and finally Carroll and others had a teleconference call with Robert Wright. As Carroll tells it, things did not go well:

But, while none of the scientists involved with BH.tv was calling for the dialogue to be removed, we were a little perturbed at the appearance of an ID proponent so quickly after we thought we understood that the previous example had been judged a failed experiment. So more emails went back and forth, and this morning we had a conference call with Bob Wright, founder of BH.tv. To be honest, I went in expecting to exchange a few formalities and clear the air and we could all get on with our lives; but by the time it was over we agreed that we were disagreeing, and personally I didn’t want to be associated with the site any more. I don’t want to speak for anyone else; I know that Carl Zimmer was also very bothered by the whole thing, hopefully he will chime in. . .

. . .What I objected to about the creationists was that they were not worthy opponents with whom I disagree; they’re just crackpots. Go to a biology conference, read a biology journal, spend time in a biology department; nobody is arguing about the possibility that an ill-specified supernatural “designer” is interfering at whim with the course of evolution. It’s not a serious idea. It may be out there in the public sphere as an idea that garners attention — but, as we all know, that holds true for all sorts of non-serious ideas. If I’m going to spend an hour of my life listening to two people have a discussion with each other, I want some confidence that they’re both serious people. Likewise, if I’m going to spend my own time and lend my own credibility to such an enterprise, I want to believe that serious discussions between respectable interlocutors are what the site is all about.

. . . I understand that there are considerations that go beyond high-falutin’ concerns of intellectual respectability. There is a business model to consider, and one wants to maintain the viability of the enterprise while also having some sort of standards, and that can be a very difficult compromise to negotiate. Bob suggested the analogy of a TV network — would you refuse to be interviewed by a certain network until they would guarantee to never interview a creationist? (No.) But to me, the case of BH.tv is much more analogous to a particular TV show than to an entire network — it’s NOVA, not PBS, and the different dialogues are like different episodes.

And so Carroll, in a gesture I admire immensely, has said farewell to Bloggingheads.tv.

I have no doubt that BH.tv will continue to put up a lot of good stuff, and that they’ll find plenty of good scientists to take my place; meanwhile, I’ll continue to argue for increasing the emphasis on good-faith discourse between respectable opponents, and mourn the prevalence of crackpots and food fights. Keep hope alive!

Business model indeed! It sounds as if Bloggingheads plans more injections of woo, creationism, and goddycoddling, for if Wright had promised an end to that stuff, I doubt that Carroll would have resigned. At any rate, Carroll’s stance is personal and nuanced, so do read his piece. He hasn’t called for anybody else to follow him in defection.

But I do. Respectable journalists like Carl Zimmer, John Horgan, and George Johnson have participated in bloggingheads.tv. I ask them to have the courage of their convictions and resign if they don’t get assurances that Bloggingheads will stop presenting woo.

. . . Just after I wrote this, I learned that Carl Zimmer has indeed pulled out: (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/09/01/bloggingheads-and-the-old-challenges-of-new-tools/trackback/)

As you can see from Carroll’s post, he was not happy with things either. So he and I talked to Robert Wright and other Bloggingheads people today. I had expected that I’d get a clear sense of what had happened over the past month at Bloggingheads, and what sort of plan would be put in place to avoid it happening again. I imagined some kind of editorial oversight of the sort that exists at the places where I regularly write about science. I didn’t get it. . .

. . .My standard for taking part in any forum about science is pretty simple. All the participants must rely on peer-reviewed science that has direct bearing on the subject at hand, not specious arguments that may sound fancy but are scientifically empty. I believe standards like this one are crucial if we are to have productive discussions about the state of science and its effects on our lives.

This is not Blogginghead’s standard, at least as I understand it now. And so here we must part ways.

The loss of Carroll and Zimmer is a real blow to Bloggingheads.tv — and to science popularization in general. But you can’t pin this one on Dawkins and his atheist pals; blame it instead on the accommodationist Robert Wright.

_____________________________

Note:

In a comment on Carroll’s post, Robert Wright responds (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/#comment-93040):

It’s true that I didn’t give you the pledge that apparently would have kept you appearing on BhTV: No more creationists or Intelligent Design folks ever on Bloggingheads. I said that, for example, I could imagine myself interrogating ID people about their theological motivation. And I said I’d welcome a Behe-Richard Dawkins debate, since Dawkins is a rare combination of expertise and accessibility. But I also said that offhand I couldn’t imagine any other Behe pairing that would work for me (though there may be possibilities I’m overlooking).

The key thing that I tried to underscore repeatedly in our phone conversation yesterday is this: The two diavlogs in question were not reflective of BhTV editorial policy, and steps have been taken to tighten the implementation of that policy so that future content will be more reflective of it. Sean, I wish that in your post you’d conveyed this to your readers, though I realize that you had a lot of other things you wanted to say.

(Read the whole comment; it’s number 37 after Carroll’s post.) And Wright also takes a lick at yours truly for my critique of his book. (http://www.tnr.com/?id=8874be1e-16db-43db-bda5-17ac7af196d0&p=1) I’m working on a response to him now, which should be up after my trip to Alabama this week.

osmium
09-01-2009, 10:46 AM
wow. that is like, a serious loss.

i didn't bother watching the michael behe diavlog. guess i'll go back and get it. might as well know how the shit got placed in the fan.

JoeK
09-01-2009, 11:00 AM
A lot has been happening - rather than comment now, I will just pass along this post from Jerry Coyne (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/sean-carroll-and-carl-zimmer-quit-bloggingheads-for-promoting-creationism/trackback/). I imagine there will be a lot more on this.

I am afraid Bob may feel even worse when he reads he has my support. But, to Sean and Carl: don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!

graz
09-01-2009, 11:15 AM
Bob said:
The Behe diavlog, in particular, was blatantly at odds with guidelines I’d laid down to my staff more than a year ago in discussing the prospect of Behe appearing. Namely: Behe should only appear in conversation with someone who is truly expert in the relevant biological areas, and since most such matchups would yield a conversation unintelligible to a lay audience, it was hard to imagine a Behe pairing that would make sense.
So we are to believe that your staffers are victims of your failure to convey guidelines clearly enough. I should strike the thought from my head that your publicist had some part in influencing your staffers to arrange this kerfuffle?

Bob said:
The key thing that I tried to underscore repeatedly in our phone conversation yesterday is this: The two diavlogs in question were not reflective of BhTV editorial policy, and steps have been taken to tighten the implementation of that policy so that future content will be more reflective of it. Sean, I wish that in your post you’d conveyed this to your readers, though I realize that you had a lot of other things you wanted to say.
I hope that the editorial policy that you allude to is to be posted soon? But giving Sean and Carl a preview clearly wasn't enough to allay their concern that bhtv has jumped the shark. I respect your right to editorial freedom, but it seems that you want to have your cake and eat it too. At least the Templeton jury can look favorably on the results of this "controversy." You can't please them all, but we'll all be better for it in the end, right? Wrong.

thprop
09-01-2009, 11:20 AM
In full (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/09/01/bloggingheads-and-the-old-challenges-of-new-tools/#comment-24587) -
16. Robert Wright Says:
September 1st, 2009 at 7:47 am

Carl, I think you’ve presented yours and Sean’s conversation with me in a pretty misleading light. You write:

As you can see from Carroll’s post, he was not happy with things either. So he and I talked to Robert Wright and other Bloggingheads people today. I had expected that I’d get a clear sense of what had happened over the past month at Bloggingheads, and what sort of plan would be put in place to avoid it happening again. I imagined some kind of editorial oversight of the sort that exists at the places where I regularly write about science. I didn’t get it.

I told you and Sean the following:
1) Both of the diavlogs in question had been arranged without my knowledge.
2) I would certainly not have approved both of them, and probably not either of them, had I known about them.
3) The Behe diavlog, in particular, was blatantly at odds with guidelines I’d laid down to my staff more than a year ago in discussing the prospect of Behe appearing. Namely: Behe should only appear in conversation with someone who is truly expert in the relevant biological areas, and since most such matchups would yield a conversation unintelligible to a lay audience, it was hard to imagine a Behe pairing that would make sense.
4) Since these two diavlogs were arranged, I have told the staffers who arranged them that in the future they should make sure to clear diavlogs of this sort with me before arranging them.

Do you dispute my recollection of our conversation? Or do you see it as compatible with your own description of the conversation? I certainly don’t.

It’s true that I didn’t give you the pledge you’ve asked for: No more creationists or Intelligent Design folks ever on Bloggingheads. I said that, for example, I could imagine myself interrogating ID people about their theological motivation. And I said I’d welcome a Behe-Richard Dawkins debate, since Dawkins is a rare combination of expertise and accessibility. But I also said that offhand I couldn’t imagine any other Behe pairing that would work for me (though there may be possibilities I’m overlooking).

The key thing that I tried to underscore repeatedly in our phone conversation yesterday, is this: The two diavlogs in question were not reflective of BhTV editorial policy, and steps have been taken to tighten the implementation of that policy so that future content will be more reflective of it. Carl, am I really such a bad communicator that this didn’t come through to you? And, if it did come through to you, why you didn’t share it with your readers?

Anyway, I’m really sorry to have lost you, Carl. You made some great contributions to Bloggingheads, and I’m happy that they’ll always be in our archives for people to see.

Robert Wright
Editor-in-chief
Bloggingheads.tv

Carl: I appreciate Robert leaving a comment. But my post was not misleading. Readers might want to take a look at Sean Carroll’s own post on this matter. I hadn’t spoken to Sean before we both spoke to Robert. We were both trying, on our own, to figure out what we were going to do. After the call, we wrote similar posts and came to the same conclusion about what to do. (Robert left much the same comment on Sean’s post.)

I didn’t explain Blogginghead’s editorial policy, because I really don’t know what it is. All I can say for sure is that it doesn’t fit mine. I think that Robert’s comment actually illustrates some of the problems I for one had with Bloggingheads. He refers to BhTV’s editorial policy but never lays it out in his comment. He tells us what he could imagine, or not imagine “offhand.” That’s not a policy. As far as I can tell, extrapolating from what Robert said here and on the phone, he would be more than happy to have creationists back on, to talk to them about theology or talk about science in a “debate.” Sean and I both asked if Robert also thought astrologers or anti-vaxxers might come on too. We didn’t get a clear response. Given the fact that two creationists had been on Bloggingheads in the past month–apparently despite guidelines laid down a year ago–this was a disappointment to me.

thprop
09-01-2009, 11:22 AM
In full (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/#comment-93040) -
37. Robert Wright Says:
September 1st, 2009 at 5:23 am

Sean, in your account of the phone conversation with me and Carl Zimmer and some BhTV staffers yesterday, I wish you’d included some key points I tried to drive home.

Here’s what I remember telling you and Carl yesterday:
1) Both of the diavlogs in question had been arranged without my knowledge.
2) I would certainly not have approved both of them, and probably not either of them, had I known about them.
3) The Behe diavlog, in particular, was blatantly at odds with guidelines I’d laid down to my staff more than a year ago in discussing the prospect of Behe appearing. Namely: Behe should only appear in conversation with someone who is truly expert in the relevant biological areas, and since most such matchups would yield a conversation unintelligible to a lay audience, it was hard to imagine a Behe pairing that would make sense.
4) Since these two diavlogs were arranged, I have told the staffers who arranged them that in the future they should make sure to clear diavlogs of this sort with me before arranging them.

It’s true that I didn’t give you the pledge that apparently would have kept you appearing on BhTV: No more creationists or Intelligent Design folks ever on Bloggingheads. I said that, for example, I could imagine myself interrogating ID people about their theological motivation. And I said I’d welcome a Behe-Richard Dawkins debate, since Dawkins is a rare combination of expertise and accessibility. But I also said that offhand I couldn’t imagine any other Behe pairing that would work for me (though there may be possibilities I’m overlooking).

The key thing that I tried to underscore repeatedly in our phone conversation yesterday is this: The two diavlogs in question were not reflective of BhTV editorial policy, and steps have been taken to tighten the implementation of that policy so that future content will be more reflective of it. Sean, I wish that in your post you’d conveyed this to your readers, though I realize that you had a lot of other things you wanted to say.

Finally, a couple of minor points:

(1) Some of your commenters have suggested Bloggingheads receives funding from the Templeton Foundation. It’s true that in the past we did—for a four-month series of weekly shows exploring human nature and various cosmic issues. But that’s over, and, btw, so far as I know none of those sponsored shows included any creationists or ID advocates.

(2) [And here I switch hats from BhTV spokesperson to aggrieved author] Some of your commenters have spoken approvingly of Jerry Coyne’s review of my book The Evolution of God. IMHO, his review misrepresents my book on a fairly large scale, as I document here: www.evolutionofgod.net/coyne

Sean, thanks for your many past contributions to Bloggingheads. As I told you and Carl yesterday, there will always be a place for you at BhTV should you reconsider your decision. Meanwhile, I’ll be interested to see if you have anything to say in reply to this comment. Of course, the most efficient way for us to hash this out would be to get two webcams and…. Oh, wait– I forgot. Never mind.

[Note: Much of the above replicates a comment left on Carl Zimmer’s blog.]

Lyle
09-01-2009, 12:10 PM
Children.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 12:27 PM
Children.

No, you bonehead, they really aren't. They have principles. Maybe someday you'll grow up enough to grasp that concept.

Lyle
09-01-2009, 12:46 PM
They are immature academics. They lack character and intellectual fortitude. Pretending they're better people for taking a principled stand is ludicrous and shameful.

I shame them. I shame them. I shame them.

You men are infants!!!

nikkibong
09-01-2009, 12:56 PM
I'm loath to riff on Henry Kissinger but....

"Bloggingheads politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

-nikkibong

Francoamerican
09-01-2009, 01:04 PM
I'm loath to riff on Henry Kissinger but....

"Bloggingheads politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

-nikkibong

You took the words right out of my mouth, nikkigbong. It is unfortunate that two such intelligent bhtv participants as Sean Carroll and Carl Zimmer have decided to jump ship, but the reasons for their decisions are trivial to say the very, very, very least.

thprop
09-01-2009, 01:19 PM
You took the words right out of my mouth, nikkigbong. It is unfortunate that two such intelligent bhtv participants as Sean Carroll and Carl Zimmer have decided to jump ship, but the reasons for their decisions are trivial to say the very, very, very least.

Why are their reasons trivial? They have been volunteering their time with the goal of educating the public about science. Both Sean and Carl do this through various means - their blogs, podcasts, radio (Sean was often on public radio when he was in Chicago), etc. They have given their time to BHtv for the same purpose. Now both of them have decided that BHtv is not a good platform for them. They have stated their reasons and bid adieu. They do not want to be associated with a project that gives a platform for anti-science to put forth its views. What is trivial about that?

thprop
09-01-2009, 01:19 PM
They are immature academics. They lack character and intellectual fortitude. Pretending they're better people for taking a principled stand is ludicrous and shameful.

I shame them. I shame them. I shame them.

You men are infants!!!

You are an anti-intellectual asshole!!!

Lyle
09-01-2009, 01:39 PM
How am I anti-intellectual and how am I an asshole?

These men are not above being criticized.

AemJeff
09-01-2009, 01:40 PM
How am I anti-intellectual and how am I an asshole?

These men are not above being criticized.

Can we quit giving him reasons to respond?

Lyle
09-01-2009, 01:43 PM
... and yet you can't help yourself by replying to me time and time again. Haha.

I'm glad I aggravate so many of you. Dissent, it is something else.

Francoamerican
09-01-2009, 01:46 PM
Why are their reasons trivial? They have been volunteering their time with the goal of educating the public about science. Both Sean and Carl do this through various means - their blogs, podcasts, radio (Sean was often on public radio when he was in Chicago), etc. They have given their time to BHtv for the same purpose. Now both of them have decided that BHtv is not a good platform for them. They have stated their reasons and bid adieu. They do not want to be associated with a project that gives a platform for anti-science to put forth its views. What is trivial about that?

I disagree that letting Behe speak gives anti-science a "platform." Since his views represent those of a distinct minority, they are hardly a threat to normal science. I fail to see why scientists should react in this way...unless they really do feel threatened. Behe is neither a creationist nor an advocate of ID. He simply raises questions about the modern, neo-Darwinian synthesis

Personally, I think there are good reasons to entertain doubts about the latter, but my views are neither here nor there.

,

pete_22
09-01-2009, 01:52 PM
I want to agree with Wright here, but he doesn't help himself by throwing his staff under the bus or using such vague language about the editorial policy. Why not say something like: "Both dialogs were mistakes resulting from my own failures of judgment, oversight or both. We will not provide a forum for pseudoscience again, but this is partly a matter of context and I won't agree to blanket restrictions on who can appear."

I don't know about the rest of you but I would have reacted to this much more favorably. I'm cringing a little in anticipation of the page long "editorial policy clarification" that we're about to get instead.

But I do want to agree with Wright, because I think his TV network analogy (mentioned in Carroll's post) is basically correct, and Carroll's objection to it is unconvincing. Seen in this light, both Carroll and Zimmer are holding BHTV to an unfair standard.

peter

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 01:54 PM
Why are their reasons trivial? They have been volunteering their time with the goal of educating the public about science. Both Sean and Carl do this through various means - their blogs, podcasts, radio (Sean was often on public radio when he was in Chicago), etc. They have given their time to BHtv for the same purpose. Now both of them have decided that BHtv is not a good platform for them. They have stated their reasons and bid adieu. They do not want to be associated with a project that gives a platform for anti-science to put forth its views. What is trivial about that?

Well said, thprop. I'd add, to nikki and FA, that I don't see the stakes as being small or the reasons as being trivial. Will it affect the orbit of the Earth around the Sun? No. But matters of principle are important.

There is a struggle going on right now for the intellectual hearts (if that's not too much of an oxymoron) and minds of this nation and this world, between the attitude that wants to move out of our superstitious ways and the attitude that wants to cling to religious belief as privileged above all else. Each of us draws our line in a different place. You can disagree with the location, but to belittle that the line is drawn at all is either to be unaware of the stakes associated with this struggle or it is to be a squish, where "all points of view are equally valid." Both Sean and Carl feel the latter is an unacceptable attitude, and see the former as significant, and I agree with them.

AemJeff
09-01-2009, 01:55 PM
I disagree that letting Behe speak gives anti-science a "platform." Since his views represent those of a distinct minority, they are hardly a threat to normal science. I fail to see why scientists should react in this way...unless they really do feel threatened. Behe is neither a creationist nor an advocate of ID. He simply raises questions about the modern, neo-Darwinian synthesis

Personally, I think there are good reasons to entertain doubts about the latter, but my views are neither here nor there.

,

I think a better understanding of their reaction is irritation. No matter how often this stuff gets swatted down, Behe&Co fail to acknowledge the counterarguments and keep plying to the cheap seats. People like Sean and Carl are understandably tired of going around in circles with these guys.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 02:00 PM
I disagree that letting Behe speak gives anti-science a "platform." Since his views represent those of a distinct minority, they are hardly a threat to normal science.

You're wrong about that, at least in the US. Look it up. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&channel=s&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=y0X&ei=NGCdSqGsMuTcmQfB3am8Aw&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=poll+believe+in+evolution)

I fail to see why scientists should react in this way...unless they really do feel threatened.

They don't, but they feel society is being harmed by suffering the unwarranted respect given to creationists.

Behe is neither a creationist nor an advocate of ID.

You're dead wrong about that. Argue all you want, but ID is just creationism with "God" replaced by "designer." All the rest is window dressing, there to try to hide the reality that it is, fundamentally, a religious view.

He simply raises questions about the modern, neo-Darwinian synthesis

There are much better and much more honest ways to do that than Behe uses.

[Added] Bobby G reminds me ...

FA, I don't know what you mean when you see that Behe is not an advocate of ID. He's one of its founders. Could you explain a bit more about this?

... that I meant to say you were also dead wrong when you said Behe is not "an advocate of ID." You should look into this (http://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=behe+intelligent+design&btnG=Google+Search) before you opine further.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 02:02 PM
Can we quit giving him reasons to respond?

Agreed. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from indulging this child.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 02:05 PM
FA, I don't know what you mean when you see that Behe is not an advocate of ID. He's one of its founders. Could you explain a bit more about this?

Nevertheless, I agree with you that Carroll and Zimmer jumping ship, principled or not, comes off as defensive and haughty. It worries me for two reasons:

(1) It's trying to marginalize a view (ID) by refusing to be associated with platforms that are, in their minds, 'sympathetic' to ID. But it's clear from the variety of the guests on BH.tv that BH.tv is not sympathetic to ID. If I were a devious IDer (not to say all IDers are devious), I'd do my best to make as many platforms as possible appear sympathetic by Carroll's and Zimmer's lights so that they're left just speaking to each other and so that a much smaller segment of the public can hear their responses.

(2) I suspect Carroll* feels about all organized theistic religion the way he feels about ID.** Or, to be more precise, I bet Carroll, whether he knows it or not, is logically committed to the view that, say, Roman Catholicism, no matter how sophisticated, is no better, and is probably worse intellectually speaking, than ID. If I'm right about this--and of course I may not be--then I think Carroll is either being hypocritical (if he knows what's he's logically committed to) or, if he doesn't realize what he's committed to, must, if he is consistent, think that people who disagree with him about certain fundamental matters (about which numerous smart people disagree), are so intellectually irresponsible as to be beneath speaking to, which is an off-puttingly haughty attitude.

*--I choose Carroll rather than Zimmer because I know more about Carroll's views regarding theistic religion.
**--I don't think it does any good to say that ID represents itself as science, whereas Roman Catholicism does not, and that this is the source of Carroll's disparate attitudes. I don't think this because Roman Catholicism, as Carroll would point out, makes existential claims about the nature of the world (it says God exists, that Jesus existed, that Jesus was God, that Mary was assumed into heaven, that homosexuality is objectionably abnormal, that we should tithe 10% of our income, that war is justified only under certain very constrained conditions, etc., etc.) and so is not markedly different from a scientific view. The main difference between RC and natural science is that RC gets everything wrong whereas science gets nothing wrong, at least not in any culpable sense.

Francoamerican
09-01-2009, 02:10 PM
I think a better understanding of their reaction is irritation. No matter how often this stuff gets swatted down, Behe&Co fail to acknowledge the counterarguments and keep plying to the cheap seats. People like Sean and Carl are understandably tired of going around in circles with these guys.

Well, in my opinion, evolutionary biologists also turn in a circle--- the big, big circle of random mutations and natural selection. I have commented on this in the Behe thread. As an outside observer whose only knowledge of evolution comes from what I read by evolutionary biologists, I find it difficult to take sides. There are cheap seats on both sides.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 02:14 PM
[Added] Bobby G reminds me ...

... that I meant to say you were also dead wrong when you said Behe is not "an advocate of ID." You should look into this (http://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=behe+intelligent+design&btnG=Google+Search) before you opine further.

See also. (http://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=behe+dover+trial&btnG=Google+Search)

osmium
09-01-2009, 02:17 PM
They are immature academics. They lack character and intellectual fortitude. Pretending they're better people for taking a principled stand is ludicrous and shameful.

I shame them. I shame them. I shame them.

You men are infants!!!

I never thought it was possible to convey a crying tantrum in text form so effectively. Golf clap, sir.

rcocean
09-01-2009, 02:18 PM
I'd call them something else:

Pompous, close-minded idelogues. As someone else wrote - don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Their position is absurd: "you had Johnny at your party, so I won't play with you anymore" I think Bob can get replacements for these two rather easily. Poor Bob having to deal with these divas.

Obviously, if Behe's attacks on Darwinian theory are so "Unscientific" then it should be rather easy for some Blogging-head (even Bob) to show that on BHTV. He could also show ID for the "fraud" it is. Further, Bob's statement that he didn't think it would be "interesting" to interrogate Behe or confront him with another scientist is rather odd considering the numerous dry-as-dust Diavlogs he's put on.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 02:18 PM
FA, I don't know what you mean when you see that Behe is not an advocate of ID. He's one of its founders. Could you explain a bit more about this?

Nevertheless, I agree with you that Carroll and Zimmer jumping ship, principled or not, comes off as defensive and haughty. It worries me for two reasons:

(1) It's trying to marginalize a view (ID) by refusing to be associated with platforms that are, in their minds, 'sympathetic' to ID. But it's clear from the variety of the guests on BH.tv that BH.tv is not sympathetic to ID. If I were a devious IDer (not to say all IDers are devious), I'd do my best to make as many platforms as possible appear sympathetic by Carroll's and Zimmer's lights so that they're left just speaking to each other and so that a much smaller segment of the public can hear their responses.

Oddly enough, many people who oppose ID being treated as scientific feel exactly as your hyothetical "devious IDer." There is a growing consensus among scientists that it is counterproductive to debate IDiots, because it gives them unwarranted respect by putting them on the same platform as actual scientists. Look into this -- after any debate of significance, there is all manner of crowing in the IDiosphere, much of it along the lines of "Well, I guess we must be important. Why else would Professor X have debated us if we weren't?"

(2) I suspect Carroll* feels ...

Have you read his post (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/), including the update? If not, you should.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 02:33 PM
Oddly enough, many people who oppose ID being treated as scientific feel exactly as your hyothetical "devious IDer." There is a growing consensus among scientists that it is counterproductive to debate IDiots, because it gives them unwarranted respect by putting them on the same platform as actual scientists. Look into this -- after any debate of significance, there is all manner of crowing in the IDiosphere, much of it along the lines of "Well, I guess we must be important. Why else would Professor X have debated us if we weren't?"

Debating an IDer is a different matter than refusing to be associated with a platform that has allowed one debate with an IDer conducted under circumstances that were against the wishes of the host of the platform and then taken down. Obviously, if a university allowed an IDer on campus to debate someone, it would be crazy to resign from that university because (a) having a university job is a good job and (b) universities are about spreading knowledge, informing the public, and satisfying the wishes, to some degree, of both the surrounding public and the constituents of the university. IDers may crow, but non-IDers may be convinced against ID, and moreover if you completely disallow IDers from discussion it's not obvious that you're going to reduce their numbers. (c) BH.tv is somewhat like a university in that it's designed to allow debates to happen vis-a-vis issues of public importance, and it's moreover desirous of satisfying its constituents, which include not just the commenters on this board, active or not, but the anonymous web-traffice it gets.

Me&theboys
09-01-2009, 02:34 PM
(2) I suspect Carroll* feels about all organized theistic religion the way he feels about ID.** Or, to be more precise, I bet Carroll, whether he knows it or not, is logically committed to the view that, say, Roman Catholicism, no matter how sophisticated, is no better, and is probably worse intellectually speaking, than ID. If I'm right about this--and of course I may not be--then I think Carroll is either being hypocritical (if he knows what's he's logically committed to) or, if he doesn't realize what he's committed to, must, if he is consistent, think that people who disagree with him about certain fundamental matters (about which numerous smart people disagree), are so intellectually irresponsible as to be beneath speaking to, which is an off-puttingly haughty attitude.

1) In what way would being logically committed to the view that some of the claims of RC are on the same intellectual plane as those of ID make Carroll (or anyone else) a hypocrite?

2) If I understand you correctly here, you feel, for example, that for a scientist to refuse to debate a RC priest about the veracity of, say, transubstantiation would be off-puttingly haughty?

dpc
09-01-2009, 02:35 PM
Well, in my opinion, evolutionary biologists also turn in a circle--- the big, big circle of random mutations and natural selection. I have commented on this in the Behe thread. As an outside observer whose only knowledge of evolution comes from what I read by evolutionary biologists, I find it difficult to take sides. There are cheap seats on both sides.

Here are some problems with your post:

1) The circle that Zimmer et al. go around in (mutation and selection -- don't forget drift and migration!) are supported by thousands of studies. Each study done by the hard work of biologists. Behe and others have nothing. They are getting a seat at the table for simply stating crackpot ideas. 2) when evolution is described as 'random mutation and selection' it suggests a disregard for the complexity of mutation and selection. There are a huge variety of mutations and selection is intricate and fascinating (and again empirically supported). 3) Neither Zimmer nor Carroll are evolutionary biologists 4) As an early-career biologist, I would give my right arm (literally I would!) to demonstrate that something other than drift, mutation, selection and migration drove evolution.

Francoamerican
09-01-2009, 02:37 PM
FA, I don't know what you mean when you see that Behe is not an advocate of ID. He's one of its founders. Could you explain a bit more about this?.

In the dialogue Behe did not come across as a defender of ID but of IC (irreducible complexity), which is, admittedly, the first step to ID. If you find that the neo-Darwinian synthesis explains very little (that is my opinion), then IC at least deserves a hearing. It is also important to remember, though many people tend to forget this, that creationism and ID are NOT the same thing. You may very well think that "mind" (design) rules the universe without being a creationist, i.e. a Christian. So I would have to agree with Carroll, if that is indeed his opinion as you suggest, that Roman Catholicism "is... probably worse than ID," in that it makes the universe subject to arbitrary (=miraculous) interventions.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 02:48 PM
Have you read his post (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/), including the update? If not, you should.

I've read the post, and it confirms (i.e., probabilifies) my suppositions about Carroll. Here are a few choice quotes:

"What I objected to about the creationists was that they were not worthy opponents with whom I disagree; they’re just crackpots. Go to a biology conference, read a biology journal, spend time in a biology department; nobody is arguing about the possibility that an ill-specified supernatural “designer” is interfering at whim with the course of evolution. It’s not a serious idea. It may be out there in the public sphere as an idea that garners attention — but, as we all know, that holds true for all sorts of non-serious ideas. If I’m going to spend an hour of my life listening to two people have a discussion with each other, I want some confidence that they’re both serious people."

Based on this, I think that Carroll would (or if he doesn't, he, by his own lights, should) characterize anyone who argues for Christian, Jewish, or Islamic theism as non-serious, at least while he is arguing for those views. (Thus, Kurt Goedel is serious when he talking about mathematics, but is beneath contempt when he propounds his ontological argument on behalf of God's existence.) After all, such theists believe in miracles (i.e., "an ill-specified supernatural 'designer' ... interfering at whim with" earthly matters, even if it's not "the course of evolution").

Going on:

"A few years ago I declined an invitation to a conference sponsored by the Templeton foundation, because I didn’t want to be seen as supporting (even indirectly) their attempts to blur the lines between science and religion."

The Templeton Foundation doesn't do ID-stuff, to the best of my knowledge. It supports good thinkers, most of whom are religious, and tries to find the best, most serious stuff that can be said on behalf of orthodox and sometimes heterodox (e.g., Polkinghorn) religious thought. That Carroll finds this enterprise to be a "blur[ring of] the lines between science and religion" speaks volumes to me.

Admittedly, Carroll writes, "If you want to talk to a theologian about theology, or a politician about politics, or an artist about art, the fact that such a person has ID sympathies doesn’t bother me in the least." Should this be taken as evidence that he thinks of orthodox religious thinkers as more serious than IDers? Not obviously. First, he once wrote a post--I can't be bothered to find it, but if you want me to, I'll try--wherein he mentioned that he taught a course on atheism at the U of Chicago. He brought in a priest, and that priest asked him, "wait, you don't think I believe in 'G-O-D' God, do you?" Carroll might have respect for such theologians, but for people like Alvin Plantinga (http://philosophy.nd.edu/people/all/profiles/plantinga-alvin/) and Bas van Fraassen (http://www.princeton.edu/~fraassen/), at least in their guise as religious thinkers, my guess is that he would find himself having utter contempt. Second, even if he does take people like Plantinga and van Fraassen seriously, I'm dubious that he should, given the views he expresses above.

Finally, interviewing 'crackpots' isn't without precedent on BH.tv. Jerome Corsi, after all, was interviewed, and he seems much more crackpottish to me than Michael Behe. Why didn't Carroll leave then? Is it only the scientific crackpots who are to be worried over?

Francoamerican
09-01-2009, 02:49 PM
Here are some problems with your post:

1) The circle that Zimmer et al. go around in (mutation and selection -- don't forget drift and migration!) are supported by thousands of studies. Each study done by the hard work of biologists. Behe and others have nothing. They are getting a seat at the table for simply stating crackpot ideas. 2) when evolution is described as 'random mutation and selection' it suggests a disregard for the complexity of mutation and selection. There are a huge variety of mutations and selection is intricate and fascinating (and again empirically supported). 3) Neither Zimmer nor Carroll are evolutionary biologists 4) As an early-career biologist, I would give my right arm (literally I would!) to demonstrate that something other than drift, mutation, selection and migration drove evolution.

I respect your opinion as an early-career biologist, but after poring over the writings of some of the great minds in your field, I would advise you against sacrificing your right arm at such an early stage in your career.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 02:49 PM
I agree with you that the equation of ID and creationism is extremely over-simplified. David Berlinski, for example, is an atheist IDer.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 02:51 PM
Debating an IDer is a different matter than refusing to be associated with a platform that has allowed one debate with an IDer conducted under circumstances that were against the wishes of the host of the platform and then taken down.

As you see it. As I've said elsewhere (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=127839#post127839), we all draw lines in different places when it comes to matters of principle.

Obviously, if a university allowed an IDer on campus to debate someone, it would be crazy to resign from that university because (a) having a university job is a good job ...

That's one clear difference right there. Bh.tv is not a job for Sean or Carl. While it may marginally help them, professionally, and you could call this a form of compensation, most of what they do is better viewed as volunteering their time to the cause of education. They have plenty of other outlets in which to do this, much more easily than they could go get another university job.

Also, since a university tends to be a far more sprawling thing, and a better understood collection of wildly different people and views, it's easy to see why Sean and Carl wouldn't worry about the hit to their credibility by staying at a university. Not so for Bh.tv, as both have explained in their posts.

IDers may crow, but non-IDers may be convinced against ID, ...

Many people with experience do not find this to be empirically true. An IDiot with good enough rhetorical skills can bamboozle people who don't have scientific training. And beyond the people who listen to the debate, there are the ripple effects caused by the fact that the debate took place and how the IDiots spin that. These effects are non-negligible.

... and moreover if you completely disallow IDers from discussion it's not obvious that you're going to reduce their numbers.

Again, many people with experience do not agree with you. The consensus is now more like this: "We certainly haven't had the results we hoped for by engaging with them, so let's try denying them the credibility by association for awhile, and see how that goes."

(c) BH.tv is somewhat like a university in that it's designed to allow debates to happen vis-a-vis issues of public importance, and it's moreover desirous of satisfying its constituents, which include not just the commenters on this board, active or not, but the anonymous web-traffice it gets.

That's one way to look at it, and it's not necessarily wrong. It is wrong, however, not to acknowledge that Sean and Carl are equally justified in seeing Bh.tv as something quite different from a university. Sean's analogy of a TV station versus a specific TV show is useful in seeing how he sees things.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 02:54 PM
1) In what way would being logically committed to the view that some of the claims of RC are on the same intellectual plane as those of ID make Carroll (or anyone else) a hypocrite?

Good question; I didn't make myself clear. Bloggingheads.tv has had religious thinkers on before who advocated on behalf of their religious ideas (Michael Murray and John Leslie, for examples) and yet Carroll didn't leave in protest. Moreover, my guess is that Carroll has been associated with organizations that have supported--at least to the extent BH.tv has--Christian figures propounding their orthodox Christian beliefs, and yet he didn't leave those organizations for that reason (University of Chicago has Martin Marty, among others).

2) If I understand you correctly here, you feel, for example, that for a scientist to refuse to debate a RC priest about the veracity of, say, transubstantiation would be off-puttingly haughty?

Hmm. It's kind of an odd example, seeing as how the grounds for transsubstantiation are Biblical and philosophical rather than scientific. If for some reason, though, a Roman Catholic priest was going to debate transsubstantiation in a public forum, and they chose a scientist, rather than a Protestant minister or a philosopher to debate the priest, and the scientist turned the offer down, thinking it was beneath him, then yes, I would think the scientist haughty, as he is refusing to debate something that is a serious view and that isn't even in his wheelhouse to begin with.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 03:02 PM
That's one way to look at it, and it's not necessarily wrong. It is wrong, however, not to acknowledge that Sean and Carl are equally justified in seeing Bh.tv as something quite different from a university. Sean's analogy of a TV station versus a specific TV show is useful in seeing how he sees things.

It appears that our disagreements are: (1) over the empirical effects of debating ID and (2) over how to think of BH.tv.

I doubt there are any good studies of (1), but if you know of any, let me know. As things stand, we're just debating anecdote.

As for (2), all that's been alluded to as to how to see BH.tv is a vague feel that there's some common thread running through what BH.tv does. I see very little evidence of any such thread. I can't think of a single TV show that has as sprawling a number of viewpoints as BH.tv. That's why I don't agree with your claim that "It is wrong, however, not to acknowledge that Sean and Carl are equally justified in seeing Bh.tv as something quite different from a university."

I'm guessing you were just typing quickly when you wrote "equally" justified, and I'm guessing now that I've pointed out you'll rescind that. I presume you see my view as having _some_ justification but not _equal_ justification, and that's how I see Carroll's view. It's not obviously false, but I think it is less supportable than my own view, and I imagine you think my view as not obviously false but as less supprtable than Carroll's view (or perhaps you don't take and a side and are still trying to figure out what to think).

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 03:05 PM
Also, I'm done commenting for the day. I'm allowing myself only 1 hour of BH commenting per day--just too many other things to do now that I'm in my second year of teaching. I'll check back at some point tomorrow.

Me&theboys
09-01-2009, 03:25 PM
Hmm. It's kind of an odd example, seeing as how the grounds for transsubstantiation are Biblical and philosophical rather than scientific.

You've made my point for me. Let's use your examples: what about debates between a scientist and a priest on the veracity of the following claims by the RC church about the nature of the world: "God exists, Jesus existed, Jesus was God, Mary was assumed into heaven, homosexuality is objectionably abnormal, we should tithe 10% of our income, war is justified only under certain very constrained conditions." The problem is that the grounds for all of these claims are biblical and philosophical rather than scientific. Which is why reputable scientists are well within their rights to refuse to debate them as if they were scientific matters. This is why they refuse to debate with IDers and creationists about the veracity of ID and creationism. There's nothing off-puttingly haughty about it. They're scientists and they prefer to limit their scientific debates and discussions to claims/issues that are amendable to scientific discovery and evidence, which the claims of roman catholicism, ID, creationism, etc. are not.

claymisher
09-01-2009, 03:36 PM
Oddly enough, many people who oppose ID being treated as scientific feel exactly as your hyothetical "devious IDer." There is a growing consensus among scientists that it is counterproductive to debate IDiots, because it gives them unwarranted respect by putting them on the same platform as actual scientists. Look into this -- after any debate of significance, there is all manner of crowing in the IDiosphere, much of it along the lines of "Well, I guess we must be important. Why else would Professor X have debated us if we weren't?"



Have you read his post (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/), including the update? If not, you should.

The craziest thing about ID is that it was created to get wiggle around a Supreme Court case, Edwards v. Aguillard.

thprop
09-01-2009, 04:03 PM
PZ adds his two cents (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/zimmer_and_carroll_say_adios_t.php) -

Zimmer and Carroll say adios to Bloggingheads

Category: Communicating science
Posted on: September 1, 2009 1:53 PM, by PZ Myers

I've always rather liked Bloggingheads — at least the idea of it, with one-on-one discussions between interesting people. It flops in execution often, since some of the participants wouldn't recognize reason and evidence if it walked up and slapped them in the face with a large and pungent haddock (the right-winger political discussions are unwatchable, and it's always had this problem of giving people like Jonah Goldberg a platform), but their Science Saturday has been generally good. I don't always agree with the people they have on, but at least they're interesting and provocative. And Sean Carroll and Carl Zimmer have been superstars of the format.

That's changed lately. First they brought on Paul Nelson and Ron Numbers in a tawdry self-congratulation session that never addressed the Paraceratherium looming over the dialog, Nelson's insane young earth creationism. Then most recently they brought in Michael Behe, squirrely academic front for the ID creationism movement, and again they let his inanity slide by bringing in a friendly conversationalist, the linguist John McWhorter, who fawned over Behe's recent bad book.

What is this? Is bloggingheads to become a creationist-friendly site, where crackpots get to play talking head for a while and never risk getting their stupid ideas criticized? This is not good. If they want to bring in creationists, fine…but don't give them a free pass on their foolishness by pairing them with people who can't argue with the biology.

There was apparently some restlessness in the ranks of the regulars, and they had a conference call with Robert Wright, the man behind bloggingheads, which did not conclude at all satisfactorily. Now two of the best science people they had on call have declared that they will no longer be contributing.

Sean Carroll says goodbye for good reason.

What I objected to about the creationists was that they were not worthy opponents with whom I disagree; they're just crackpots. Go to a biology conference, read a biology journal, spend time in a biology department; nobody is arguing about the possibility that an ill-specified supernatural "designer" is interfering at whim with the course of evolution. It's not a serious idea. It may be out there in the public sphere as an idea that garners attention -- but, as we all know, that holds true for all sorts of non-serious ideas. If I'm going to spend an hour of my life listening to two people have a discussion with each other, I want some confidence that they're both serious people. Likewise, if I'm going to spend my own time and lend my own credibility to such an enterprise, I want to believe that serious discussions between respectable interlocutors are what the site is all about.

Carl Zimmer also departs.

My standard for taking part in any forum about science is pretty simple. All the participants must rely on peer-reviewed science that has direct bearing on the subject at hand, not specious arguments that may sound fancy but are scientifically empty. I believe standards like this one are crucial if we are to have productive discussions about the state of science and its effects on our lives.

This is not Blogginghead's standard, at least as I understand it now. And so here we must part ways.

This is good, principled action, and it's exactly what we need to do every time some journalistic enterprise tries to generate a false equivalence between serious science and crackpottery like creationism — shut them out. Say goodbye. Let the credible sources wash their hands of them and move on.

I'm still somewhat sympathetic to the idea of bloggingheads — and David Killoren left a good comment that basically admits that they screwed up — but there has to be a commitment to good science from the top down for it to work. I'm not convinced by the replies Wright has left on those two sites that he has that goal in mind.

thprop
09-01-2009, 04:06 PM
David Killoren comments to Sean (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/#comment-92929) -

17. David Killoren Says:
August 31st, 2009 at 2:47 pm

As Sean mentions in the post, I work for Bloggingheads.tv (but here I’m speaking only for myself). Here are my two or three cents.

First, to Jennifer’s concern: I am confident that there is no deliberate creationism trend at BhTV. I set up the Numbers/Nelson diavlog without Sang Ngo’s knowledge. (Sang is another BhTV employee). Sang Ngo set up the McWhorter/Behe diavlog without my knowledge. Since Sang and I didn’t communicate about these two diavlogs, there isn’t much chance that any trend comprised by these two diavlogs is deliberate!

Second I want to voice agreement with Sean about a few things. I agree that creationists and ID’ers are crackpots. I agree that these crackpots do harm (e.g. by corrupting public perception of science). I agree that appearing on a site that has featured crackpots could damage the reputation and integrity of reputable scientists, so I fully understand Sean’s choice to stay away from BhTV (although I’d be very happy if he were to reconsider).

For the record, here’s my stab at a defense of the Numbers/Nelson diavlog: Ron Numbers is an agnostic and widely acknowledged as an expert in the history of science. Paul Nelson is a rather extreme young-earth creationist. Their diavlog lacks any kind of a forceful explanation of why Nelson’s views are unjustified. But the conversation does delve into Nelson’s thinking and the intellectual tradition of which Nelson is a part. Arguably, when you’re covering that kind of material for an educated audience, there’s no need to include a “Creationism is hooey” disclaimer. The fact that creationism is hooey is just irrelevant to the subject matter. Moreover, such a disclaimer would arguably be insulting to an audience composed of people who know quite well that creationism is hooey.

I don’t know how convincing that defense is or should be. (I already know it doesn’t convince Sean, since I already offered it to him.) I do know that you can’t defend the McWhorter/Behe diavlog in any similar way. If the McWhorter/Behe diavlog is defensible, I don’t see how to defend it just now.

Anyway, this is just my opinion, but I think we (BhTV) screwed up — and the origins of that screw-up lie in my ill-fated decision to put together the Numbers/Nelson diavlog. One Sean Carroll diavlog is worth any number of creationism conversations. If I could rewind and start over I’d aim to do it all differently.

David

thouartgob
09-01-2009, 04:50 PM
Many people with experience do not find this to be empirically true. An IDiot with good enough rhetorical skills can bamboozle people who don't have scientific training. And beyond the people who listen to the debate, there are the ripple effects caused by the fact that the debate took place and how the IDiots spin that. These effects are non-negligible.

...

Again, many people with experience do not agree with you. The consensus is now more like this: "We certainly haven't had the results we hoped for by engaging with them, so let's try denying them the credibility by association for awhile, and see how that goes."



I just don't see how ignoring a problem fixes it. In response to the fact that, as you have posted in previous comments, there are a lot of people in this country that hew to beliefs that are contradicted by facts, should scientists stop trying to communicate to the public at large ?

It does suck for a scientist who spends a great deal of time DOING science to have to play rhetorical games with opponents who spend most of their time sharpening rhetoric and not DOING science. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of thing and I won't complain about sean and carl did since it is their time and energy and they are free to spend them on pursuits that reward them. Reality is on our side even if the "god-of-the-gaps" isn't and we need to have a certain amount of, dare I say it, "faith" in the process of engaging the public so that down the road we can dispense with rhetoric and have some fun figuring out what this thing called reality is.

DenvilleSteve
09-01-2009, 05:36 PM
It does suck for a scientist who spends a great deal of time DOING science to have to play rhetorical games with opponents who spend most of their time sharpening rhetoric and not DOING science. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of thing and I won't complain about sean and carl did since it is their time and energy and they are free to spend them on pursuits that reward them. Reality is on our side even if the "god-of-the-gaps" isn't and we need to have a certain amount of, dare I say it, "faith" in the process of engaging the public so that down the road we can dispense with rhetoric and have some fun figuring out what this thing called reality is.

Is the science presented by Behe incorrect? That is, the science where he explains in detail the workings of what he calls "molecular machines". It all sounds as fascinating to me as it appears to sound to John McWhorter. I would welcome hearing a point by point rebuttal of what Behe has to say about the molecular workings of cells and how the molecular machines have evolved.

DenvilleSteve
09-01-2009, 05:45 PM
PZ adds his two cents (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/zimmer_and_carroll_say_adios_t.php) -

so PZ Myers says Jonah Goldberg and Michael Behe should both be silenced. No detailed reasons given, other than they are crackpots or right wingers. Myers, Carroll, Zimmer are the ones who refuse to debate their opponents. They are not credible.

thprop
09-01-2009, 05:48 PM
Is the science presented by Behe incorrect? That is, the science where he explains in detail the workings of what he calls "molecular machines". It all sounds as fascinating to me as it appears to sound to John McWhorter. I would welcome hearing a point by point rebuttal of what Behe has to say about the molecular workings of cells and how the molecular machines have evolved.

Incorrect? More like laughable. Behe was taken apart completely in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District) trial. This is how his testimony was evaluated by Judge John E. Jones III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District) (a Republican, appointed by Wm a churchgoing Lutheran) -

Dover testimony (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Behe#Dover_testimony)

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the first direct challenge brought in United States federal courts to an attempt to mandate the teaching of intelligent design on First Amendment grounds, Behe was called as a primary witness for the defense, and asked to support the idea that intelligent design was legitimate science. Behe's critics have pointed to a number of key exchanges that they say further undermine his statements about irreducible complexity and intelligent design. Under cross examination, Behe conceded that "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred".[43] During cross-examination Behe even stated that the definition of 'theory' as he applied it to intelligent design was so loose that astrology would qualify as a theory by definition as well.[44] Also while under oath, Behe admitted that his simulation modelling of evolution with Snoke had in fact shown that complex biochemical systems requiring multiple interacting parts for the system to function and requiring multiple, consecutive and unpreserved mutations to be fixed in a population could evolve within 20,000 years, even if the parameters of the simulation were rigged to make that outcome as unlikely as possible.[45][46]

John E. Jones III, the judge of the case, in his final ruling relied heavily upon Behe's testimony for the defense in his judgment for the plaintiffs, citing:

* "Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God."[5]
* "As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition's validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe's assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition."[5]
* "First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces."[6]
* "What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best "fringe science" which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community."[7]
* "We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large."[8]
* "ID proponents primarily argue for design through negative arguments against evolution, as illustrated by Professor Behe’s argument that “irreducibly complex” systems cannot be produced through Darwinian, or any natural, mechanisms. However, … arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. As Dr. Padian aptly noted, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”… Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich."[47]
* "Professor Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity depends on ignoring ways in which evolution is known to occur. Although Professor Behe is adamant in his definition of irreducible complexity when he says a precursor “missing a part is by definition nonfunctional,” what he obviously means is that it will not function in the same way the system functions when all the parts are present. For example in the case of the bacterial flagellum, removal of a part may prevent it from acting as a rotary motor. However, Professor Behe excludes, by definition, the possibility that a precursor to the bacterial flagellum functioned not as a rotary motor, but in some other way, for example as a secretory system."[48]
* "Professor Behe has applied the concept of irreducible complexity to only a few select systems: (1) the bacterial flagellum; (2) the blood-clotting cascade; and (3) the immune system. Contrary to Professor Behe’s assertions with respect to these few biochemical systems among the myriad existing in nature, however, Dr. Miller presented evidence, based upon peer-reviewed studies, that they are not in fact irreducibly complex."[49]
* "In addition, Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. Professor Behe’s only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies."[50]
* "...proponents assert that they refuse to propose hypotheses on the designer's identity, do not propose a mechanism, and the designer, he/she/it/they, has never been seen. ...


Go to this site (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover.html)if you want to read Behe's testimony and cross-examination.

nikkibong
09-01-2009, 05:52 PM
so PZ Myers says Jonah Goldberg and Michael Behe should both be silenced. No detailed reasons given, other than they are crackpots or right wingers. .

I have to agree. The haughtiness coming from Myers, (a man who is always a bit too combative for my liking, to begin with) is really disappointing.

DenvilleSteve
09-01-2009, 06:09 PM
Incorrect? More like laughable. Behe was taken apart completely in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District) trial. This is how his testimony was evaluated by Judge John E. Jones III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District) (a Republican, appointed by Wm a churchgoing Lutheran) -



Go to this site (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover.html)if you want to read Behe's testimony and cross-examination.

Well, thanks for the reply but I dont see a point by point rebuttal of Behe's point by point presentation in his books and BHTV apprearance. For example, how is it that the ribosome evolved to be the thing that creates proteins in the cell when the ribosome itself is made of protein? It would be fascinating if Zimmer or Carroll explained the evolution of the ribosome.

Behe has his ideas in print, explained step by step. Is there a book in print that rebuts Behe at the same level of detail?

Lyle
09-01-2009, 06:26 PM
Yet you indulge, you indulge, you indulge. Haha. One day you two fellows will actually practice what you preach... maybe. Haha.

Ocean
09-01-2009, 08:31 PM
I haven't been following in detail what the involved parties have been posting. But, from my perspective, it would be a great loss if two of our favorite science participants decide to boycott this site. I don't want to judge whether it is the right decision or not. Ultimately it is up to them to make that call.

Bhtv has been presenting more diavlogs with religious topics and some of those diavlogs have been posted in the science slots. This has been rather disappointing to many commenters and they have openly expressed so. I do worry about blurring the boundaries between science and religion. In my mind these are two distinctively different areas and should remain so. They don't mix well.

It is a good idea to present a variety of topics that represent diverse ideas and areas of interest. But perhaps, there should be a better separation between those that are more controversial or perhaps there could be a slot for "Controversies", where more flexibility is tolerated by all parties.

Hoping that this issue gets resolved soon...

kynefski
09-01-2009, 09:26 PM
Well, in my opinion, evolutionary biologists also turn in a circle--- the big, big circle of random mutations and natural selection. I have commented on this in the Behe thread. As an outside observer whose only knowledge of evolution comes from what I read by evolutionary biologists, I find it difficult to take sides. There are cheap seats on both sides.

The cheap seats are occupied by those who think we study biological evolution in order to decide whether or not it is undirected. Behe clearly plays to them, assuming that it is adequate to present his arguments and conclude that evolution is a designed process. As to proposing anything whatsoever about the process, he feels no obligation, nor do any of his CSC colleagues. Think about that. If you had concluded, from the evidence, that design was involved in the evolutionary process, wouldn't you be aching to investigate what that means about how life evolves? Yet the ID crowd isn't interested in the least. Passing strange, don't you think?

claymisher
09-01-2009, 09:31 PM
I have to agree. The haughtiness coming from Myers, (a man who is always a bit too combative for my liking, to begin with) is really disappointing.

I don't think Behe's argument is any dumber than Goldberg's liberal fascism nonsense.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 09:32 PM
It appears that our disagreements are: (1) over the empirical effects of debating ID and (2) over how to think of BH.tv.

I doubt there are any good studies of (1), but if you know of any, let me know. As things stand, we're just debating anecdote.

As far as I know, there haven't been any formal studies. There does get to be a point, though, where enough anecdotes add up at least to a suspicion. Somewhere else on this site, I gave a number of links to scientists explaining their thinking on not debating creationists. Visit the Nelson thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=3553) and search the thread for my name and the word debate for more.

As for (2), all that's been alluded to as to how to see BH.tv is a vague feel that there's some common thread running through what BH.tv does. I see very little evidence of any such thread.

I have cautioned against that observation, although I can see why others have been making it.

I can't think of a single TV show that has as sprawling a number of viewpoints as BH.tv. That's why I don't agree with your claim that "It is wrong, however, not to acknowledge that Sean and Carl are equally justified in seeing Bh.tv as something quite different from a university."

I'm guessing you were just typing quickly when you wrote "equally" justified, and I'm guessing now that I've pointed out you'll rescind that. I presume you see my view as having _some_ justification but not _equal_ justification, and that's how I see Carroll's view. It's not obviously false, but I think it is less supportable than my own view, and I imagine you think my view as not obviously false but as less supprtable than Carroll's view (or perhaps you don't take and a side and are still trying to figure out what to think).

No, actually, I was being polite by typing "equally." But nice try on the bully-boy response. ;^)

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 09:40 PM
I just don't see how ignoring a problem fixes it. In response to the fact that, as you have posted in previous comments, there are a lot of people in this country that hew to beliefs that are contradicted by facts, should scientists stop trying to communicate to the public at large ?

No, of course not. But there are many ways to communicate with the public, and it has become the view of many scientists that debating with creationists is not one of the good ones. The feeling is that it gives them unwarranted credibility by doing so.

As you go on to say ...

It does suck for a scientist who spends a great deal of time DOING science to have to play rhetorical games with opponents who spend most of their time sharpening rhetoric and not DOING science. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of thing and I won't complain about sean and carl did since it is their time and energy and they are free to spend them on pursuits that reward them. Reality is on our side even if the "god-of-the-gaps" isn't and we need to have a certain amount of, dare I say it, "faith" in the process of engaging the public so that down the road we can dispense with rhetoric and have some fun figuring out what this thing called reality is.

Not sure what you meant, but to "god of the gaps" not being on our side, I would disagree. We have been narrowing -- and in many places downright closing -- those gaps for hundreds of years. It may be an asymptotic process, but it's monotonic.

DenvilleSteve
09-01-2009, 09:44 PM
The cheap seats are occupied by those who think we study biological evolution in order to decide whether or not it is undirected. Behe clearly plays to them, assuming that it is adequate to present his arguments and conclude that evolution is a designed process. As to proposing anything whatsoever about the process, he feels no obligation, nor do any of his CSC colleagues. Think about that. If you had concluded, from the evidence, that design was involved in the evolutionary process, wouldn't you be aching to investigate what that means about how life evolves? Yet the ID crowd isn't interested in the least. Passing strange, don't you think?

I am not sure exactly what you are saying here, but I would like to add that I find Behe very instructive in his detailed description of the complexity of the workings of the cell. I am gathering from the indirect criticism of his argument that science cannot meet his challenge and explain the evolutionary sequence of events that resulted in the current day cell and microorganisms. Instead of conceding that point and trusting the public to not overly attribute the complexity to God's design, the institutional scientist crowd resort to the character assassination and other silencing the debate tactics their political ilk use in the public policy arena.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 09:44 PM
[...]

I'd add only one point: the difference between the self-identified religious thinkers that have appeared on Bh.tv and Behe is that the "religious thinkers" don't lie about what they represent.

DenvilleSteve
09-01-2009, 09:57 PM
No, of course not. But there are many ways to communicate with the public,


they should just try the truth. Admit they dont have the answers to Behe's science based challenges.


And it has become the view of many scientists that debating with creationists is not one of the good ones. The feeling is that it gives them unwarranted credibility by doing so.


sounds like democrat politics by other means. I suspect that Zimmer and Carroll decided on their "take their ball home" tantrum tactic because they feared the logical next diavlog would be Behe against one of them. It makes no sense to assert you will not debate Behe because "science" has already done so. Judging by the harseness of Zimmer's and Carroll's criticisms of Behe, they would wipe the floor with him in a debate. Why not do that and discredit him for the public to see? Likely because their science can't refute him.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 10:15 PM
I don't think Behe's argument is any dumber than Goldberg's liberal fascism nonsense.

Heh. On that we can all agree.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 10:18 PM
they should just try the truth.

As has become abundantly clear from both the creationists and the recent version of the Republican Party, the truth does not always out.

Admit they dont have the answers to Behe's science based challenges.

You have no idea what you're talking about. It is precisely because Behe's nonsense has been so thoroughly rebutted that scientists don't care to engage with him anymore.

Not that you have to worry about losing credibility at this point, DS, but sticking up for Behe is sheer IDiocy.

bjkeefe
09-01-2009, 10:21 PM
I have to agree. The haughtiness coming from Myers, (a man who is always a bit too combative for my liking, to begin with) is really disappointing.

Agreeing with DenvilleSteve. Noted, for the record.

nikkibong
09-01-2009, 11:08 PM
Agreeing with DenvilleSteve. Noted, for the record.

errr...what?

i really don't see what you're getting at.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 11:38 PM
As far as I know, there haven't been any formal studies. There does get to be a point, though, where enough anecdotes add up at least to a suspicion. Somewhere else on this site, I gave a number of links to scientists explaining their thinking on not debating creationists. Visit the Nelson thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=3553) and search the thread for my name and the word debate for more.

Well, who's responsible for the anecdotes, and don't they possibly have some distorting self-interest in their observations?

No, actually, I was being polite by typing "equally." But nice try on the bully-boy response. ;^)

Ah! So it's your view that I should admit that Carroll's and Zimmer's POV is more justified than my own. That's a _very_ tempting offer, but since I see almost no reason to favor their take on things, and reason against it, I think I'll stick with my own view, thanks very much.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 11:40 PM
You've made my point for me. Let's use your examples: what about debates between a scientist and a priest on the veracity of the following claims by the RC church about the nature of the world: "God exists, Jesus existed, Jesus was God, Mary was assumed into heaven, homosexuality is objectionably abnormal, we should tithe 10% of our income, war is justified only under certain very constrained conditions." The problem is that the grounds for all of these claims are biblical and philosophical rather than scientific. Which is why reputable scientists are well within their rights to refuse to debate them as if they were scientific matters. This is why they refuse to debate with IDers and creationists about the veracity of ID and creationism. There's nothing off-puttingly haughty about it. They're scientists and they prefer to limit their scientific debates and discussions to claims/issues that are amendable to scientific discovery and evidence, which the claims of roman catholicism, ID, creationism, etc. are not.

That's a good response. I have to think about it more, but if I don't come up with anything, consider me having conceded that such a refusal to debate wouldn't necessarily indicate haughtiness.

Bobby G
09-01-2009, 11:41 PM
Despite my most recent comment, the comment to which this is a reply still holds. I'm procrastinating right now.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 01:51 AM
errr...what?

i really don't see what you're getting at.

Just kidding around. Should've put a winkie.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 04:51 AM
Well, who's responsible for the anecdotes, ...

Dawkins, following the advice of SJ Gould, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, Jerry Coyne, people like that.

... and don't they possibly have some distorting self-interest in their observations?

I don't think so. Their interest is in educating people about science. They and plenty of others have shown a willingness to try almost anything. They have made a judgment call that debating creationists doesn't get their message across as well as other ways, and have observed counterproductive results. As I said, if you're interested, I put a bunch of links up in the other creationist thread. If you can't be bothered to look, fine. But you really ought to read up on this a little before you speculate further.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:00 AM
Based on this, I think that Carroll would (or if he doesn't, he, by his own lights, should) characterize anyone who argues for Christian, Jewish, or Islamic theism as non-serious, at least while he is arguing for those views.

I see you pretty much talked yourself out pursuing this line further down ("Admittedly, Carroll writes ..."), so I'll leave this alone.

One point to reemphasize if you didn't read it elsewhere: I'm pretty sure Carroll and many other science-minded people have less impatience with theologians talking theology than they do with Behe and other creationists, because at least the former group is honest about where they're coming from.

"A few years ago I declined an invitation to a conference sponsored by the Templeton foundation, because I didn’t want to be seen as supporting (even indirectly) their attempts to blur the lines between science and religion."

The Templeton Foundation doesn't do ID-stuff, to the best of my knowledge. It supports good thinkers, most of whom are religious, and tries to find the best, most serious stuff that can be said on behalf of orthodox and sometimes heterodox (e.g., Polkinghorn) religious thought. That Carroll finds this enterprise to be a "blur[ring of] the lines between science and religion" speaks volumes to me.

Don't know what to tell you. If you think creationism is the only way to blur the lines between faith and science, we're too far apart to make it worth talking about this further.

Finally, interviewing 'crackpots' isn't without precedent on BH.tv. Jerome Corsi, after all, was interviewed, and he seems much more crackpottish to me than Michael Behe. Why didn't Carroll leave then? Is it only the scientific crackpots who are to be worried over?

I don't know what Sean thinks about Corsi being on, or even if Sean knows about that. I suspect that he cares less about the political crackpots in general because they don't have anything to do with science.

For my own self, I thought having Corsi on was a disgrace, and I said so at the time. I will give Bh.tv this, though: at least they paired him with someone who didn't give him a fluff job interview.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:02 AM
The craziest thing about ID is that it was created to get wiggle around a Supreme Court case, Edwards v. Aguillard.

Indeed. And the sham of ID has been shot down in court, too. Notice that the political agenda shifted after that first to "teach the controversy," and when that didn't work, to whining about free speech.

It's a game of whack-a-mole, all right.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 05:12 AM
The cheap seats are occupied by those who think we study biological evolution in order to decide whether or not it is undirected. Behe clearly plays to them, assuming that it is adequate to present his arguments and conclude that evolution is a designed process. As to proposing anything whatsoever about the process, he feels no obligation, nor do any of his CSC colleagues. Think about that. If you had concluded, from the evidence, that design was involved in the evolutionary process, wouldn't you be aching to investigate what that means about how life evolves? Yet the ID crowd isn't interested in the least. Passing strange, don't you think?

I know enough about evolution, and enough about the logic of scientific explanation, to wonder if the paradigm of explanation in evolutionary biology (random mutations + natural selection) is adequate to the task of explaining how complex organisms evolved from simpler organisms. That doesn't mean that I think that ID is true, or even provable. It may be nothing but a relic of traditional metaphysics. I am a sceptic on the issue. But I think, nonetheless, that the burden of proof lies with those who postulate, on the basis of the evidence of evolution (which is indisputable), that random mutations and natural selection can account for all the evidence, at both the micro and macro levels.

The problem, as I see it, is that the postulate is unfalsifiable. It always produces whatever results you want, which just happen to correspond to the history of life on earth as we know it up to now. It is a kind of tautology, as Popper and others have pointed out. That may be the best that scientists can do. Que sais-je, as Montaigne asked.

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 08:44 AM
That's a good response. I have to think about it more, but if I don't come up with anything, consider me having conceded that such a refusal to debate wouldn't necessarily indicate haughtiness.

Why can't Zimmer and Carroll debate Behe on the subject of how the ribosome and other molecular machines work and evolved? My assumption at this point is they don't have science based responses to the Behe's challenges.

Democrats always behave like democrats, no matter their profession or the subject matter. Whenever they have to concede they are wrong or don't know, they resort to character assassination and changing the terms of the debate. I still dont understand why Obama can't release his birth certificate and not the indirect certificate of whatever that was released instead. What hospital was Baby Barack born at, what doctor delivered him?

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 08:54 AM
I know enough about evolution, and enough about the logic of scientific explanation, to wonder if the paradigm of explanation in evolutionary biology (random mutations + natural selection) is adequate to the task of explaining how complex organisms evolved from simpler organisms. That doesn't mean that I think that ID is true, or even provable. It may be nothing but a relic of traditional metaphysics. I am a sceptic on the issue. But I think, nonetheless, that the burden of proof lies with those who postulate, on the basis of the evidence of evolution (which is indisputable), that random mutations and natural selection can account for all the evidence, at both the micro and macro levels.


sounds logical to me. I think it is terrible that representatives of large institution science like Carroll and Zimmer have decided not to respond to requests from readers of Behe's works to explain what is incorrect about his work.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 09:06 AM
sounds logical to me. I think it is terrible that representatives of large institution science like Carroll and Zimmer have decided not to respond to requests from readers of Behe's works to explain what is incorrect about his work.

If you would like to read some explanations of what's wrong with Behe's books and other writings, see the Behe thread, for example, here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126768#post126768), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126774#post126774), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126775#post126775), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126776#post126776), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126779#post126779), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126780#post126780), here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126785#post126785), and here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126786#post126786).

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 09:20 AM
No, of course not. But there are many ways to communicate with the public, and it has become the view of many scientists that debating with creationists is not one of the good ones. The feeling is that it gives them unwarranted credibility by doing so.



I understand the problem, mixing non-science with science when you debate creationists in whatever form be it young earth creationist or old earth creationist or the different variety of IDsters ( aliens blah blah ). Further problems arise when the media takes both sides of an issue and finds the "middle" proposition between the two, offering it up as a compromise position so that teaching the controversy ... you know the rest.

This kind of placation is done with political issues all of the time because many people in the audience want to think of themselves as independent thinkers even if they don't understand what they are supposed to be thinking about. In science history we have seen this before, when Tycho Brahe's version of the solar system ( universe in their thinking ) was some amalgam of Ptolemy and Copernicus ( later Kepler ) as if such a physical system lent itself to such political "thinking". Nobody wins when that happens.

Even with all of these problems and I do believe they are problems, scientists still have to work within the society they live in and in THIS society people are giving ID their ear because it has that "Brahe-istically" warm feeling ( still at the center of the universe ) that god is still there intervening in our lives on a molecular level ( at least ) and that he still loves us etc. That is the playing field and if scientists are going to reach this large demographic that can be swayed by er... uh... a good PR campaign essentially, they are going to have to interact with unscientific types. Attract the public with drama and intrigue and inject actual facts into the mix. Science writers have been doing if for years. It's not science but it is necessary.


As you go on to say ...



Not sure what you meant, but to "god of the gaps" not being on our side, I would disagree. We have been narrowing -- and in many places downright closing -- those gaps for hundreds of years. It may be an asymptotic process, but it's monotonic.

Well a turn of phrase sometimes get in the way I guess. Obviously I was making the point that even though the preponderance of information we are gathering about the reality supports evolution etc. we are still going to face the "god-of-the-gaps" however small this particular deity becomes, since people want god to be somewhere and gaps seem the most inviting place.

stephanie
09-02-2009, 09:58 AM
I don't think Behe's argument is any dumber than Goldberg's liberal fascism nonsense.

I don't think it is either, and I'm not convinced it's any more dishonest. In fact, I haven't investigated Behe enough to know whether he's dishonest in his scientific arguments or simply wrong (or crazy in some manner, which seems to be what Carroll was saying). On the other hand, Goldberg himself has basically admitted that he wrote Liberal Fascism to get back at liberals (although he really means leftists) for calling Bush and Republicans fascists at times. I don't think he himself really thinks his arguments are good ones.

This doesn't mean that I think Goldberg or Behe should be banned from bloggingheads, although I'm trying to work through in my own mind what I think a responsible editorial or management policy would be. I was an editor of a college newspaper once upon a time, as well as an editor of a feminist law journal that got into a huge mess/debate about related issues, so this is bringing back memories of how thorny questions about where to draw the line between open dialogue and taking charge of who you offer a platform to can be.

With bloggingheads, on the whole I'd like a site that is as open to a range of ideas as possible (and think the TV network analogy is a good one), given that there's way too much segregation in dialogue, in social circles, on the net already, as shown by the fact that it's extremely difficult to find a discussion forum that isn't dominated by one "side" or another and usually pretty intolerant to opposing ideas.

I think this particular Behe diavlog sounds like a bad idea, from all I've heard about it, though I haven't listened to it yet, so obviously reserve the right to change my mind. (I will still like McWhorter and want him back in other diavlogs, even if the worst I've read about this diavlog turns out to be true). However, I continue to think that the only thing objectionable about the Numbers-Nelson diavlog was that it appeared under Science Saturday. And while there are plenty of regular diavlog participants who I think play games with the facts sometimes, the only one I have a potential (and it's only potential, I haven't made up my mind) issue with appearing is Corsi.

I'm disappointed that Carroll and Zimmer have decided not to appear anymore, and hope they change their minds, but if the price for that was a promise of no more creationists, even if there is no plans and no particular desire by Bob to have any on any time soon (which I think is likely the case), I don't think bloggingheads should have made such a promise.

stephanie
09-02-2009, 10:17 AM
I haven't been following in detail what the involved parties have been posting. But, from my perspective, it would be a great loss if two of our favorite science participants decide to boycott this site. I don't want to judge whether it is the right decision or not. Ultimately it is up to them to make that call.

Bhtv has been presenting more diavlogs with religious topics and some of those diavlogs have been posted in the science slots. This has been rather disappointing to many commenters and they have openly expressed so. I do worry about blurring the boundaries between science and religion. In my mind these are two distinctively different areas and should remain so. They don't mix well.

It is a good idea to present a variety of topics that represent diverse ideas and areas of interest. But perhaps, there should be a better separation between those that are more controversial or perhaps there could be a slot for "Controversies", where more flexibility is tolerated by all parties.

Hoping that this issue gets resolved soon...

Excellent post, and I agree with everything in it. I really like the Controversies idea, although my impression is that that would not make things any better from the perspective of those boycotting.

My feeling is that part of the gamble we take with the emphasis on democracy and free speech and the like is that a lot of people are lazy or idiots and a lot of speakers have bigger pocketbooks than others. However much one believes that truth wins out, there's reason to fear if that's really true. So I complete get why people might prefer to do their best to counter ideas that they feel are dangerous -- either by preferring media that has a clear editorial view one way (and against the bad idea) or by even doing more (such as boycotts) to freeze out or fight against the bad idea. With respect to some ideas or types of arguments, I even might support certain such tactics.

However, I also think there's an extremely important role for forums open to a wider variety of ideas, even ideas that the owner of the forum might consider loathsome (like the various people who have come on and suggested that Palin's "death panel" nonsense might have some basis in truth, an idea that we know Bob hates immensely and is infuriated by). Bloggingheads is that kind of forum. That doesn't mean that every possible diavlog is a good idea, but it does mean that merely being wrong, according to Bob's understanding probably isn't such a good reason not to have a particular person as a participant either. As far as where to draw the lines in between, I think that's a difficult and highly subjective set of questions on which people of good faith can differ.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 10:21 AM
I understand the problem, mixing non-science with science when you debate creationists in whatever form be it young earth creationist or old earth creationist or the different variety of IDsters ( aliens blah blah ). Further problems arise when the media takes both sides of an issue and finds the "middle" proposition between the two, offering it up as a compromise position so that teaching the controversy ... you know the rest.

This kind of placation is done with political issues all of the time because many people in the audience want to think of themselves as independent thinkers even if they don't understand what they are supposed to be thinking about. In science history we have seen this before, when Tycho Brahe's version of the solar system ( universe in their thinking ) was some amalgam of Ptolemy and Copernicus ( later Kepler ) as if such a physical system lent itself to such political "thinking". Nobody wins when that happens.

Even with all of these problems and I do believe they are problems, scientists still have to work within the society they live in and in THIS society people are giving ID their ear because it has that "Brahe-istically" warm feeling ( still at the center of the universe ) that god is still there intervening in our lives on a molecular level ( at least ) and that he still loves us etc. That is the playing field and if scientists are going to reach this large demographic that can be swayed by er... uh... a good PR campaign essentially, they are going to have to interact with unscientific types. Attract the public with drama and intrigue and inject actual facts into the mix. Science writers have been doing if for years. It's not science but it is necessary.

All very well said. I can't really say anything in return except to restate my point: there are many ways for scientists, and science journalists and educators, to communicate with the public. Choosing not to employ one channel because it seems not to be working well, in the judgment of those who have actually done it, does not seem likely to harm the general effort of outreach. (Even if that judgment isn't entirely correct.)

I'll add that I used to be dubious about this attitude when it first started getting tossed around -- as you'll be unsurprised to hear, I tend to favor confronting liars and charlatans immediately in order to prevent their nonsense from passing unchallenged. However, I've been persuaded that the direct debate approach with creationists just doesn't work very well, for a variety of reasons.

On a related note, I think that the amount of howling among the IDiots about Sean and Carl's decision -- which appears to be at the same decibel level as the howling when the video was pulled -- tells you a great deal about how much the creationists value face time with people from the actual science community. Something for you to think about, maybe.


Well a turn of phrase sometimes get in the way I guess. Obviously I was making the point that even though the preponderance of information we are gathering about the reality supports evolution etc. we are still going to face the "god-of-the-gaps" however small this particular deity becomes, since people want god to be somewhere and gaps seem the most inviting place.

Now that you say that, I see what you meant originally. Sorry for misreading. You're right -- people motivated not to accept evolutionary theory, no matter how much it progresses, will always be able to find what they call a gap.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 10:42 AM
sounds logical to me. I think it is terrible that representatives of large institution science like Carroll and Zimmer have decided not to respond to requests from readers of Behe's works to explain what is incorrect about his work.

Lemme help here quoting from one of BJkeefe's links


from Behe: "On average, for humans to achieve a mutation like this by chance, we would need to wait a hundred million times ten million years. Since that is many times the age of the universe, it's reasonable to conclude the following: No mutation that is of the same complexity as chloroquine resistance in malaria arose by Darwinian evolution in the line leading to humans in the past ten million years."

Behe, incredibly, thinks he has determined the odds of a mutation "of the same complexity" occurring in the human line. He hasn't. What he has actually done is to determine the odds of these two exact mutations occurring simultaneously at precisely the same position in exactly the same gene in a single individual. He then leads his unsuspecting readers to believe that this spurious calculation is a hard and fast statistical barrier to the accumulation of enough variation to drive darwinian evolution."



So the issue is one of misinterpreting probabilities. It is as if the idea of 2 mutations working sequentially does not exist. 2 changes happening at the SAME EXACT TIME takes longer to happen than 1 change to happen then another. So to use the overused concept of monkey's pecking away on a typewriter to come up with Hamlet or some such-er-other, it is going to take a long time for Hamlet to arise from our un-opposable thumbed cousins if you are waiting for each letter to fall into place randomly in one fell swoop. Of course this is NOT how evolution works. ( I apologize if this has been used before in the comments and in general since it is overused IMHO )

Instead you get some gibberish for a while and say the first word of Hamlet appears; "who's", then this becomes the adaptive mutation and it sticks, there is no need for the chimps to re-create the text randomly with all of the other text, "who's" stays then say the "t" in "there" gets hit. Again this mutation stays. Later "here" follow quickly enough, so we get "who's there" in maybe 5 minutes or so.

Now it will take some time to finish the play ( depending on how much stage direction the chimps want to indulge in ) but the point is made that we are not talking about 100,000 words coming into existence out of random noise, we are talking about random changes that are fixed in place ( for reasons of grammar in the case of words and sentences ) and in the case of evolution we are talking about random changes that stick because they are adaptive to a changing environment.

It's a slight of hand that is used by IDsters to add noise to the debate. There is a lot of data out there and it is daunting for people in their respective fields to keep up with things let alone a layman so it is easy to rely on details being obscured by information overload.

Of course there is the simple conceit that things are so complex that you have to have multiple changes as the same time yadayda but of course the examples of such systems are few and becoming fewer. There are ways that biological systems act and react that we are STILL finding out about so that what might seem like a probabilistic mountain turns out to be a simple molehill since a new form of cellular communication is found or some function that didn't seem related to another function IS the SAME function in a different context and there is a genetic pathway from how it evolved from one function to another.

Complex, you betcha, but irreducible ?? Actually what seems quite complex now will seem elegant in 20 years but that is a supposition on my part. Time is the issue as someone in another thread has said. The mind cannot fully conceive of the time scales involved very easily. Just as the mind cannot conceive of quantum effects very well, we are bound by our concept of time (100 years is a chunk you can sort of conceive of ) and since it is a macroscopic property it distorts our perception the way solid surfaces in our macroscopic world distort our perception of an electron.

Ah here is a great place to cough up a link

http://www.exploringtime.org/

Heavy on animation for the interface and annoyingly small IMHO but still way cool.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 10:58 AM
On a related note, I think that the amount of howling among the IDiots about Sean and Carl's decision -- which appears to be at the same decibel level as the howling when the video was pulled -- tells you a great deal about how much the creationists value face time with people from the actual science community. Something for you to think about, maybe.



Well the noise out of their camp is going to be what it is to garner attention. I understand the problem since for IDsters any publicity is good publicity. It's tricky balance but I believe that there are some scientists and many people who love science in general, that can be called upon to engage creationism in all of it's forms. Debates can have rules and guidelines to minimize the opportunity for rhetorical flourish and maximize actual information. The Intelligent Design movement NEEDS science otherwise it can't exist so all we need to do is find some consistent way of interacting with them on these issues ( the bhtv way still works as an example IMHO, not the only one but still ... ).

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 11:01 AM
So the issue is one of misinterpreting probabilities. It is as if the idea of 2 mutations working sequentially does not exist. 2 changes happening at the SAME EXACT TIME takes longer to happen than 1 change to happen then another. So to use the overused concept of monkey's pecking away on a typewriter to come up with Hamlet or some such-er-other, it is going to take a long time for Hamlet to arise from our un-opposable thumbed cousins if you are waiting for each letter to fall into place randomly in one fell swoop. Of course this is NOT how evolution works. ( I apologize if this has been used before in the comments and in general since it is overused IMHO )

....

It's a slight of hand that is used by IDsters to add noise to the debate. There is a lot of data out there and it is daunting for people in their respective fields to keep up with things let alone a layman so it is easy to rely on details being obscured by information overload.

Of course there is the simple conceit that things are so complex that you have to have multiple changes as the same time yadayda but of course the examples of such systems are few and becoming fewer. There are ways that biological systems act and react that we are STILL finding out about so that what might seem like a probabilistic mountain turns out to be a simple molehill since a new form of cellular communication is found or some function that didn't seem related to another function IS the SAME function in a different context and there is a genetic pathway from how it evolved from one function to another.

Complex, you betcha, but irreducible ?? Actually what seems quite complex now will seem elegant in 20 years but that is a supposition on my part. Time is the issue as someone in another thread has said. The mind cannot fully conceive of the time scales involved very easily. Just as the mind cannot conceive of quantum effects very well, we are bound by our concept of time (100 years is a chunk you can sort of conceive of ) and since it is a macroscopic property it distorts our perception the way solid surfaces in our macroscopic world distort our perception of an electron.


I have no problem accepting evolution. I just dont worship it and inflate its importance as democrats do. Yes, Behe is likely out of his element when he challenges evolution above the level of his scientific area of study. I still think it would be fascinating to hear how molecular machines like the ribosome evolve and function.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 11:01 AM
I guess you were indirectly responding to me via denvillesteve. Please note that I didn't say that IC is a plausible interpretation of the evidence.

You are mistaken, however, if you think that legitimate biologists have never questioned the combination of random mutation and natural selection as an adequate interpretation of the evidence.

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 11:07 AM
Debates can have rules and guidelines to minimize the opportunity for rhetorical flourish and maximize actual information. The Intelligent Design movement NEEDS science otherwise it can't exist so all we need to do is find some consistent way of interacting with them on these issues ( the bhtv way still works as an example IMHO, not the only one but still ... ).

exactly. Carroll, Zimmer and Myers should debate Behe on BHTV. Focus on the subject matter which fascinated John McWhorter, the molecular workings of cells.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 11:16 AM
Well the noise out of their camp is going to be what it is to garner attention. I understand the problem since for IDsters any publicity is good publicity. It's tricky balance but I believe that there are some scientists and many people who love science in general, that can be called upon to engage creationism in all of it's forms. Debates can have rules and guidelines to minimize the opportunity for rhetorical flourish and maximize actual information. The Intelligent Design movement NEEDS science otherwise it can't exist so all we need to do is find some consistent way of interacting with them on these issues ( the bhtv way still works as an example IMHO, not the only one but still ... ).

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. From my reading, it is generally believed that attempting to set debate rules often doesn't work -- the creationists will flaunt them and the science representative will be put in a position of seeming churlish by insisting that the rules be followed..

As to "The Intelligent Design movement NEEDS science otherwise it can't exist" I would say: exactly. That's the whole point -- cut off their undeserved association with real science.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 11:18 AM
[...]

Great post.

claymisher
09-02-2009, 11:27 AM
Lemme help here quoting from one of BJkeefe's links


So the issue is one of misinterpreting probabilities. It is as if the idea of 2 mutations working sequentially does not exist. 2 changes happening at the SAME EXACT TIME takes longer to happen than 1 change to happen then another. So to use the overused concept of monkey's pecking away on a typewriter to come up with Hamlet or some such-er-other, it is going to take a long time for Hamlet to arise from our un-opposable thumbed cousins if you are waiting for each letter to fall into place randomly in one fell swoop. Of course this is NOT how evolution works. ( I apologize if this has been used before in the comments and in general since it is overused IMHO )

Instead you get some gibberish for a while and say the first word of Hamlet appears; "who's", then this becomes the adaptive mutation and it sticks, there is no need for the chimps to re-create the text randomly with all of the other text, "who's" stays then say the "t" in "there" gets hit. Again this mutation stays. Later "here" follow quickly enough, so we get "who's there" in maybe 5 minutes or so.

Now it will take some time to finish the play ( depending on how much stage direction the chimps want to indulge in ) but the point is made that we are not talking about 100,000 words coming into existence out of random noise, we are talking about random changes that are fixed in place ( for reasons of grammar in the case of words and sentences ) and in the case of evolution we are talking about random changes that stick because they are adaptive to a changing environment.

It's a slight of hand that is used by IDsters to add noise to the debate. There is a lot of data out there and it is daunting for people in their respective fields to keep up with things let alone a layman so it is easy to rely on details being obscured by information overload.

Of course there is the simple conceit that things are so complex that you have to have multiple changes as the same time yadayda but of course the examples of such systems are few and becoming fewer. There are ways that biological systems act and react that we are STILL finding out about so that what might seem like a probabilistic mountain turns out to be a simple molehill since a new form of cellular communication is found or some function that didn't seem related to another function IS the SAME function in a different context and there is a genetic pathway from how it evolved from one function to another.

Complex, you betcha, but irreducible ?? Actually what seems quite complex now will seem elegant in 20 years but that is a supposition on my part. Time is the issue as someone in another thread has said. The mind cannot fully conceive of the time scales involved very easily. Just as the mind cannot conceive of quantum effects very well, we are bound by our concept of time (100 years is a chunk you can sort of conceive of ) and since it is a macroscopic property it distorts our perception the way solid surfaces in our macroscopic world distort our perception of an electron.

Ah here is a great place to cough up a link

http://www.exploringtime.org/

Heavy on animation for the interface and annoyingly small IMHO but still way cool.

Nice post.

Behe's probability talk is a joke (http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2008/08/behe-botches-basic-probabilityhow.html). It's like a parlor trick where you prove that 1 equals 0 by slipping an error into the middle that nobody notices. For a guy with a phd to try that trick on people shows how shameless he is. (And John McWhorter needs to take stat 101.)

That might have been me over here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126906#post126906) on the time thing.

I remember reading Gould's "Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes" when I was a kid. I had just started programming, and it seemed so obvious to me suddenly, that our genetic code is like a program, and that you could get huge changes just by changing a parameter in a function call or two. It's not like starting from scratch every time.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 11:28 AM
I see you pretty much talked yourself out pursuing this line further down ("Admittedly, Carroll writes ..."), so I'll leave this alone.

I didn't talk myself out of it. I gave what I took would be a defender of Carroll's response, and I responded to that response.

One point to reemphasize if you didn't read it elsewhere: I'm pretty sure Carroll and many other science-minded people have less impatience with theologians talking theology than they do with Behe and other creationists, because at least the former group is honest about where they're coming from.

This could very well be why they have more patience with such folks, but I'm not sure it's a very consistent position.

Don't know what to tell you. If you think creationism is the only way to blur the lines between faith and science, we're too far apart to make it worth talking about this further.

I don't think that's the only way to "blur the lines between faith and science", but since just what science is is a hotly contested issue in philosophy of science, and since skeptics of religion often ask for (ambiguously, or not at all defined) "evidence" for faith, it's not surprising that some religious people try to step up, and Templeton is interested in hearing what they have to say by paying them money to hear them say it. If that counts as blurring the lines between faith and science, then believers are in a pretty tight bind, no? You ask for evidence and when we try to give it we're blurring the lines. If we don't give it, we're irrational.

I presume my characterization above isn't, in fact, what you've had in mind, so tell me where I'm wrong.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 11:33 AM
Why can't Zimmer and Carroll debate Behe on the subject of how the ribosome and other molecular machines work and evolved? My assumption at this point is they don't have science based responses to the Behe's challenges.

Have you looked up to see who's debated Behe, and over what? I wouldn't be shocked if people have debated him and concluded that, even when he doesn't have responses to a challenge in a particular debate, it still happens that he uses the same debating points repeatedly without having improved them, which may lead them to believe it's not worth the time. I don't, in fact, know whether any of this is true, though.

I presume Carroll, a physicist, and Zimmer, a journalist, don't debate him because neither of them is a trained biologist. That doesn't mean they can't read other trained biologists' takes on him and find those takes agreeable.

Democrats always behave like democrats, no matter their profession or the subject matter. Whenever they have to concede they are wrong or don't know, they resort to character assassination and changing the terms of the debate. I still dont understand why Obama can't release his birth certificate and not the indirect certificate of whatever that was released instead. What hospital was Baby Barack born at, what doctor delivered him?

I don't know for a fact that Zimmer and Carroll are Democrats, but if they are, I'm not sure that has a lot to do with their behavior. Steve Pinker is a Republican, and I wouldn't be shocked if he refrained from debating Behe/had the same sympathies as Carroll/Zimmer (though again, Pinker is a psychologist/linguist, not a biologist).

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 11:56 AM
Have you looked up to see who's debated Behe, and over what? I wouldn't be shocked if people have debated him and concluded that, even when he doesn't have responses to a challenge in a particular debate, it still happens that he uses the same debating points repeatedly without having improved them, which may lead them to believe it's not worth the time. I don't, in fact, know whether any of this is true, though.


Behe's approach is to use his detailed knowledge of molecular biology to challenge how what he studies and describes could have evolved. The PZ Myers article someone linked to in this thread addressed more traditional challenges to evolution. Admittedly, I have not looked very hard. But I have not read a credible challenge to Behe's assertions. Where is the book that refutes Behe's book, Darwins Black Box? It would be fascinating to read.

I presume Carroll, a physicist, and Zimmer, a journalist, don't debate him because neither of them is a trained biologist. That doesn't mean they can't read other trained biologists' takes on him and find those takes agreeable.


so Zimmer and Carroll can't refute Behe, but they think it is important enough that he not be heard that they will no longer appear on BHTV.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 12:08 PM
This could very well be why they have more patience with such folks, but I'm not sure it's a very consistent position.

It's inconsistent to dislike dishonesty?

I don't think that's the only way to "blur the lines between faith and science", but since just what science is is a hotly contested issue in philosophy of science, ...

Among philosophers. Not among scientists, except at the very edge of a few places, like wondering whether string theory or multiverses count as physics or metaphysics. In terms of biology, it is not at all debated among biologists that evolution is as well-established as anything in all of science. Nor is it still unsettled that creationism is not science.

... and since skeptics of religion often ask for (ambiguously, or not at all defined) "evidence" for faith, ...

No. You're confusing two different arguments. Asking for evidence of God is what atheists do when arguing with theists.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 12:09 PM
I remember reading Gould's "Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes" when I was a kid. I had just started programming, and it seemed so obvious to me suddenly, that our genetic code is like a program, and that you could get huge changes just by changing a parameter in a function call or two. It's not like starting from scratch every time.

True, but since geneticists are unable to provide a shred of evidence for what happened eons ago in the genomes of extinct species, speaking of the probability of huge changes emerging from tiny mutations rather begs the question, doesn't it?

I started reading online the book by Reid you recommended. Very interesting. Thanks again.

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 12:11 PM
...I don't think that's the only way to "blur the lines between faith and science", but since just what science is is a hotly contested issue in philosophy of science, and since skeptics of religion often ask for (ambiguously, or not at all defined) "evidence" for faith, it's not surprising that some religious people try to step up, and Templeton is interested in hearing what they have to say by paying them money to hear them say it. If that counts as blurring the lines between faith and science, then believers are in a pretty tight bind, no? You ask for evidence and when we try to give it we're blurring the lines. If we don't give it, we're irrational.



I don't think skeptics are asking for evidence for faith, Bobby. That seems pretty self-evidently incoherent. What they are asking for is evidence of the objects of faith, don't you think? That doesn't seem so ambiguous. "Faith," to skeptics seems either circular, or dependent on an obvious appeal to authority ("It says so in the Book!") and, as such, we tend to wonder why these objects of faith should be granted special status - that is, the dropping of the requirement that belief be rooted in observation or coherent logic. That seems to fit the definition of irrationality.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 12:34 PM
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. From my reading, it is generally believed that attempting to set debate rules often doesn't work -- the creationists will flaunt them and the science representative will be put in a position of seeming churlish by insisting that the rules be followed..

As to "The Intelligent Design movement NEEDS science otherwise it can't exist" I would say: exactly. That's the whole point -- cut off their undeserved association with real science.

Well you risk churlishness on a micro level by asking the moderator to do his/her job in a debate or risk churlishness on the macro level by not engaging at all. Cutting of the "food supply" of ID by not engaging is a valid choice don't get me wrong and it would be a choice that I myself would probably make.

There are consequences over time however to not engaging on this issue since scientists can loose a vital connection to those people who are affected by science and in a democracy that is an issue. I agree that when dealing with someone like Behe, who starts off as a scientist and ends up being a lawyer for the all-mighty in the court of public opinion, is a pain ( he is probably the best of the bunch but I don't know enough about it, shame on me :-) ) but I can't help but worry about leaving these "lawyers" to their own devices to shape public opinion on science in the absence of real scientists.

All in all I think the Intertubes will probably help more than hurt as the average person can peek into the usually walled of lives of scientists and how they work and eventually find them to be just like them except with a lot more math to do and a weird vocabulary. We will just have to see how this situation Evolves.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 12:37 PM
It's inconsistent to dislike dishonesty?

It's not inconsistent to dislike dishonesty. What's the relevance of this question? If you'll recall, I was wondering why Carroll doesn't take the same attitude to Christian apologists as he does to IDers. Your answer appears to be that both are dishonest. First, it's not intrinsically dishonest to be a Christian, unless you think Christianity by its nature involves self-deception, in which case you've got a lot of 'splainin' to do, and second, even if Christians were all dishonest about their Christianity, it wouldn't explain Carroll's divergent attitudes to Christian apologists and IDers. I've seen Carroll debate a Christian apologist, Peter van Inwagen, at Notre Dame. He didn't take the same attitude back then that he takes to IDers now, even though they were debating the relevance of cosmology to the existence of God, which seems to be in both van Inwagen's and Carroll's wheelhouses.

Among philosophers. Not among scientists, except at the very edge of a few places, like wondering whether string theory or multiverses count as physics or metaphysics. In terms of biology, it is not at all debated among biologists that evolution is as well-established as anything in all of science. Nor is it still unsettled that creationism is not science.

It's entirely unsettled whether creationism is non-science or bad science. I don't give a hoot whether scientists all take the false view that it's non-science. And anyway, when it comes to Templeton, they don't debate creationism, unless you radically balloon that word to include all Christian apologetics. They argue issues like whether the apparent fine-tuning of the universe gives any evidence for the existence of a designer. That blurs the lines between science and theology/religion, but not in any objectionable way. If you think it is objectionable, you'll have to argue that on the basis of philosophy of science, not science. Sorry.

No. You're confusing two different arguments. Asking for evidence of God is what atheists do when arguing with theists.

Yeah, and sometimes theists give answers like the cosmological argument, the design argument, the moral argument, the ontological argument. I think they count as evidence, even though they may start getting into matters that are the province of natural scientists.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 12:39 PM
I have no problem accepting evolution. I just dont worship it and inflate its importance as democrats do. Yes, Behe is likely out of his element when he challenges evolution above the level of his scientific area of study. I still think it would be fascinating to hear how molecular machines like the ribosome evolve and function.

I wholeheartedly agree that it is fascinating but of course if we listened to Behe and his clan we wouldn't find out anything would we. We would be spending our time trying NOT to find out anything about how these structures came about since doing so is a waste of time.

What kind of "science" rewards those who don't want to learn things ???

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 12:40 PM
I don't think skeptics are asking for evidence for faith, Bobby. That seems pretty self-evidently incoherent. What they are asking for is evidence of the objects of faith, don't you think?

Of course. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

"Faith," to skeptics seems either circular, or dependent on an obvious appeal to authority ("It says so in the Book!") and, as such, we tend to wonder why these objects of faith should be granted special status - that is, the dropping of the requirement that belief be rooted in observation or coherent logic. That seems to fit the definition of irrationality.

Well, that's not how faith works among everyone. A lot of people think murder is wrong--and not just in the "we've contracted together into thinking that murder is wrong" but in the "even if everyone thought it was OK it'd still be wrong" way, but haven't the faintest idea of why it's wrong if you prod them about why. Would you say that they have faith that murder is wrong, and that therefore they're irrational? Others have faith that God communicates with them, and their evidence for this is the felt communication. If you say they're irrational, they'll ask you for why they can't take the felt communication to count as evidence, at least for them. And of course still others have evidence for God in the form of arguments that depend on premises that not everyone accepts. If you ask them why they accept those premises, they'll say that those premises appear intuitively true.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 12:45 PM
exactly. Carroll, Zimmer and Myers should debate Behe on BHTV. Focus on the subject matter which fascinated John McWhorter, the molecular workings of cells.

I sure would like Meyers on the case and Bob Wright gob-bless-him suggested Dawkins diavlog with Behe but these are things left up to the principles involved. I don't know what Behe would think of these opponents but I don't think that after the Dover trial he is much interested in debating his ideas much with a more experienced interlocutor.

cragger
09-02-2009, 12:55 PM
merely being wrong, according to Bob's understanding probably isn't such a good reason not to have a particular person as a participant

I think the issue here is that there are substantially different ways of being wrong, and that their importance varies. Someone could want a platform to argue that their favorite contemporary hack churning out pulp novels is the greatest writer in the history of the English language and however silly most people found that viewpoint, not many would care.

ID'ers however are not only proposing what some might similarly consider a fringe viewpoint in order to provide some perceived shoring up of particular religious views. ID arrives at its supernatural conclusion by drawing a set of alleged facts, which have been demonstrated to be falsehoods, through a sieve of logical fallacies. They then claim that a major branch of science is wrong and that those involved in it are liars and frauds. It is not surprising that this arouses a different response.

I suppose it does raise the question of what sort of forum BHTV desires to provide. Should it be a free-for-all environment where all opinions are equal, a place where someone can come on and claim that illness isn't caused by microscopic organisms but by the curses of those allied with Satanic forces, and that we should shun doctors and spend our time hunting witches? If so, it isn't surprising that a scientist studying microbes wouldn't chose to discuss their findings and arguements for hygenic and aseptic practices in an environment they view as equivalent to an intellectual freak show, with them placed between fortune tellers and space-alien abductees.

This might seem a little harsh. It might well be a little harsh. I always assumed that this website was somewhat informal in its operation and am not shocked if Bob Wright doesn't have a long written editorial policy in place that details every conceivable eventuality. I take him at his word that he agrees that a couple diavlogs, including Behe's ID advocacy, were over the line that he finds acceptable and wants to provide a forum for. It would seem very reasonable to me if the various science contributors here said "ok fine, we have general agreement about these concerns and objections, lets go forward and try to make things better in the future".

Truth does matter though, and we mostly try to shape our lives and make both individual and collective choices in accordance with reality as we know it. We live in an environment in which a lot of interests try very hard to shape those choices to their advantage through blatant dishonesty and attempts to distort the vision of reality. So it also seems reasonable to me that some contributors would say "enough with re-hashing the same BS, I'd rather spend my time discussing science somewhere a carnival barker isn't quacking away".

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 01:08 PM
Of course. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.



Well, that's not how faith works among everyone. A lot of people think murder is wrong--and not just in the "we've contracted together into thinking that murder is wrong" but in the "even if everyone thought it was OK it'd still be wrong" way, but haven't the faintest idea of why it's wrong if you prod them about why. Would you say that they have faith that murder is wrong, and that therefore they're irrational? Others have faith that God communicates with them, and their evidence for this is the felt communication. If you say they're irrational, they'll ask you for why they can't take the felt communication to count as evidence, at least for them. And of course still others have evidence for God in the form of arguments that depend on premises that not everyone accepts. If you ask them why they accept those premises, they'll say that those premises appear intuitively true.

I have to say, emphatically, that, yes, in the example you give, faith that murder is wrong would be irrational - by definition. "Irrational" might imply a secondary judgment about the value of an idea, but primarily it's descriptive: not derived by rational means. You can be both irrational and correct, you can be both rational and incorrect. One tends to believe that rational methods lead to a better class of answers, but process is no guarantee of truth.

In the second half of your post you ask why private feelings that can't be directly shared aren't considered evidence. Let me ask you this: In a court of law, when is it acceptable for a conviction to be based on somebody's intuition? "Well, he just seems guilty to me." The very definition of the word "evidence" is bound up in the idea of verifiability.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 01:44 PM
I have to say, emphatically, that, yes, in the example you give, faith that murder is wrong would be irrational - by definition. "Irrational" might imply a secondary judgment about the value of an idea, but primarily it's descriptive: not derived by rational means. You can be both irrational and correct, you can be both rational and incorrect. One tends to believe that rational methods lead to a better class of answers, but process is no guarantee of truth.

I think this is way too quick. Let's say you have some belief, say, "evolutionary theory is largely correct". Why do you believe this? Maybe you believe it because scientists told you that it's true; maybe you believe it because you're a scientist and you've seen evolutionary theory succeed in explaining a wide variety of phenomena. Either way, each of those beliefs is going to be based on something else. For instance, you believe that scientists told you it's true because you recall having conversations with scientists. How do you know your recollection is accurate? Well, presumably you're just going to say that it has the feel of accuracy, that you're not often wrong about recollections like that, etc. But each of those beliefs is either going to depend on more basic beliefs or they're not. If they don't depend on any more basic beliefs, are you going to say they're irrational because they're not "derived by rational means" (whatever that means)? If so, then you're going to have to admit that none of your beliefs is rational because they all rest on an irrational foundation. Alternatively, you're going to have to admit that some beliefs are properly basic--that is, they don't depend on any more basic beliefs for they're support (hence their basicality) but that, despite that fact, it's OK, reasonable, rational--whatever--to believe them (i.e., they're _properly_ basic).

But if it's OK to have perceptual beliefs as properly basic ones, why isn't it OK to have moral beliefs as properly basic ones?

In the second half of your post you ask why private feelings that can't be directly shared aren't considered evidence. Let me ask you this: In a court of law, when is it acceptable for a conviction to be based on somebody's intuition? "Well, he just seems guilty to me." The very definition of the word "evidence" is bound up in the idea of verifiability.

The definition of the word evidence may be bound up in the idea of verifiability (though I don't think it is), but it's not bound up in the idea of _public_ verifiability. Imagine a plane goes down with you on it. Everyone dies except you. Now imagine that one of your friends thinks you're alive. His claim that you're alive would be thrown out in a court of law because there's no publicly accessible evidence for it. Nevertheless, as you're sitting there, floating in the ocean, you have excellent evidence that you're alive, even if you can't share it with anyone. So, you have evidence for your belief that you're alive, and you're well within your rights in maintaining said belief, but the rest of us have no such evidence, and so shouldn't believe that you're alive. Thus, there is indeed such a thing as private evidence after all, and it could very well be that religious believers have private evidence for the existence of God.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 01:52 PM
Behe's approach is to use his detailed knowledge of molecular biology to challenge how what he studies and describes could have evolved. The PZ Myers article someone linked to in this thread addressed more traditional challenges to evolution. Admittedly, I have not looked very hard. But I have not read a credible challenge to Behe's assertions. Where is the book that refutes Behe's book, Darwins Black Box? It would be fascinating to read.

Ken Miller's book is often touted as a good response to Behe, as is Sahotra Sarkar's book, which you can order here (http://www.amazon.com/Doubting-Darwin-Creationist-Evolution-Philosophy/dp/1405154918/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1251913643&sr=1-2).

so Zimmer and Carroll can't refute Behe, but they think it is important enough that he not be heard that they will no longer appear on BHTV.

Well, what do you think of Holocaust-deniers? I bet you can't refute what they say, but there are experts out there who can and you trust their word. Same thing going on here, with the caveat that Carroll probably knows a lot more about biology than (probably) you or I know about evidence for the Holocaust.

Bobby G
09-02-2009, 02:04 PM
I looked in Nelson thread, but the only link I managed to find (I don't know how to use the BH.tv search feature very well) is a link to a Google search of "why I don't debate creationists". Was there something more?

stephanie
09-02-2009, 02:35 PM
I think the issue here is that there are substantially different ways of being wrong, and that their importance varies.

I do agree with this, which is why I tried to convey that a line will be drawn somewhere, that it has to do with the type of forum that bloggingheads is trying to be, and that it will be somewhere other than "no ideas that Bob Wright finds disagreeable."

One of the most irritating aspects of this debate to me (not at this site, that I've seen) is the idea that if Bob's forum has a couple of creationists on that Bob must be promoting some secret creationist agenda. That's idiotic.

A possibly related idea is this idea that Bob should have to pick sides in a way that requires that he not allow creationists ever to appear, as a hard and fast rule. Personally, however much I thought it unlikely that I would want to have them on anytime soon, I would not agree to that, and certainly not as a demand by another potential participant. It's rather as if Mark Kleiman (one of my favorites) refused to participate if someone who argued that it's really not so bad to bring guns to a rally and, in fact, the real offensive people are those who slander the gun toters. I find the latter a ridiculous argument, but the idea that it would be preemptorily banned, seems wrong to me. (However, there are certainly views that I would not consider permitting a proponent of on, and Bob seems to agree, for example his well-known ban on Ann Coulter, which I approve.)

So like I said, there's a line; it's just not all that clear where it is and reasonable people can differ.

Someone could want a platform to argue that their favorite contemporary hack churning out pulp novels is the greatest writer in the history of the English language and however silly most people found that viewpoint, not many would care.

This seems to be the general feeling of many -- idiotic claims about literature, fine, since totally subjective; idiotic claims about politics, not so good but something we must put up with since it's part of the public debate and subjective; idiotic claims about science, deeply dangerous and unacceptable, even if it happens in a diavlog with which I am not involved directly. That seems wrong to me. Among other things, the ridiculous claim about evolution is about the least actually harmful, since it does not affect what actual scientists do, as actual science is subject to certain standards not affected by what someone says in the popular arena. What books get published and read and, of course, what unfortunate political views people might have are affected by this stuff. (This is also why it would bother me more to have an anti-vax sort on.)

True, someone might use the diavlog to support a pre-existing tendency toward creationism, and that is a concern, but I tend to think that on the whole those ideas are decided elsewhere, and people tending to believe in creationism will go to their hand-picked sources that reinforce that view. But my main point is not whether it's dangerous or not to have someone on who promotes creationism, but whether it should be treated differently than having people on who promote stupid or false ideas about other things. I disagree that it should be, when we consider how to draw the lines.

It might be treated differently because the arguments are harder to set forth for laypeople, but that's a separate issue.

I suppose it does raise the question of what sort of forum BHTV desires to provide.

Exactly. I just see a ton of grey between the freak show atmosphere and a policy where creationists could never come on (or, as that would seem to imply, people with whom Bob does not agree and whose ideas he finds potentially harmful). It's not a simple question, and because of that I find it somewhat bothersome that others would boycott the site merely because it was still hashing out the answer or came to a different view. Obviously, it's their right to come to that conclusion, though. It seems a major overreation to me, however, and to impose a kind of standard that people in other fields would not think to insist upon or, if they did, would get criticized.

claymisher
09-02-2009, 02:46 PM
True, but since geneticists are unable to provide a shred of evidence for what happened eons ago in the genomes of extinct species, speaking of the probability of huge changes emerging from tiny mutations rather begs the question, doesn't it?

I started reading online the book by Reid you recommended. Very interesting. Thanks again.

You're being provocative with "unable to provide a shred ...", knowing that can be read as a creationist complaint. I'm on to you.

You're talking about how the first very cells sprung into existence here, right? When I've come across biologists (not creationists) saying, "natural selection isn't everything," it's usually in the context of that first billion years of single-cell chaos, when genes just floated in and out of microorganisms, independent of selection.

You're not going to find the scaffolding they used to build the the pyramids. It was recycled as soon as the builders were done with it. Likewise, I imagine the protolife molecules floating around were gobbled up by the first life forms right off the bat. I have a hunch that after scientists figure how that early life emerged we'll discover that it's all around us (well, in the ocean) but it's gobbled up by bacteria before anyone notices. Like how fullerene was once a hypothetical possibility, then a molecule synthesized in the lab, and now found in nature.

thprop
09-02-2009, 03:35 PM
From his CSW blog (http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=860) -
Wed 2 Sep 2009
Bloggingheads Teaches Another Controversy

Back in April 2008, I told my Bloggingheads buddy George Johnson that when it came to creationism and other religious claptrap, I believe in “teaching the controversy,” both as a college professor and a journalist. I made this point in a discussion of Ben Stein’s anti-Darwin mockumentary Expelled. Some science-minded critics deplored any attention given to Stein’s film, which they treated as a threat to civilization. My attitude was that the best way to counter this stuff is to confront it, point out where it’s wrong or misleading, make fun of it, move on. I feel this way not only about religious superstition but also about homeopathy, astrology and parapsychology–not to mention psychoanalysis, psychopharmacology, multi-universe theories, string theory and the Singularity.

Well, the debate over how—or whether–to handle bad ideas has boiled over once again on Bloggingheads.tv as a result of two recent chats involving Paul Nelson, a young-earth creationist (the earth is young, not Nelson), and Michael Behe, an intelligent-design proponent (the design is intelligent, not Behe). Two regular correspondents on Science Saturday—the biology writer Carl Zimmer and the physicist Sean Carroll–were outraged that BHTV gave a platform to religious nuts. They quit after Bob Wright, the founder of BHTV, refused to promise to keep creationism and other fringe topics—not even astrology!–off the site in the future.

I have enormous respect for Carl and Sean. They are extremely smart, knowledgeable, gracious men, and they upgraded the level of discourse on BHTV. I’ll be sad to see them go. But I’m staying, and I disagree, strongly, with their stance that some topics (with one exception, noted below) should be shunned on principle.

Bob Wright and I disagree, strongly, on a lot of things, as anyone who watched our recent chat about his new book knows. But I’m glad that Bob has refused to exclude, a priori, certain topics, attitudes, people from BHTV. The basic premise of BHTV, as I see it, is that dialogue and debate are intrinsically good, leading to enlightenment and progress in human affairs and all sorts of other good stuff—even though of course it doesn’t always work out that way in practice.

My placement above of things like psychoanalysis and multiverse theories alongside astrology and homeopathy was my passive-aggressive way of making the point that it ain’t always easy to draw the line between real and pseudo-science. Some titans of science have espoused wacky beliefs. Linus Pauling insisted that vitamin C could cure cancer. Fred Hoyle suspected the flu virus comes from outer space. Freeman Dyson believes in ESP and thinks global warming may be good for us. Sean Carroll thinks multiverse theories deserve serious attention.

Bloggingheads features conservatives with extremely hawkish views, which I think are potentially far more dangerous than creationism or astrology or multiverses. Should they be excluded? No! My attitude is, Let’s talk about it! I’d like to find out why you hold these views, and to tell you why you’re wrong. Maybe you’ll persuade me you’re right, although I doubt it, but at least we may achieve some mutual understanding, which can’t be bad.

I try to apply this principle in my personal and professional lives. I have smart, knowledgeable friends who believe in ghosts and ESP and a loving, just God and don’t believe in universal health care and human-induced global warming. If I shunned everyone who holds what I consider to be irrational, dumb beliefs, I’d have very few friends left, and boring ones at that. Call me naïve and sentimental (many do), but I have faith that human reason will ultimately help us prevail over superstition and intolerance and war and other bad things, as long as we keep exchanging views.

A few other points: First, I think at least one topic is beyond the pale. Claims that certain races are innately less intelligent than others are so noxious—with so much potential to exacerbate racism–that I disapprove of their dissemination; in fact I’d like to see research on race and intelligence discontinued, because it has less than zero social value.

Second, saying that creationism, astrology or multiverse theories shouldn’t be excluded from a site like BHTV is not the same as saying that they should be included, often or ever. The decision can only be made on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, I haven’t watched either the Nelson or Behe interviews, but apparently they weren’t very enlightening. Even Bob Wright views them as failed exercises. That’s the risk you take with a format like BHTV, much more so than in print, in which the final product can be controlled. BHTV is itself an experiment, which is evolving all the time through trial and error. I hope, and trust, it will emerge from this brouhaha stronger than ever and teach many more controversies.

claymisher
09-02-2009, 04:00 PM
From his CSW blog (http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=860) -

1) I'm glad Horgan isn't jumping ship.
2) How come I didn't know he had a blog?!

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 04:00 PM
I think this is way too quick. Let's say you have some belief, say, "evolutionary theory is largely correct". Why do you believe this? Maybe you believe it because scientists told you that it's true; maybe you believe it because you're a scientist and you've seen evolutionary theory succeed in explaining a wide variety of phenomena. Either way, each of those beliefs is going to be based on something else. For instance, you believe that scientists told you it's true because you recall having conversations with scientists. How do you know your recollection is accurate? Well, presumably you're just going to say that it has the feel of accuracy, that you're not often wrong about recollections like that, etc. But each of those beliefs is either going to depend on more basic beliefs or they're not. If they don't depend on any more basic beliefs, are you going to say they're irrational because they're not "derived by rational means" (whatever that means)? If so, then you're going to have to admit that none of your beliefs is rational because they all rest on an irrational foundation. Alternatively, you're going to have to admit that some beliefs are properly basic--that is, they don't depend on any more basic beliefs for they're support (hence their basicality) but that, despite that fact, it's OK, reasonable, rational--whatever--to believe them (i.e., they're _properly_ basic).

But if it's OK to have perceptual beliefs as properly basic ones, why isn't it OK to have moral beliefs as properly basic ones?



The definition of the word evidence may be bound up in the idea of verifiability (though I don't think it is), but it's not bound up in the idea of _public_ verifiability. Imagine a plane goes down with you on it. Everyone dies except you. Now imagine that one of your friends thinks you're alive. His claim that you're alive would be thrown out in a court of law because there's no publicly accessible evidence for it. Nevertheless, as you're sitting there, floating in the ocean, you have excellent evidence that you're alive, even if you can't share it with anyone. So, you have evidence for your belief that you're alive, and you're well within your rights in maintaining said belief, but the rest of us have no such evidence, and so shouldn't believe that you're alive. Thus, there is indeed such a thing as private evidence after all, and it could very well be that religious believers have private evidence for the existence of God.

It's important to remember that scientific claims are always to be considered provisional. "X is largely correct" ought to rendered as "X seems to be the best explanation of the data." Behe's claims don't have the same status as those made by other biologists, not because those claims are considered to be true. It's because Behe's claims have been refuted. They've therefore lost their status as scientific claims. Behe wraps those claims up in sophisticated language that is difficult for nonspecialists to penetrate, making the task of showing where they fail far more difficult. I'm not a biologist, and I can't evaluate every claim that Behe has made. I am capable of understanding a substantial fraction of the arguments, and it's clear to me that, say, Behe's response to Miller seems largely obfuscatory. Added to that the nearly monolithic opinion of professionals in the field is that Behe's work doesn't substantiate his claims.

What I conclude from this isn't that "evolutionary theory is largely correct." Rather "Evolutionary theory is a valid scientific theory and is the best extant theory explaining genetic variation." Contrasted with "Behe's theory is discredited and not scienctific." Do I depend on evidence provided by others? Definitely. I don't see a problem with that; indeed, it seems fundamentally necessary to the process.

There's a distinction, that I think is obvious, between a subjective opinion based on personal predilection, and an opinion based on a repeatable process, which, even if it isn't strictly available to everyone, is theoretically so, and is, in fact verifiable shared by a number of people, and which is also subject to falsification.

I'm not sure how to interpret the example of a plane crash. Private beliefs that can't be shared aren't useful to anyone but the holder of those beliefs. The idea of "evidence" is to provide a mechanism to verify a claim. If you can't make the claim, of what value is the evidence? If more than one person, for whatever reason, cannot have access to the evidence, how can it possibly have any value as support of an epistemic claim?

uncle ebeneezer
09-02-2009, 04:00 PM
Michael Behe, an intelligent-design proponent (the design is intelligent, not Behe).

Nobody gets digs in like Horgan! The rest of his post is very well stated. I'm torn between the two outlooks. Not sure exactly how I would respond if it were me. But I'm very glad we're not gonna lose Horgan over this.

Starwatcher162536
09-02-2009, 04:14 PM
I agree with Horgan, the only way to fight claptrap, is to show why it is claptrap..over...and over....and over. The people that already believe in that stuff will always have their own little echo chamber, and will always proclaim victory for their side. Nothing you can do about them.

However, there is a very sizable percent of the population, that don't know what to think, because they have never been exposed to the arguments. These are the people that need more people like horgan.

I am confident far more of the undecideds will come around to believing the mainstream science versions then the woo, but only if we expose them to the arguments (Cause the woomeisters will get their arguments out there one way or the other, at least this way there will be some semblance of parity)

DenvilleSteve
09-02-2009, 04:17 PM
Ken Miller's book is often touted as a good response to Behe, as is Sahotra Sarkar's book, which you can order here (http://www.amazon.com/Doubting-Darwin-Creationist-Evolution-Philosophy/dp/1405154918/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1251913643&sr=1-2).

Well, what do you think of Holocaust-deniers? I bet you can't refute what they say, but there are experts out there who can and you trust their word. Same thing going on here, with the caveat that Carroll probably knows a lot more about biology than (probably) you or I know about evidence for the Holocaust.

book is on order, thanks. If a holocaust denier had been on BHTV in the manner of McWhorter/Behe, I would want the HD person back on to debate someone who knew the subject matter. As it is, I think BHTV comes up short by not having strong conservatives on to rebut what the Libs say. People like Steve Sailer, Liz Cheney, John Derbyshire and John Fund would be great.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 04:24 PM
You're being provocative with "unable to provide a shred ...", knowing that can be read as a creationist complaint. I'm on to you.

You're talking about how the first very cells sprung into existence here, right? When I've come across biologists (not creationists) saying, "natural selection isn't everything," it's usually in the context of that first billion years of single-cell chaos, when genes just floated in and out of microorganisms, independent of selection.

You're not going to find the scaffolding they used to build the the pyramids. It was recycled as soon as the builders were done with it. Likewise, I imagine the protolife molecules floating around were gobbled up by the first life forms right off the bat. I have a hunch that after scientists figure how that early life emerged we'll discover that it's all around us (well, in the ocean) but it's gobbled up by bacteria before anyone notices. Like how fullerene was once a hypothetical possibility, then a molecule synthesized in the lab, and now found in nature.

I am not trying to be provocative. Just boringly empirical. If biologists want to argue, as they do for the most part, that minute variations in the phenotype, caused by random mutations in the genotype, drive the process of evolution (by giving some members of a species an advantage in the struggle for existence), then it stands to reason that the key to speciation lies in these mutations. Natural selection is secondary in comparison. There would be no evolution without mutations.

But, as far as I can tell, biologists have little to say about this little mystery. They merely record that it happens, and that is why Popper and others have said that Darwinism is unfalsifiable.

uncle ebeneezer
09-02-2009, 04:27 PM
I see the value of that approach, but I'm not so convinced on the undecideds. So many people are not moved by empirical evidence (as witnessed in any number of polls) when it comes to anything that might contradict their religious beliefs, and the fact that we have so many people in this country believe that there is a "debate" happening among serious scientists (when there is not), it concerns me greatly, given that allowing people like Behe on bhTv only helps feed the misperceptions about the "gaps" in Evolution, that the ID/creationist camp, actively tries to push. That's why it's such a tricky situation to me.

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 04:39 PM
I am not trying to be provocative. Just boringly empirical. If biologists want to argue, as they do for the most part, that minute variations in the phenotype, caused by random mutations in the genotype, drive the process of evolution (by giving some members of a species an advantage in the struggle for existence), then it stands to reason that the key to speciation lies in these mutations. Natural selection is secondary in comparison. There would be no evolution without mutations.

But, as far as I can tell, biologists have little to say about this little mystery. They merely record that it happens, and that is why Popper and others have said that Darwinism is unfalsifiable.

I admit to not understanding what you're saying. Wouldn't "minute variations in the phenotype" be exactly what drives selection? Of course there's no evolution without mutations. Deep complexity would not be likely if those phenotypic variations didn't have, at least some of the time, some effect on selection. To me, the assertion that changes in the phenotype are likely to affect survival statistics in some way seems trivially true.

Put another way, if each variation in the phenotype resulted in exactly the same probability of survival in the resulting individual as every other - there would certainly still be variation, but the variation in complexity between types of organisms would not show a steep gradient. The reason for that is that there's no feedback mechanism in such a system. Feedback is a necessary component for chaotic systems to achieve more than trivial increases in complexity.

WilliamP
09-02-2009, 04:45 PM
> The problem, as I see it, is that the postulate is unfalsifiable.

Except that it's not. You just need to find one thing that couldn't come from small incremental change over time. Behe and others have been trying to do this, but when examined at more than a superficial level, all of the examples they try to come up with actually _do_ contain the strong signatures of small and gradual incremental change.

That gradual evolution by natural selection has survived _all_ impassioned scientific assaults for centuries is one of the most remarkable things about it.

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 04:59 PM
Except that it's not. You just need to find one thing that couldn't come from small incremental change over time...

I'd like to see such a proof. Behe's approach has been to try to find examples whose "reducibility" hasn't yet been shown. That, in itself, is proof of nothing. He hasn't shown anything like a general method that could show that some observed thing could never be reduced.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 05:09 PM
I admit to not understanding what you're saying. Wouldn't "minute variations in the phenotype" be exactly what drives selection? Of course there's no evolution without mutations. Deep complexity would not be likely if those phenotypic variations didn't have, at least some of the time, some effect on selection. To me, the assertion that changes in the phenotype are likely to affect survival statistics in some way seems trivially true..

Is there some law that evolution must result in "deep complexity" ? I have no idea what you mean. According to orthodox evolutionary theory, genetic drift in the genotype is a blind, purposeless, random process. Natural selection acts on the phenotype, not the genotype, as I am sure you must know. The tough problem is how one species becomes another species, how major transformations occur (for example, how invertebrates become vertebrates), not how individuals members of a species survive.


Put another way, if each variation in the phenotype resulted in exactly the probability of survival in the resulting individual as every other - there would certainly still be variation, but the variation in complexity between types of organisms would not show a steep gradient. The reason for that is that there's no feedback mechanism in such a system. Feedback is a necessary component for chaotic systems to achieve more than trivial increases in complexity.

Your last sentence may be true, but I fail to see why you think there is anything in the theory of evolution that necessitates increases in complexity.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:13 PM
I am not trying to be provocative.

Maybe you're not trying, but this also is:

... and that is why Popper and others have said that Darwinism is unfalsifiable.

Where is the line drawn among non-biologists critiquing biology between the legitimate critics and the cranks?

Besides, how long ago did Popper say this? And didn't I see a link somewhere in this thread or the Behe one pointing to some quotes from Popper in which he later in life recanted that earlier assertion of unfalsifiability?

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 05:21 PM
Where is the line drawn among non-biologists critiquing biology between the legitimate critics and the cranks?

Besides, how long ago did Popper say this? And didn't I see a link somewhere in this thread or the Behe one pointing to some quotes from Popper in which he later in life recanted that earlier assertion of unfalsifiability?

I have no idea where the line is drawn. Do you? Do you even know what falsifiable means?

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:22 PM
I looked in Nelson thread, but the only link I managed to find (I don't know how to use the BH.tv search feature very well) is a link to a Google search of "why I don't debate creationists". Was there something more?

Maybe. That link by itself (http://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=why+I+don%27t+debate+creationists&btnG=Google+Search) sure does provide some useful reading, though. Read some of the top results or not; it's up to you. Oh, and for historical interest, here's an early one that I don't see among the top results, from Eugenie Scott (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/debating/globetrotters.html).

Sorry I'm not up for offering you more specifics right at the moment. You're kind of late to this dance and I'm tired of going 'round and 'round on this topic with others. No your fault, of course.

Maybe we should wait until the next creationist appears on Bh.tv? ;^)

Or find something else to talk about.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:24 PM
Well you risk churlishness on a micro level by asking the moderator to do his/her job in a debate or risk churlishness on the macro level by not engaging at all. Cutting of the "food supply" of ID by not engaging is a valid choice don't get me wrong and it would be a choice that I myself would probably make.

There are consequences over time however to not engaging on this issue since scientists can loose a vital connection to those people who are affected by science and in a democracy that is an issue. I agree that when dealing with someone like Behe, who starts off as a scientist and ends up being a lawyer for the all-mighty in the court of public opinion, is a pain ( he is probably the best of the bunch but I don't know enough about it, shame on me :-) ) but I can't help but worry about leaving these "lawyers" to their own devices to shape public opinion on science in the absence of real scientists.

All in all I think the Intertubes will probably help more than hurt as the average person can peek into the usually walled of lives of scientists and how they work and eventually find them to be just like them except with a lot more math to do and a weird vocabulary. We will just have to see how this situation Evolves.

Yup. Just to be sure that it's clear: I am generally a fan of engaging and thereby exposing myself.

[Whoops. That didn't come out right.]

[v2.0] I myself am generally a fan of the policy of engaging, so as to expose the charlatans.

It's just that I can see where the thinking comes from on this one narrow exception.

claymisher
09-02-2009, 05:24 PM
I am not trying to be provocative. Just boringly empirical. If biologists want to argue, as they do for the most part, that minute variations in the phenotype, caused by random mutations in the genotype, drive the process of evolution (by giving some members of a species an advantage in the struggle for existence), then it stands to reason that the key to speciation lies in these mutations. Natural selection is secondary in comparison. There would be no evolution without mutations.

But, as far as I can tell, biologists have little to say about this little mystery. They merely record that it happens, and that is why Popper and others have said that Darwinism is unfalsifiable.

(for those coming in late to the discussion, we're not talking about creationism or ID here, just different views on plain old materialist evolution)

What mystery? Mutation? Biologists have plenty to say about mutation. If you're saying mutation is more interesting than selection then I'm with you. Selection is just boring old competition. It's an ahistorical algorithm. Mutation is history, chemistry, genes, chromosomes, cells, etc.

I finally came across the review paper I knew had to exist. It's worth a skim:
Visions of Evolution: Self-organization Proposes What Natural Selection Disposes (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/biot.2008.3.1.17)

This article reviews the seven “visions” of evolution proposed
by Depew and Weber (1995, Darwinism Evolving: Systems
Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection, Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press), concluding that each posited relationship
between natural selection and self-organization has suited dif-
ferent aims and approaches. In the second section of the ar-
ticle, we show that these seven viewpoints may be collapsed
into three fundamentally different ones: (1) natural selection
drives evolution; (2) self-organization drives evolution; and
(3) natural selection and self-organization are complementary
aspects of the evolutionary process. We then argue that these
three approaches are not mutually exclusive, since each may
apply to different stages of development of different systems.
What emerges from our discussion is a more encompassing
view: that self-organization proposes what natural selection
disposes.

stephanie
09-02-2009, 05:27 PM
I see the value of that approach, but I'm not so convinced on the undecideds. So many people are not moved by empirical evidence (as witnessed in any number of polls) when it comes to anything that might contradict their religious beliefs, and the fact that we have so many people in this country believe that there is a "debate" happening among serious scientists (when there is not), it concerns me greatly, given that allowing people like Behe on bhTv only helps feed the misperceptions about the "gaps" in Evolution, that the ID/creationist camp, actively tries to push. That's why it's such a tricky situation to me.

It will probably not surprise you that I am cheering Horgan right now, both because I enjoy his appearances, so am glad they will continue, and because I loved what he said.

My thoughts on this question of the undecideds.

To the extent that people are basing this on their religious beliefs and think those are inconsistent with evolution, confronting the pseudo-science probably won't work, but not doing so definitely won't, and the idea that convincing them that people they already think of as close-minded or whatever else look down on their creationism is probably not going to do anything for the cause.

Within this group, though, I can't help but think there are a lot of people who have been told that evolution is inconsistent with their religion, but who might be open to an argument that it's really not, since to some extent that argument is based on claims that can be easily rebutted. That's not really the job of a scientist (and apparently inconsistent with the views of some, of course), but it's related to all this.

Beyond that, I'm wondering, given the numbers in this country and general weirdness of the debate and lack of scientific literacy, how many people who aren't committed to religious views that would consider evolution a no-no nevertheless question it or have no real understanding of the issues or evidence or an inflated view of ID (or simply lack of understanding of what ID is) or so on. The McWhorter thing (which I still haven't listened to) is what got me thinking along this line, since he's not even religious.

All that aside, one thing that Horgan said that I totally agree with is that just because you won't a priori rule out having a creationist on doesn't mean there's any compelling reason to do so, especially not any time soon. I'm rather tired of creationism, personally, and I still have to go back and listen to McWhorter-Behe.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:29 PM
I sure would like Meyers on the case and Bob Wright gob-bless-him suggested Dawkins diavlog with Behe but these are things left up to the principles involved.

And the principals.

;^)

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. The shame (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/09/small-confession.html) has worn off.

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 05:30 PM
Is there some law that evolution must result in "deep complexity" ? I have no idea what you mean. According to orthodox evolutionary theory, genetic drift in the genotype is a blind, purposeless, random process. Natural selection acts on the phenotype, not the genotype, as I am sure you must know. The tough problem is how one species becomes another species, how major transformations occur (for example, how invertebrates become vertebrates), not how individuals members of a species survive.




Your last sentence may be true, but I fail to see why you think there is anything in the theory of evolution that necessitates increases in complexity.

"Deep complexity" is an observed fact for which a valid theory must provide an account. Multicellular organisms are exemplars of this. My argument is that extremely complex organisms, such as ourselves, could not be explained by an evolutionary theory that did not have selection built in as a regulatory mechanism.

"Species", by definition, defines organisms in terms of whether they are genetically dissimilar to the extent that interbreeding is not possible. I'm fairly certain that nobody claims that everything is known about the process of evolution, or that every hard problem has been solved. However, speciation can be viewed quantitatively (i.e. how much variation between a pair of organisms) and I don't know anything about the theory that implies any limits to the degree of change over time.

Even huge differences, such as the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates, or prokaryotes and eukaryotes (an even more profound fdifference.) Nobody that I know of makes the claim that the processes responsible for these changes are fully understood. Before we do have such an understanding, we may be required to substantially revise the theory. But I don't know of any detail in the theory that is inconsistent with their existence. And I don't know of another viable theory.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:37 PM
It's not inconsistent to dislike dishonesty. What's the relevance of this question? If you'll recall, I was wondering why Carroll doesn't take the same attitude to Christian apologists as he does to IDers. Your answer appears to be that both are dishonest.

You and I are not understanding each other on even the most basic level. I don't know whether it's me or not, but maybe it is.

For the record, I said I think that Sean may have less problem with theologians talking about theology that he does with creationists talking about "intelligent design" because at least the former group is honest about where they're coming from.

I'm ignoring the rest of what you wrote, since it's based on {your failure to understand | my failure to make clear} that distinction, as well as {your failure to understand | my failure to make clear} another point I thought I made earlier: the distinction between people having faith for whatever reason and people of faith trying to pass off their faith off as science.

Again, I'm not sure who's to blame here, but I am frustrated as hell by how orthogonal your responses are to what I thought I had just said.

As I said in my last response to you in another sub-thread, it may just be that I'm sick of talking about this topic, and you'll have to excuse me if that's what is causing all of this misunderstanding.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 05:40 PM
" Nobody that I know of makes the claim that the processes responsible for these changes are fully understood. Before we do have such an understanding, we may be required to substantially revise the theory. But I don't know of any detail in the theory that is inconsistent with their existence. And I don't know of another viable theory.

Neither do I. I was just questioning your use of "necessary" complexity.

claymisher
09-02-2009, 05:48 PM
Where is the line drawn among non-biologists critiquing biology between the legitimate critics and the cranks?

Besides, how long ago did Popper say this? And didn't I see a link somewhere in this thread or the Behe one pointing to some quotes from Popper in which he later in life recanted that earlier assertion of unfalsifiability?

I'm pretty sure Popperian falsifiability isn't considered a criteria for scientific validity, even by Popper.

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:48 PM
1) I'm glad Horgan isn't jumping ship.
2) How come I didn't know he had a blog?!

Re: 2: Because you never looked above his smiling face when watching any of his diavlogs?

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 05:51 PM
Neither do I. I was just questioning your use of "necessary" complexity.

I just read back my post - thanks for not killing me on the sentences I murdered. I claim attention split between this and work as a mitigating factor. :)

bjkeefe
09-02-2009, 05:52 PM
From his CSW blog (http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=860) -

Thanks for the link. If I were just a little crabbier than I am at the moment, I'd say ...

Shorter John Horgan:

It's okay for me to declare certain topics out of bounds for discussion, but where the hell does anybody else get off making such declarations?

... but since I am not quite that crabby, I'll leave it at this: I am 75% glad we'll not be losing John and 25% sad he didn't join with Sean and Carl in a lobbying effort that would get Bob Wright to move just enough that they all could feel okay about coming back in six months.

Francoamerican
09-02-2009, 05:55 PM
Thanks again for the links. I just bought the Reid book at Amazon.fr

What mystery? Mutation? Biologists have plenty to say about mutation. If you're saying mutation is more interesting than selection then I'm with you. Selection is just boring old competition. It's an ahistorical algorithm. Mutation is history, chemistry, genes, chromosomes, cells, etc.]

I agree that the really interesting problems in evolution are in the genes. Biologists know a lot about them. Do they know why they mutate? That is the mystery! And as long as the mystery remains there will be creationists like Behe. Personally, I think Bergson, without knowing why (L'Evolution créatrice was written in 1907), was right about one thing: evolution cannot be understood either deterministically nor teleologically: it's all in the élan vital.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 06:09 PM
From his CSW blog (http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=860) -

Jeez having listened to Horgan so many times I can hear is "voice" in this article so loudly I almost turned the volume down :-)

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 06:15 PM
And the principals.

;^)

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. The shame (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/09/small-confession.html) has worn off.

Alright buddy, now you gone tooooo eeeffffi'n faarrrrrr !!!!! ; - )

Me&theboys
09-02-2009, 06:54 PM
In what way would being logically committed to the view that some of the claims of RC are on the same intellectual plane as those of ID make Carroll (or anyone else) a hypocrite?

Good question; I didn't make myself clear. Bloggingheads.tv has had religious thinkers on before who advocated on behalf of their religious ideas (Michael Murray and John Leslie, for examples) and yet Carroll didn't leave in protest. Moreover, my guess is that Carroll has been associated with organizations that have supported--at least to the extent BH.tv has--Christian figures propounding their orthodox Christian beliefs, and yet he didn't leave those organizations for that reason (University of Chicago has Martin Marty, among others).

I still don't see the hypocrisy that you do, and your accusation that Carroll is a hypocrite strikes me as unfair. First, you should read what Carroll said more closely. His position is more finely-grained than you seem to think. It is not a blanket refusal. It is, by his own admission, a very fine line for which the content and purpose of the discussion and his participation, as well as the seriousness of his interlocutors and their ideas, are very salient.

Second, you can't seriously expect someone who refuses an opportunity to participate voluntarily with entities that give air time to the "scientific" claims of creationists and IDers to quit his job in the name of principled consistency because his university has a divinity school.

Third, are you similarly disposed to feel that a Christian theologian is a hypocrite if s/he is willing to discuss in a public forum with a Rabbi whether or not Jesus was the messiah but is not willing to discuss with Sqeaky Fromme in a public forum whether or not Charles Manson is the messiah?

Lyle
09-02-2009, 08:50 PM
A man with character.

thouartgob
09-02-2009, 09:00 PM
I can't imagine how many times the narrator had to reread the tangle of latin-ish verbiage but man this stuff is cool even though I have only a passing knowledge on the subject.

http://multimedia.mcb.harvard.edu/anim_innerlife.html

links to other videos and lower bandwidth versions of the above are here:

http://multimedia.mcb.harvard.edu/media.html

Ocean
09-02-2009, 09:35 PM
I mostly share John's general sentiment, with the obvious exception about psychoanalysis (I admit it's debatable) and psychopharmacology.

Can we all get along now? ;)

uncle ebeneezer
09-02-2009, 09:38 PM
All that aside, one thing that Horgan said that I totally agree with is that just because you won't a priori rule out having a creationist on doesn't mean there's any compelling reason to do so, especially not any time soon.

Yeah I meant to mention how much I liked that part of Horgan's post.

WilliamP
09-02-2009, 09:57 PM
> I'd like to see such a proof. Behe's approach has been to try to find examples whose "reducibility" hasn't yet been shown.

You can start by finding something that doesn't show overwhelmingly strong signatures of incremental change after close examination. (E.g. how the bacterial flagellum actually contains parts that, with the same genetic code, are used for other functions in different bacteria.)

AemJeff
09-02-2009, 10:20 PM
> I'd like to see such a proof. Behe's approach has been to try to find examples whose "reducibility" hasn't yet been shown.

You can start by finding something that doesn't show overwhelmingly strong signatures of incremental change after close examination. (E.g. how the bacterial flagellum actually contains parts that, with the same genetic code, are used for other functions in different bacteria.)

I truly don't see how that could lead to a proof. No matter how strong a case seems to have been made, it's always subject to empirical falsification.

rcocean
09-02-2009, 11:04 PM
A man with character.

I agree, spoken like a true journalist. And this comment is also just what you'd expect from an English Major:

"A few other points: First, I think at least one topic is beyond the pale. Claims that certain races are innately less intelligent than others are so noxious—with so much potential to exacerbate racism–that I disapprove of their dissemination; in fact I’d like to see research on race and intelligence discontinued, because it has less than zero social value."

'cause thats the whole point of science - social value.

rcocean
09-02-2009, 11:10 PM
exactly. Carroll, Zimmer and Myers should debate Behe on BHTV. Focus on the subject matter which fascinated John McWhorter, the molecular workings of cells.

The only one remotely qualified is Myers, and given he's a CC teacher he probably doesn't have the intellectual firepower. Isn't there someone better?

uncle ebeneezer
09-02-2009, 11:12 PM
This has probably been linked to before, but if not it's worth reading (from Kenneth Miller):

The Failure of Design

It is no secret that concepts like "irreducible complexity" and "intelligent design" have failed to take the scientific community by storm (Forrest 2002). Design has not prompted new research studies, new breakthroughs, or novel insights on so much as a single scientific question. Design advocates acknowledge this from time to time, but they often claim that this is because the scientific deck is stacked against them. The Darwinist establishment, they say, prevents them from getting a foot in the laboratory door.

I would suggest that the real reason for the cold shoulder given "design" by the scientific community, particularly by life science researchers, is because time and time again its principal scientific claims have turned out to be wrong. Science is a pragmatic activity, and if your hypothesis doesn't work, it is quickly discarded.

The claim of irreducible complexity for the bacterial flagellum is an obvious example of this, but there are many others. Consider, for example, the intricate cascade of proteins involved in the clotting of vertebrate blood. This has been cited as one of the principal examples of the kind of complexity that evolution cannot generate, despite the elegant work of Russell Doolittle (Doolittle and Feng 1987; Doolittle 1993) to the contrary. A number of proteins are involved in this complex pathway, as described by Behe:

When an animal is cut, a protein called Hagemann factor (XII) sticks to the surface of cells near the wound. Bound Hagemann factor is then cleaved by a protein called HMK to yield activated Hagemann factor. Immediately the activated Hagemann factor converts another protein, called prekallikrein, to its active form, kallikrein. (Behe 1996a, 84)

How important are each of these proteins? In line with the dogma of irreducible complexity, Behe argues that each and every component must be in place before the system will work, and he is perfectly clear on this point:

. . . none of the cascade proteins are used for anything except controlling the formation of a clot. Yet in the absence of any of the components, blood does not clot, and the system fails. (Behe 1996a, 86)

As we have seen, the claim that every one of the components must be present for clotting to work is central to the "evidence" for design. One of those components, as these quotations indicate, is Factor XII, which initiates the cascade. Once again, however, a nasty little fact gets in the way of intelligent design theory. Dolphins lack Factor XII (Robinson, Kasting, and Aggeler 1969), and yet their blood clots perfectly well. How can this be if the clotting cascade is indeed irreducibly complex? It cannot, of course, and therefore the claim of irreducible complexity is wrong for this system as well. I would suggest, therefore, that the real reason for the rejection of "design" by the scientific community is remarkably simple – the claims of the intelligent design movement are contradicted time and time again by the scientific evidence.

The Flagellum Unspun

In any discussion of the question of "intelligent design," it is absolutely essential to determine what is meant by the term itself. If, for example, the advocates of design wish to suggest that the intricacies of nature, life, and the universe reveal a world of meaning and purpose consistent with an overarching, possibly Divine intelligence, then their point is philosophical, not scientific. It is a philosophical point of view, incidentally, that I share, along with many scientists. As H. Allen Orr pointed out in a recent review:

Plenty of scientists have, after all, been attracted to the notion that natural laws reflect (in some way that's necessarily poorly articulated) an intelligence or aesthetic sensibility. This is the religion of Einstein, who spoke of "the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence" and of the scientist's "religious feeling [that] takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law." (Orr 2002).

This, however, is not what is meant by "intelligent design" in the parlance of the new anti-evolutionists. Their views demand not a universe in which the beauty and harmony of natural law has brought a world of vibrant and fruitful life into existence, but rather a universe in which the emergence and evolution of life is made expressly impossible by the very same rules. Their view requires that the source of each and every novelty of life was the direct and active involvement of an outside designer whose work violated the very laws of nature he had fashioned. The world of intelligent design is not the bright and innovative world of life that we have come to know through science. Rather, it is a brittle and unchanging landscape, frozen in form and unable to adapt except at the whims of its designer.

Certainly, the issue of design and purpose in nature is a philosophical one that scientists can and should discuss with great vigor. However, the notion at the heart's of today intelligent design movement is that the direct intervention of an outside designer can be demonstrated by the very existence of complex biochemical systems. What even they acknowledge is that their entire scientific position rests upon a single assertion – that the living cell contains biochemical machines that are irreducibly complex. And the bacterial flagellum is the prime example of such a machine.

Such an assertion, as we have seen, can be put to the test in a very direct way. If we are able to search and find an example of a machine with fewer protein parts, contained within the flagellum, that serves a purpose distinct from motility, the claim of irreducible complexity is refuted. As we have also seen, the flagellum does indeed contain such a machine, a protein-secreting apparatus that carries out an important function even in species that lack the flagellum altogether. A scientific idea rises or falls on the weight of the evidence, and the evidence in the case of the bacterial flagellum is abundantly clear.

As an icon of anti-evolution, the flagellum has fallen.

The very existence of the Type III Secretory System shows that the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. It also demonstrates, more generally, that the claim of "irreducible complexity" is scientifically meaningless, constructed as it is upon the flimsiest of foundations – the assertion that because science has not yet found selectable functions for the components of a certain structure, it never will. In the final analysis, as the claims of intelligent design fall by the wayside, its advocates are left with a single, remaining tool with which to battle against the rising tide of scientific evidence. That tool may be effective in some circles, of course, but the scientific community will be quick to recognize it for what it really is – the classic argument from ignorance, dressed up in the shiny cloth of biochemistry and information theory.

When three leading advocates of intelligent design were recently given a chance to make their case in an issue of Natural History magazine, they each concluded their articles with a plea for design. One wrote that we should recognize "the design inherent in life and the universe" (Behe 2002), another that "design remains a possibility" (Wells 2002), and another "that the natural sciences need to leave room for design" (Dembski 2002b). Yes, it is true. Design does remain a possibility, but not the type of "intelligent design" of which they speak.

As Darwin wrote, there is grandeur in an evolutionary view of life, a grandeur that is there for all to see, regardless of their philosophical views on the meaning and purpose of life. I do not believe, even for an instant, that Darwin's vision has weakened or diminished the sense of wonder and awe that one should feel in confronting the magnificence and diversity of the living world. Rather, to a person of faith it should enhance their sense of the Creator's majesty and wisdom (Miller 1999). Against such a backdrop, the struggles of the intelligent design movement are best understood as clamorous and disappointing double failures – rejected by science because they do not fit the facts, and having failed religion because they think too little of God.

From here (http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html).

pampl
09-03-2009, 02:03 AM
A few weeks ago I think I would've agreed with Horgan but lately I've become convinced of Carroll and Zimmer's position. Having a medical doctor argue with a snake-oil salesman is just a way of giving the fraud more credibility and time to work his sales pitch. If a theologist wants to argue with a philosopher of science over whether the constancy and stability of religious dogma makes it a better epistemology than science, that could be interesting and actually would teach a real "controversy", or rather a real source of dissonance in society and in individuals. ID isn't, though.

It might be OK if Wright charged these frauds normal advertising fees for broadcasting their confidence game then donated some of the money towards scientific literacy, but doing it for free is just silly. It's like inviting a food scientist on to argue in favor of genetically modifying crops and having his sparring partner be a looping recording of "SHOP AT WHOLE FOODS"

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 02:49 AM
Heh. Fine with me. I like moving on from this particular debate. Especially since I have no liking for ID theory. I like Eugenie Scott (not Dawkins), so I'll check her contribution out.

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 03:02 AM
It's important to remember that scientific claims are always to be considered provisional. "X is largely correct" ought to rendered as "X seems to be the best explanation of the data."

I'm not sure I agree with the claim that scientific claims ought always to be considered provisional. The idea that water is H2O seems to be more than a provisional claim, unless you include every single claim except for the truths of logic to be provisional ones.

Behe's claims don't have the same status as those made by other biologists, not because those claims are considered to be true. It's because Behe's claims have been refuted. They've therefore lost their status as scientific claims.

This can't be right. Just because they've been refuted doesn't mean they're not longer scientific. It just means they're scientific and they're wrong. They're bad science. Do you think that Newtonian theory, to the extent it conflicts with quantum mechanics, is no longer scientific? That it's now the same as, say, literature? That rings very odd to me. What's lost by saying that Newtonian physics is just partially incorrect science?

What I conclude from this isn't that "evolutionary theory is largely correct." Rather "Evolutionary theory is a valid scientific theory and is the best extant theory explaining genetic variation."

By "largely correct" I didn't mean "indefeasibly correct". I meant, "probably true". I take it you don't think it's probably true, because of the fact that so many scientific theories have turned out to be false, even when they explained a wide variety of the data? The first thing to note is that some scientific claims don't appear to be of the type where they can anymore turn out to be false (water=H2O, for example); the second thing to note is that, OK, you can say, if you want, that evolutionary theory isn't probably true. Just that it's the best thing we have going now. Fair enough. But this puts you in an interesting position. If indeed you don't think it's probably true, then you shouldn't believe it, based on the principle that you should only believe things that are more likely to be true than not true. Instead you should just view it as a useful tool, but should without assent to it. If this is indeed how you view it, I'd be curious about what kinds of claims from which you don't withhold assent.

Do I depend on evidence provided by others? Definitely. I don't see a problem with that; indeed, it seems fundamentally necessary to the process.

I don't recall saying anywhere that this was illicit. Perhaps I implied that your view committed you to the view that this was illicit? In any case, I don't see you having responded to my claim that properly basic beliefs are ones you don't arrive at by rational means.

There's a distinction, that I think is obvious, between a subjective opinion based on personal predilection, and an opinion based on a repeatable process, which, even if it isn't strictly available to everyone, is theoretically so, and is, in fact verifiable shared by a number of people, and which is also subject to falsification.

Except the religious believer's belief that God talks to her doesn't appear to her to be the kind of belief based on personal predilection, a la one's tendency to start a chess game by moving the queen's side pawn. As for theoretically available to everyone, this has to be cashed out more carefully. If God exists, then in theory he could make his presence known to everyone. I don't see any good reason for thinking that this is something God ought to do, though, and some reason for thinking that this is something God ought _not_ to do.

I'm not sure how to interpret the example of a plane crash. Private beliefs that can't be shared aren't useful to anyone but the holder of those beliefs. The idea of "evidence" is to provide a mechanism to verify a claim. If you can't make the claim, of what value is the evidence? If more than one person, for whatever reason, cannot have access to the evidence, how can it possibly have any value as support of an epistemic claim?

So does the person swimming in the ocean have evidence that he survived the crash or not? If on your view of evidence he doesn't have any such evidence, on the grounds that he can't give it to anyone, then surely you're operating with an (at the least) counterintuitive or an (at the worst) blatantly false conception of evidence?

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 03:06 AM
I agree that Steve Sailer would be very useful to have. Better than Sailer, though, would be someone who holds his views but is more temperate--say, Steve Pinker, Charles Murray, Razib Khan, John Derbyshire, or Jean-Phillipe Rushton. Perhaps John McWhorter would be willing to debate one of these racialist (or just plain racist) theorists, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

As for your view about having a Holocaust denier on, I agree with you, I'd be eager to see it, and I think yours is a consistent view (and it's one I hold as well--let a thousand flowers bloom, as it were, but do indeed have well-trained and hopefully well-spoken experts on with those who have, shall we say, "maverick" views).

As for "strong conservatives", I'd much prefer to have John Kekes, Roger Scruton, or Thomas Sowell on rather than John Fund.

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 03:22 AM
You and I are not understanding each other on even the most basic level. I don't know whether it's me or not, but maybe it is.

Yeah, I got that sense when I wrote my response. When I wonder out loud whether I'm genuinely missing something, it's not a tactic. I'm almost always (>99% of the time) genuinely wondering whether I misunderstood something.

For the record, I said I think that Sean may have less problem with theologians talking about theology that he does with creationists talking about "intelligent design" because at least the former group is honest about where they're coming from.

That seems fair to me. But regardless of whether IDers are dishonest, I think if Carroll were convinced that mainstream biologists, by debating with IDers, could have a positive effect on public opinion, he would want such biologists to debate them.

another point I thought I made earlier: the distinction between people having faith for whatever reason and people of faith trying to pass off their faith off as science.

This, I think, is the crux of our disagreement. As you know, there's the whole Gouldian non-overlapping magisteria thesis. I know of no one besides the late Gould and a number of journalists and laypeople who support Gould's thesis. So, I assume that Carroll doesn't support Gould's claim that religion is about value and science is about facts. In other words, both religion and science, in (I speculate) Carroll's view make claims about the domain of facts. Given this, then it's fair for religiously-inclined and secularly-inclined thinkers to have a debate over the facts that the religious posit and that the non-religious deny--most saliently, the claim that God exists. Now, if you're with me so far, why would Carroll think that the person who argues on behalf of theism has views any more serious than the IDer? Some IDers, of course, are dishonest (I doubt that ALL are), but of course some theists are as well. I think Carroll's contempt for IDers has to do partially with the dishonesty of some of their most prominent spokesmen, but mainly with what he takes to be the silliness of their ideas. If I'm right about that, then I don't see why having someone on BH.tv argue on behalf of theism is, by Carroll's lights, any less of an affront than having someone on argue on behalf of ID. Is it just Behe who's the affront? Or is it the fact that IDers are, in Carroll's view, engaged in a war to corrupt Americans' minds? If the latter, fine, but surely theists are, by Carroll's light, engaged in a similar war (at least, theists who argue for their theism are). And if so, again I wonder why an argumentative theist's appearance on BH.tv wouldn't be as much of an affront to Carroll.

But I'm not sure I expressed myself clearly above.

Jyminee
09-03-2009, 03:51 AM
I am 75% glad we'll not be losing John and 25% sad he didn't join with Sean and Carl in a lobbying effort that would get Bob Wright to move just enough that they all could feel okay about coming back in six months.

I'm surprised you say this, bj, because if we imaginatively transpose this situation into the world of foreign affairs, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have the same opinion.

Carl and Sean have a disagreement with BhTV. They're pursuing a hardline strategy of, in effect, imposing economic sanctions (of themselves) on BhTV. The standard left-wing critique of sanctions is that it hurts the citizens of a country (i.e., BhTV viewers) more than the leaders, and creates resentment that enables the leaders to dig in; ring-wing hardliners on both sides reinforce each other, to the overall detriment of the regular people.

Now what Barack Obama would call for in this situation is direct negotiations. And, happily, on Bloggingheads the negotiations can occur on video and be posted for the citizens to view. So, rather than use economic sanctions, Sean or Carl should come to the negotiating table via a diavlog with Bob to hash this out. Even if they don't come to a resolution, we all get to watch, which will surely be worth something.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 03:55 AM
Yeah, I got that sense when I wrote my response. When I wonder out loud whether I'm genuinely missing something, it's not a tactic. I'm almost always (>99% of the time) genuinely wondering whether I misunderstood something.

Not that it matters in this case -- I wasn't even aware that you had said that earlier. But just for future reference: please be aware that "am I missing something?" is almost always said sarcastically, or at least rhetorically, especially in online forums, so you might want to consider whether choosing that phrase will alleviate or aggravate whatever communication problems you're experiencing.

That seems fair to me. But regardless of whether IDers are dishonest, I think if Carroll were convinced that mainstream biologists, by debating with IDers, could have a positive effect on public opinion, he would want such biologists to debate them.

I won't dispute that, given the supposition. But I don't know his mind well enough to say for sure. He does seem fairly steadfast in his "Grid of Disputation" views, but I could imagine he'd be in favor of doing something distasteful if it had a beneficial outcome. (Re: G.o.D.: If you didn't follow the link from his recent (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/31/bye-to-bloggingheads/) post, cf. (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/06/the-grid-of-disputation/)) (Re: the acronym: I don't know whether he chose the name of his idea with that in mind. I just noticed it myself.)

This, I think, is the crux of our disagreement. As you know, there's the whole Gouldian non-overlapping magisteria thesis. I know of no one besides the late Gould and a number of journalists and laypeople who support Gould's thesis.

If we remove the requirement that the choice be a binary one and allow it to be asked in the form of "On a scale of 1 to 10 (extremely disagree to extremely agree), how much do you agree with Gould's proposition?," I think you'd find a good chunk of people in the 6s, 7s, and 8s, including scientists and theologians.

So, I assume that Carroll doesn't support Gould's claim that religion is about value and science is about facts. In other words, both religion and science, in (I speculate) Carroll's view make claims about the domain of facts. Given this, then it's fair for religiously-inclined and secularly-inclined thinkers to have a debate over the facts that the religious posit and that the non-religious deny--most saliently, the claim that God exists.

Disagree. For something to be a claim of fact, at least to me and other godless heathens, there has to be something besides pure faith underlying it.

As to the rest, I'm sorry, but I can't see the point in talking about something framed as "Let's suppose Sean thinks this. What do you think Sean would say to that?"

If you actually do want to argue about Sean's views, maybe it'd be better for you to post a comment over on his blog post at CV. If you're trying to make a point to me, and the way you're putting it really doesn't have anything to do with him, then please strip that part away and restate. You say that we're at the "crux of our disagreement," and I don't even know what we're talking about.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 04:30 AM
This has probably been linked to before, but if not it's worth reading (from Kenneth Miller):



From here (http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html).

Thanks for that. I'd never read it before. Really well written stuff.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 04:30 AM
> The problem, as I see it, is that the postulate is unfalsifiable.

Except that it's not. You just need to find one thing that couldn't come from small incremental change over time. Behe and others have been trying to do this, but when examined at more than a superficial level, all of the examples they try to come up with actually _do_ contain the strong signatures of small and gradual incremental change.

That gradual evolution by natural selection has survived _all_ impassioned scientific assaults for centuries is one of the most remarkable things about it.

Well said.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 04:38 AM
The only one remotely qualified is Myers, and given he's a CC teacher he probably doesn't have the intellectual firepower. Isn't there someone better?

This seems like trollery, especially in light of what else you've posted lately, but for the record, from the sidebar on PZ's blog (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/):

PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris (http://www.morris.umn.edu/).

That is, he's not employed at a community college.

Which, I have to say, is probably not a useful criterion in any case. I took some courses at a CC as a cheap way to pile up credits when pursuing my college degree, and had two of my best teachers during that time -- one in Chemistry, one in Statics (engineering). Lots of people teach at CCs who are quite smart. They take those positions because they can't find openings at universities, or because they have other jobs, or because they like to teach unencumbered by the publish-or-perish pressures at most universities, or for other reasons.

In this particular case, I would bet anything I had that PZ is more than smart enough to debunk Behe. Read his blog, you'll see. Perhaps start with the two links in the first sentence here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=126768#post126768).

Kind of funny how someone like you, who tends to oppose any hint that academics have anything useful to contribute, should suddenly play this snob card. But, as I said above, you're probably just being a troll.

JonIrenicus
09-03-2009, 04:48 AM
Finally, interviewing 'crackpots' isn't without precedent on BH.tv. Jerome Corsi, after all, was interviewed, and he seems much more crackpottish to me than Michael Behe. Why didn't Carroll leave then? Is it only the scientific crackpots who are to be worried over?

I think it is perceived scientific crackpot propagation that raises his ire. Same with Zimmer I suppose. I remember the latter more and if he really is gone I will miss him, he had many good discussions.

As to the leaving, I have to say I find the rationale somewhat petty and small, as if the ivory walls of bloggingheads just seem a bit too "dark" to be gifted ones divine presence.

I get the annoyance at having a creationist on during science Saturday, but the overwhelming majority of such logs dealt with science issues. And the Mcwhorter log, even if found objectionable, was not billed as a science hour, it was the equivalent of talking about ID in an elective, not a core class. Why the outrage there? The entire edifice must pass YOUR standards in all formats and venues or you leave?

I find that reaction a bit manic and unreasonable.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 04:51 AM
I'm surprised you say this, bj, because if we imaginatively transpose this situation into the world of foreign affairs, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have the same opinion.

Carl and Sean have a disagreement with BhTV. They're pursuing a hardline strategy of, in effect, imposing economic sanctions (of themselves) on BhTV. The standard left-wing critique of sanctions is that it hurts the citizens of a country (i.e., BhTV viewers) more than the leaders, and creates resentment that enables the leaders to dig in; ring-wing hardliners on both sides reinforce each other, to the overall detriment of the regular people.

Now what Barack Obama would call for in this situation is direct negotiations. And, happily, on Bloggingheads the negotiations can occur on video and be posted for the citizens to view. So, rather than use economic sanctions, Sean or Carl should come to the negotiating table via a diavlog with Bob to hash this out. Even if they don't come to a resolution, we all get to watch, which will surely be worth something.

I don't view my thinking on the issue of whether creationism should be treated as science as readily generalizable; i.e., I don't think it has to meet someone else's metric of consistency when applied to other situations whose relation to this issue is at best loosely analogous. As I have said repeatedly, I am generally in favor of a policy of "having the debate," whether the motivation is to expose charlatanism or for more uplifting reasons, like being interested in other people's views. This particular issue is a special case.

Or, perhaps, you could try to understand my thinking by realizing that I view creationism-as-science as an idea about as respectable as "the Moon landings were faked" or similar (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=127105#post127105). I just don't see the value in giving cranks undeserved respectability by association, especially when doing so risks real negative consequences for an uneducated audience.

JonIrenicus
09-03-2009, 04:52 AM
...

But I do want to agree with Wright, because I think his TV network analogy (mentioned in Carroll's post) is basically correct, and Carroll's objection to it is unconvincing. Seen in this light, both Carroll and Zimmer are holding BHTV to an unfair standard.

peter


I see their disgruntlement, if the reports are accurate, as the failure to blacklist certain viewpoints deemed not fit for one of their venues, regardless of the formats and different fields of discussion (sans the creationist on Science Saturday, I GET that one, but then that is not what cast the die is it?)

Francoamerican
09-03-2009, 06:46 AM
> The problem, as I see it, is that the postulate is unfalsifiable.

Except that it's not. You just need to find one thing that couldn't come from small incremental change over time. Behe and others have been trying to do this, but when examined at more than a superficial level, all of the examples they try to come up with actually _do_ contain the strong signatures of small and gradual incremental change.

That gradual evolution by natural selection has survived _all_ impassioned scientific assaults for centuries is one of the most remarkable things about it.

Let's see: The Origin of Species was published in 1859. Centuries???

An unfalsifiable theory is not one that has never been falsified. It is a theory that CANNOT be falsified because there is no possible evidence that can be adduced to disprove it. Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism have been called examples of unfalsifiable theories. Darwinism could also be put in this category because "natural selection" looks like a tautology: it tells us that a species survives because it is adapted, and a species is adapted because it survives.

Francoamerican
09-03-2009, 07:16 AM
I'm pretty sure Popperian falsifiability isn't considered a criteria for scientific validity, even by Popper.

I beg to diagree. When a theory is unfalsifiable--like Marxism or psychoanalysis, or Chomskian linguistics (imho)--it is difficult to see how it could ever acquire a scientific status. An unfalsifiable theory is one for which one could never adduce evidence that would disprove it. It has a built-in mechanism for repelling criticism.

Is evolutionary biology an unfalsifiable theory in this sense? No, because there is much solid empirical work in biology, but the central explanatory device of evolution, natural selection, comes close to being unfalsifiable, it seems to me. It looks like a tautology. What does it tell us? That a species (or member of a species) survives because it is adapted, and that it is adapted because it survives.

Lyle
09-03-2009, 08:51 AM
Is that a Horgan quote? Who are you quoting?

DenvilleSteve
09-03-2009, 09:04 AM
I agree that Steve Sailer would be very useful to have. Better than Sailer, though, would be someone who holds his views but is more temperate--say, Steve Pinker, Charles Murray, Razib Khan, John Derbyshire, or Jean-Phillipe Rushton. Perhaps John McWhorter would be willing to debate one of these racialist (or just plain racist) theorists, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

As for your view about having a Holocaust denier on, I agree with you, I'd be eager to see it, and I think yours is a consistent view (and it's one I hold as well--let a thousand flowers bloom, as it were, but do indeed have well-trained and hopefully well-spoken experts on with those who have, shall we say, "maverick" views).

As for "strong conservatives", I'd much prefer to have John Kekes, Roger Scruton, or Thomas Sowell on rather than John Fund.

Thanks for the names of Scruton and Kekes. I had never heard of them. I think there is a wide gap between studying and developing a conservative philosophy in the academic world and advancing conservatism in the political realm. The focus of public policy conservatives like Sailer, Fund and Derbyshire is on taxes, the social effects of democrat policies, foreign policy, trade policy, how to get a conservative elected, retirement plans, etc. Hardly the stuff that an academic studying the distinction between and history of libertarianism and individualism would be prepared to discuss in the public arena.

dpc
09-03-2009, 09:41 AM
I beg to diagree. When a theory is unfalsifiable--like Marxism or psychoanalysis, or Chomskian linguistics (imho)--it is difficult to see how it could ever acquire a scientific status. An unfalsifiable theory is one for which one could never adduce evidence that would disprove it. It has a built-in mechanism for repelling criticism.

Is evolutionary biology an unfalsifiable theory in this sense? No, because there is much solid empirical work in biology, but the central explanatory device of evolution, natural selection, comes close to being unfalsifiable, it seems to me. It looks like a tautology. What does it tell us? That a species (or member of a species) survives because it is adapted, and that it is adapted because it survives.

I am not sure where you are getting your definitions of selection but the important component here is relative fitness not simply whether an organism survives or not. Adaptation is thus a relative measure. Further relative fitness is testable.

Also, Popper later indicated that he changed his mind regarding the testability of natural selection.

Francoamerican
09-03-2009, 11:42 AM
I am not sure where you are getting your definitions of selection but the important component here is relative fitness not simply whether an organism survives or not. Adaptation is thus a relative measure. Further relative fitness is testable.

Also, Popper later indicated that he changed his mind regarding the testability of natural selection.

Relative fitness? Could you define that, please? Surely, the criterion of fitness or adaptation is survival and reproduction?

Testable? Could you give me an example of that? Preferably an example drawn from the past.

Popper never changed his mind regarding his distinction betwenn falsifiable vs unfalsifiable scientific theories. Whether or not he changed his mind regarding evolutionary theory is moot. And even if he did, so what? His writings on epistemology are still valid.

Starwatcher162536
09-03-2009, 12:34 PM
Considering how well AemJeff,Cragger and Bjkeefe did in finding weaklinks with Behe's arguments, I would imagine all of the above could fare off fairly well against him.

claymisher
09-03-2009, 02:01 PM
I beg to diagree. When a theory is unfalsifiable--like Marxism or psychoanalysis, or Chomskian linguistics (imho)--it is difficult to see how it could ever acquire a scientific status. An unfalsifiable theory is one for which one could never adduce evidence that would disprove it. It has a built-in mechanism for repelling criticism.

Is evolutionary biology an unfalsifiable theory in this sense? No, because there is much solid empirical work in biology, but the central explanatory device of evolution, natural selection, comes close to being unfalsifiable, it seems to me. It looks like a tautology. What does it tell us? That a species (or member of a species) survives because it is adapted, and that it is adapted because it survives.

Popper's not the infallible prophet of scientific authority. He's just a guy, you know? You've got yer Popper, I've got Mayo (http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/error/). Falsification is terrific tool for scientific progress. But it's not falsification or nothing. There's plenty of useful work done by real everyday scientists that falls outside of the Popperian paradigm. That's okay. Just because a scientific approach or methodology isn't strictly Popperian doesn't mean it's wrong. If you want to be pedantic about it you can use terms like "program of natural selection research" instead "theory of evolution" and I promise I won't complain.

Shorter me: science does not equal falsifiability.

Btw, the wikipedia page on falsifiability (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability) is pretty informative.

rcocean
09-03-2009, 02:23 PM
This seems like trollery, especially in light of what else you've posted lately, but for the record, from the sidebar on PZ's blog (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/):

-That is, he's not employed at a community college.
first sentence

-Kind of funny how someone like you, who tends to oppose any hint that academics have anything useful to contribute, should suddenly play this snob card. But, as I said above, you're probably just being a troll.

Not being a "troll". I simply want either (1) a civilized, scientific debate between Behe and a qualified BIOLOGIST or failing that (2) an interview with an objective qualified BIOLOGIST to tell us -using facts - why Behe's criticism of Darwinian Theory is wrong. I'd like to see Bob or John W. to do the interview on (2)

As for PZ, he's declined to debate anyone -including Vox Day in writing, so he doesn't have the intellectual firepower needed - wherever he teaches. Didn't the man assault a cracker?


A

WilliamP
09-03-2009, 03:21 PM
> It is a theory that CANNOT be falsified because there is no possible evidence that can be adduced to disprove it.

I know. Evolution by natural selection is extremely falsifiable. The trouble is that it fits all observations so remarkably well, and its predictions have been born out with such amazing confirmation, that it just seems like it can't be shown to be wrong:)

Science never works on absolute proof. Problems in theories come out at first like "Hmm, that's funny...". See quantum mechanics or relativity versus classical theories. The thing about evolution is that there isn't even a serious assault on it that reaches "Hmm, that's funny" levels. (Of course there are interesting facts about it that come out all the time. One example is horizontal gene transfer and other evidence for epigenetics being important in certain situations.)

But lots and lots of things could have falsified evolution. Clear signs of rabbits in precambrian strata? Natural selection would be done. Molecular evidence (of which the original theory was of course completely ignorant) shows that some species have completely different building blocks that make it astronomically unlikely for common descent to have occurred? That theory would be done, instantly. A case where two parents have a child, and the child has DNA that is not related to either parent, or maybe any human being? Theory is disproved. Find genetic traces of Jesus's Y chromosome, and it's something completely non-Earthly? Scientists would now start paying attention, believe me!!

JonIrenicus
09-03-2009, 03:35 PM
...


so Zimmer and Carroll can't refute Behe, but they think it is important enough that he not be heard that they will no longer appear on BHTV.

To be fair, most people, even those engaged in a certain field through journalism are not fully equipped to refute something in a given field. Particularly when those fields are vast.


It is the problem of lay knowledge, and the easiest example is something like the technical claims of the 911 truthers. How many people would be able to refute the technical claim that X building could not have fallen from a plane crash?

Even if they thought the claims ludicrous, the specialized technical refutation is not something most people have at beck and call.

And so it is the case with claims about ID, when I first heard some of the challenges I had absolutely nothing to shoot the idea down in a technical way.

Now that does not mean the game is over, I wish people like Caroll and Zimmer gave people more credit, some of us do not take a lack of an explanation for license to believe in ID, some of us are fine with gaps in knowledge and will not do the infantile move and say, God. But I think there is an inherent insecurity that ideas like ID and nutty beliefs like those of the truthers will get a following.

In a sense I can't blame them, there are alot of people, too many that hold such views, but I do not agree with the tactic of letting festering rotting ideas/misconceptions go unchallenged. I enjoy watching such ideas shrivel in the light of day.


Now if Behe is as irrational as a truther, who does NOT believe in his position because of X,Y, and Z, but has his belief sustained by something OTHER than hard evidence, then there is a case where there is nothing you can do. I get not wanting to engage in chopping off the heads of a hydra only to watch others grow in their place.


But even then there are ways to pin down the dishonest. Just ask them what evidence would make them think otherwise, I use this tactic on some of the commenters here I sometimes see engaging in a dishonest discussion when I am trying to tease out the possibility that their position is sustained by something more than base prejudice and supposition. And if they cannot give reasonable, falsifiable suppositions, then you can know them for dishonest trolls not worth the discussion.

But anyway, main point, whether they can or can't refute Behe on some points, they likely cannot refute him on every point with their at hand knowledge, and that is the general problem of lay knowledge, even when the knowledge is far more than lay in the two cases here, you need to be pretty thorough.

AemJeff
09-03-2009, 09:12 PM
I'm not sure where we go with this from here. I do want to acknowledge that I think that you have a point here:


This can't be right. Just because they've been refuted doesn't mean they're not longer scientific.


There's a better way to say it, maybe "no longer represents a hypothesis that is considered scientifically valid."

I'm not sure how we bridge the gap between our views of evidentiary validity. It seems to me that the purpose of evidence is to provide a standard of objectivity, and your notion doesn't seem to encompass that detail.

The following is well stated, I just haven't thought through a response, yet.

By "largely correct" I didn't mean "indefeasibly correct". I meant, "probably true". I take it you don't think it's probably true, because of the fact that so many scientific theories have turned out to be false, even when they explained a wide variety of the data? The first thing to note is that some scientific claims don't appear to be of the type where they can anymore turn out to be false (water=H2O, for example); the second thing to note is that, OK, you can say, if you want, that evolutionary theory isn't probably true. Just that it's the best thing we have going now. Fair enough. But this puts you in an interesting position. If indeed you don't think it's probably true, then you shouldn't believe it, based on the principle that you should only believe things that are more likely to be true than not true. Instead you should just view it as a useful tool, but should without assent to it. If this is indeed how you view it, I'd be curious about what kinds of claims from which you don't withhold assent.

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 09:16 PM
I should just note that by "you should without assent to it" I meant "you should withhold assent to it". I figure you got that, but just in case.

And thanks for the kudos. I genuinely appreciate them.

Bobby G
09-03-2009, 09:21 PM
I'm not sure how we bridge the gap between our views of evidentiary validity. It seems to me that the purpose of evidence is to provide a standard of objectivity, and your notion doesn't seem to encompass that detail.

My notion of evidence is just "evidence for x is anything that counts as a reason in favor of believing x", where x is some proposition or other. I tend to think as well that it's quite easy for person A to have a reason in favor of x while person B does not. I'm somewhat partial to the view that if x just seems to you to be true, then that seeming counts as evidence for believing x. Not indefeasible evidence, and not necessarily very strong evidence, but evidence nonetheless. (And yes, I'm aware that that means that if it just seems to you that there's an even number of stars in the universe, then that counts as some evidence in favor of the claim that there is an even number of stars in the universe. On the other hand, you still have evidence against that proposition, namely that the number of stars is so vast that there's no way to get a sense of how many there are other than by estimation, and to have enough reason to believe that a set of things is even or odd in number, you really have to count that set of things.)

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 11:31 PM
Not being a "troll". I simply want either (1) a civilized, scientific debate between Behe and a qualified BIOLOGIST or failing that (2) an interview with an objective qualified BIOLOGIST to tell us -using facts - why Behe's criticism of Darwinian Theory is wrong. I'd like to see Bob or John W. to do the interview on (2)

As for PZ, he's declined to debate anyone -including Vox Day in writing, so he doesn't have the intellectual firepower needed - wherever he teaches. Didn't the man assault a cracker?


A

Surely, no one can be intellectually qualified who would ignore Vox Day!

Sorry, rc. I can't take you seriously anymore.

bjkeefe
09-03-2009, 11:33 PM
Popper's not the infallible prophet of scientific authority. He's just a guy, you know? You've got yer Popper, I've got Mayo (http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/error/). Falsification is terrific tool for scientific progress. But it's not falsification or nothing. There's plenty of useful work done by real everyday scientists that falls outside of the Popperian paradigm. That's okay. Just because a scientific approach or methodology isn't strictly Popperian doesn't mean it's wrong. If you want to be pedantic about it you can use terms like "program of natural selection research" instead "theory of evolution" and I promise I won't complain.

Shorter me: science does not equal falsifiability.

Btw, the wikipedia page on falsifiability (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability) is pretty informative.

Good post.

claymisher
09-03-2009, 11:37 PM
Good post.

The trick is to link to Cosma Shalizi. :)

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 05:33 AM
Popper's not the infallible prophet of scientific authority. He's just a guy, you know?.

I think you misunderstood my point. I wasn't citing Popper as an authority on the truth or falsehood of evolutionary biology.

The falsifiable/unfalsifiable distinction is valid in my opinion. No one, not even Popper, ever said that a science must be falsifiable in order to be true, or that an unfalsifiable science is necessarily false.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 05:51 AM
The trick is to link to Cosma Shalizi. :)

One could do a lot worse than to follow that advice, that's for sure.

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 06:24 AM
It is a theory that CANNOT be falsified because there is no possible evidence that can be adduced to disprove it.

I know. Evolution by natural selection is extremely falsifiable. The trouble is that it fits all observations so remarkably well, and its predictions have been born out with such amazing confirmation, that it just seems like it can't be shown to be wrong:)!!

To say that a theory is unfalsifiable doesn't mean that it is false; only that, for the time being, one of its key components---natural selection---is unprovable. Why? Because it is a tautology. You will always come up with the same results however you examine the evidence: Fitness=survival +reproduction. Survival+ reproduction=fitness. I should be most interested in hearing about the predictions of evolutionary biology. Nothing is easier than predicting the past when you know how the story ends. The wisdom of hindsight, as all good historians know, is infallible.

Science never works on absolute proof. Problems in theories come out at first like "Hmm, that's funny...". See quantum mechanics or relativity versus classical theories. The thing about evolution is that there isn't even a serious assault on it that reaches "Hmm, that's funny" levels. (Of course there are interesting facts about it that come out all the time. One example is horizontal gene transfer and other evidence for epigenetics being important in certain situations.)

But lots and lots of things could have falsified evolution. Clear signs of rabbits in precambrian strata? Natural selection would be done. Molecular evidence (of which the original theory was of course completely ignorant) shows that some species have completely different building blocks that make it astronomically unlikely for common descent to have occurred? That theory would be done, instantly. A case where two parents have a child, and the child has DNA that is not related to either parent, or maybe any human being? Theory is disproved. Find genetic traces of Jesus's Y chromosome, and it's something completely non-Earthly? Scientists would now start paying attention, believe me!!

Cheap tricks. I certainly do not dispute the evidence of evolution or of common descent, DNA etc. etc. etc. And I have no interest in finding the unearthly traces of Jesus (I thought he was childless). The debate between creationists and scientists is a parochial affair, of little interest to anyone outside the United States.

I am, however, interested in the explanatory framework of the theory of evolution. The falsifiability/unfalsifiability distinction applies to explanations (theories), not facts. The examples you give have nothing to do with natural selection. There are no facts that could invalidate (falsify) natural selection for the simple reason that all facts corroborate it. QED.

WilliamP
09-04-2009, 11:27 AM
> Cheap tricks. I certainly do not dispute the evidence of evolution or of common descent, DNA etc. etc. etc.

Can you be pinned down on exactly what you dispute then? Or is your claim akin to saying that gravity is unfalsifiable because it can't be proven that an inverse square law is _solely_ responsible for all falling action that occurs on Earth?

That fact is that any one of Behe's claims of irreducible complexity could be scientifically very interesting... the trouble isn't a philosophical one, it's that they all turn out to actually be unremarkable when examined with even a slight amount of scientific scrutiny.

If the bacterial flagellum really were unlike anything else in the bacterial kingdom, with genetic components which have absolutely no connection to anything else, this would be a good step toward falsifying the idea that natural selection and random mutation is the sole driver of evolution. After a while and with years of study, these features would be need to be considered falsification. (Or at least that the theory needed some severe modifications.)

What if a piglet were born with a functional propellor? Or if a human was born with an X-Men style mutation that was complex and couldn't be explained by randomness? These, and countless other examples, are absurd, but they are absurd only because small incremental change fits our observations of the world so well. But they would falsify the idea. The problem isn't the theory, the problem is that the world fits the theory.

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 11:38 AM
> Cheap tricks. I certainly do not dispute the evidence of evolution or of common descent, DNA etc. etc. etc.

Can you be pinned down on exactly what you dispute then? Or is your claim akin to saying that gravity is unfalsifiable because it can't be proven that an inverse square law is _solely_ responsible for all falling action that occurs on Earth?

That fact is that any one of Behe's claims of irreducible complexity could be scientifically very interesting... the trouble isn't a philosophical one, it's that they all turn out to actually be unremarkable when examined with even a slight amount of scientific scrutiny.

If the bacterial flagellum really were unlike anything else in the bacterial kingdom, with genetic components which have absolutely no connection to anything else, this would be a good step toward falsifying the idea that natural selection and random mutation is the sole driver of evolution. After a while and with years of study, these features would be need to be considered falsification. (Or at least that the theory needed some severe modifications.)

What if a piglet were born with a functional propellor? Or if a human was born with an X-Men style mutation that was complex and couldn't be explained by randomness? These, and countless other examples, are absurd, but they are absurd only because small incremental change fits our observations of the world so well. But they would falsify the idea. The problem isn't the theory, the problem is that the world fits the theory.

I suggest you re-read this thread. I am not defending Behe.

I really do not feel that I have to restate what I said quite clearly in my previous post.

Simon Willard
09-04-2009, 12:27 PM
This piece by Horgan is excellent! Carroll and Zimmer overreacted -- BHtv is not a science forum. They can shun participation, but the public airing of their complaint seems a bit pompous and pretentious to me (even though I think ID is utter nonsense).

nikkibong
09-04-2009, 12:35 PM
A beautiful post from Horgan. Pitch-perfect.

Note also that the only viewpoint the holds as beyond the pale is one espoused by Andrew Sullivan, a "thinker" who recieves much accolades from regular commenters here. (And who has appeared on bhtv.)

Bobby G
09-04-2009, 02:16 PM
I'm sure it's been said already, but I don't think that viewpoint is beyond the pale. I don't know enough about it to agree with it, and I can certainly understand why people are cautious of it, but at least asking the question, "does g accurately measure anything that many reflective people would find closely approximates intelligence?" seems to me to be worthwhile, as does, "is there any genetic component to g?" Unless you think the people who give affirmative answers to both questions are like Holocaust deniers--which seems to me, given what little I know--to be too strong, then I think Horgan's going too far.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 02:22 PM
This piece by Horgan is excellent! Carroll and Zimmer overreacted -- BHtv is not a science forum. They can shun participation, but the public airing of their complaint seems a bit pompous and pretentious to me (even though I think ID is utter nonsense).

(Emph. added)

What's wrong with having principles, sticking to them, and making a statement when things come into conflict with those principles?

Suppose Bh.tv had had on a Holocaust-denier, had received complaints from it from a couple of the diavloggers, had on another Holocaust-denier, and then those diavloggers said, "Sorry, we can't have anything to do with a site that gives a platform to Holocaust deniers" and posted their explanations on their own blogs about it. Would you be saying, "Bloggingheads is not a history forum. This is pompous and pretentious of those erstwhile diavloggers."?

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 03:13 PM
(Emph. added)

What's wrong with having principles, sticking to them, and making a statement when things come into conflict with those principles?

Suppose Bh.tv had had on a Holocaust-denier, had received complaints from it from a couple of the diavloggers, had on another Holocaust-denier, and then those diavloggers said, "Sorry, we can't have anything to do with a site that gives a platform to Holocaust deniers" and posted their explanations on their own blogs about it. Would you be saying, "Bloggingheads is not a history forum. This is pompous and pretentious of those erstwhile diavloggers."?

These are not at all equivalent cases. Behe accepts two of the pillars of the theory of evolution: common descent and natural selection. He differs from the majority of his colleagues in rejecting the notion that random mutations are a credible explanation of the complexity of living organisms. This is a difference of opinion in the interpretation of evidence.

Holocaust deniers are more like believers in conspiracy theories. They deny the indisputable evidence of history.

claymisher
09-04-2009, 03:26 PM
These are not at all equivalent cases. Behe accepts two of the pillars of the theory of evolution: common descent and natural selection. He differs from the majority of his colleagues in rejecting the notion that random mutations are a credible explanation of the complexity of living organisms. This is a difference of opinion in the interpretation of evidence.

Holocaust deniers are more like believers in conspiracy theories. They deny the indisputable evidence of history.

That's not true. Behe is pretending he doesn't understand simple compound probability (http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2008/08/behe-botches-basic-probabilityhow.html) so that he can baffle people who really should know better. That's not a different interpretation. That's purposefully deceptive, which is exactly what holocaust deniers are up to.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 03:47 PM
These are not at all equivalent cases. Behe accepts two of the pillars of the theory of evolution: common descent and natural selection. He differs from the majority of his colleagues in rejecting the notion that random mutations are a credible explanation of the complexity of living organisms. This is a difference of opinion in the interpretation of evidence.

Holocaust deniers are more like believers in conspiracy theories. They deny the indisputable evidence of history.

Clay has already touched on part of what I'd say, but I'll reiterate.

As I see Behe, his strategy is to concede the points that would make him an obvious creationist even to the unschooled observer, while using a baffle 'em with bullshit approach and lots of fancy talk to cast doubt on all of "Darwinism," as he and his acolytes like to call it. Once you start talking nonsense about "irreducible complexity," you're really not saying anything different from the basic creationist dogma, which is "the theory of evolution can't explain everything (is inherently flawed)." Behe's position is essentially the same as the one held by people who say, "I believe in microevolution but not macroevolution," as though there actually were such a distinction.

Your problem with my analogy, I suspect, is that like practically everyone, you know more about WWII history than you do about the Discovery Institute and the rest of the "Intelligent Design" movement.

But really, none of this matters so much. The reason I introduced the analogy was to illustrate that people have principles and will sometimes feel obliged to stand on them, and I don't see doing that and making a statement about it as being "pompous and pretentious." In fact, I think Sean and Carl deserve kudos for having taken the time to write such careful essays explaining their reasons.

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 03:49 PM
That's not true. Behe is pretending he doesn't understand simple compound probability (http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2008/08/behe-botches-basic-probabilityhow.html) so that he can baffle people who really should know better. That's not a different interpretation. That's purposefully deceptive, which is exactly what holocaust deniers are up to.

Not understanding something is purposefully deceptive? How do you know he is pretending? Probability theory isn't exactly the easiest thing to understand.

Holocaust deniers know quite well what they are doing.

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 04:01 PM
Behe's position is essentially the same as the one held by people who say, "I believe in microevolution but not macroevolution," as though there actually were such a distinction..

There may be no distinction, but Behe was not the first (and will certainly not be the last) to recoil before the abyss.

Your problem with my analogy, I suspect, is that like practically everyone, you know more about WWII history than you do about the Discovery Institute and the rest of the "Intelligent Design" movement..

True, but I still think there is a big difference between holocaust deniers and proponents of IC or ID. The motivations of the former are abject.

But really, none of this matters so much. The reason I introduced the analogy was to illustrate that people have principles and will sometimes feel obliged to stand on them, and I don't see doing that and making a statement about it as being "pompous and pretentious." In fact, I think Sean and Carl deserve kudos for having taken the time to write such careful essays explaining their reasons.

Kudos, if you like. I tend to be a little more parsimonious of praise.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 04:15 PM
Kudos, if you like. I tend to be a little more parsimonious of praise.

But not, evidently, hyperbole (emph. added)...

There may be no distinction, but Behe was not the first (and will certainly not be the last) to recoil before the abyss.

... or claims of mind-reading ability (but only in certain cases).

How do you know he is pretending?

[...]

Holocaust deniers know quite well what they are doing.

Also ...

True, but I still think there is a big difference between holocaust deniers and proponents of IC or ID. The motivations of the former are abject.

... to my mind, the motivations of the creationists are to force religious dogma to be considered beyond dispute, which is as bad a motivation as anything I can think of. And to compound that, IDiots are creationists who are lying about what they are really after. Contemptible.

And let's not forget that if you talk to most creationists for more than a few minutes, you'll eventually hear something along the lines of "Darwin=Hitler!!!1!" and "Darwinists are Stalinists!!!1!" Does it get more disgraceful than that?

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 04:36 PM
But not, evidently, hyperbole (emph. added)...?

Well, there is an abyss between microevolution and macroevolution.

... or claims of mind-reading ability (but only in certain cases).?

It takes no great skill to read the minds of anti-semites. The few cases of notorious public holocaust deniers are unambiguous.

... to my mind, the motivations of the creationists are to force religious dogma to be considered beyond dispute, which is as bad a motivation as anything I can think of. And to compound that, IDiots are creationists who are lying about what they are really after. Contemptible.?

Speaking of hyperbole....

... And let's not forget that if you talk to most creationists for more than a few minutes, you'll eventually hear something along the lines of "Darwin=Hitler!!!1!" and "Darwinists are Stalinists!!!1!" Does it get more disgraceful than that?

I have never spoken to a creationist. I will take your word for it. I know that the US produces a lot of crackpots. On the other hand, let us not forget that Hitler did believe in the struggle for existence. Mein Kampf= My Struggle

claymisher
09-04-2009, 04:37 PM
Not understanding something is purposefully deceptive? How do you know he is pretending? Probability theory isn't exactly the easiest thing to understand.

Holocaust deniers know quite well what they are doing.

Are the odds of a team hitting two home runs back to back the same as a team hitting two home runs in one game? Or are the odds much lower? A child can answer that correctly! That's the kind of error Behe is propagating with his "two mutations" schtick (http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=%2Bbehe+%2B%22two+mutations%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8). Either he's being intentionally deceptive, or he's incredibly stupid, which is impossible given his training. Maybe he had a stroke and his brain is impaired. Or maybe it's just the power of denial at work.

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 05:15 PM
Bloggingheads features conservatives with extremely hawkish views, which I think are potentially far more dangerous than creationism or astrology or multiverses. Should they be excluded? No! My attitude is, Let’s talk about it! I’d like to find out why you hold these views, and to tell you why you’re wrong. Maybe you’ll persuade me you’re right, although I doubt it, but at least we may achieve some mutual understanding, which can’t be bad.

Amen, John.

We have had endless reruns of John Boltonesque warmongers on BHTV. Although I support their right to rant, I'd prefer 100 creationists to one of them.

Creationists are funny, and IDers are often charming and whimsical (not that I watched either of the dialogues everyone is up in arms over).

Right-wing hawks, however, are repulsive and dangerous.

In 50 years the creationists will continue to be repudiated as crackpots, just as they are today. They have no influence and no credibility.

On the other hand, if the warists prevail they will leave misery, murder, mayhem and ruin in their wake.

David Frum, a frequent guest on BHTV and author of "the axis of exil" slogan, aided and abetted the idiotic war on Iraq with all its bloody consequences. Mr. Behe couldn't, and presumably wouldn't , dream of doing that kind of harm.

Francoamerican
09-04-2009, 05:34 PM
Are the odds of a team hitting two home runs back to back the same as a team hitting two home runs in one game? Or are the odds much lower? A child can answer that correctly! That's the kind of error Behe is propagating with his "two mutations" schtick (http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=%2Bbehe+%2B%22two+mutations%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8). Either he's being intentionally deceptive, or he's incredibly stupid, which is impossible given his training. Maybe he had a stroke and his brain is impaired. Or maybe it's just the power of denial at work.

Not being a biologist I can't comment on the specifics of the experiment or on the probability of the two mutations schtick. You may be right. My perplexity concerns the really big transformations, in which probability calculations must be a bit more complicated.

What bothers me about the typical random mutation + natual selection explanation is its contrived, "just so" character. You have to believe that in the evolution of any structure or function, every intermediate stage of a structure or function is of some advantage to the species. Otherwise it couldn't be selected. But for the really big transformations (not the kind Behe studies) this is a bit hard to swallow. Forget about the eye. There are countless other features of every organism that go beyond mere survival, yet we are expected to believe that they are selected for one reason and one reason alone, step by incremental step over millions of years. To say with the inventors of population statistics that natural selection is a mechanism for generating exceedingly improbable results is one of the understatements of the century.

AemJeff
09-04-2009, 05:34 PM
...
David Frum, a frequent guest on BHTV and author of "the axis of exil" slogan, aided and abetted the idiotic war on Iraq with all its bloody consequences. Mr. Behe couldn't, and presumably wouldn't , dream of doing that kind of harm.

That seems quite a presumption, especially given the natural political affinities implied by Behe's stance. (That's not to say it can't be true, I just don't see a basis for your assertion.)

AemJeff
09-04-2009, 06:11 PM
Not being a biologist I can't comment on the specifics of the experiment or on the probability of the two mutations schtick. You may be right. My perplexity concerns the really big transformations, in which probability calculations must be a bit more complicated.

What bothers me about the typical random mutation + natual selection explanation is its contrived, "just so" character. You have to believe that in the evolution of any structure or function, every intermediate stage of a structure or function is of some advantage to the species. Otherwise it couldn't be selected. But for the really big transformations (not the kind Behe studies) this is a bit hard to swallow. Forget about the eye. There are countless other features of every organism that go beyond mere survival, yet we are expected to believe that they are selected for one reason and one reason alone, step by incremental step over millions of years. To say with the inventors of population statistics that natural selection is a mechanism for generating exceedingly improbable results is one of the understatements of the century.

Can I suggest reading a bit a about Chaos theory, and the function of feedback in chaotic systems? Gleick's masterpiece (http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Making-Science-James-Gleick/dp/0143113453/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252100639&sr=8-1) is a good place to start, although it doesn't concentrate on evolution. But the answer to your questions seem to be that the development of the sorts of complex traits that concern you is that these traits represent examples of the tendency of chaotic systems to find stable configurations around "attractors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor)". Admittedly it's an extremely abstract idea, but Gleick, particularly, makes sense of it in an intelligible way.

Looked at through this point of view, I think the idea of deep structure emerging from a feedback system seems much easier to comprehend, at east broadly. This (http://books.google.com/books?id=lZcSpRJz0dgC&dq) is a preview link to a book that provides a fairly long and technical, but relatively specific, treatment of the idea.

JonIrenicus
09-04-2009, 06:12 PM
...

David Frum, a frequent guest on BHTV and author of "the axis of exil" slogan, aided and abetted the idiotic war on Iraq with all its bloody consequences. Mr. Behe couldn't, and presumably wouldn't , dream of doing that kind of harm.

If we ever meet in about 10-15 years and Iraq turns into a net cesspool far worse off than it would have been under the trajectory of Sadaam and his spawn, I'll buy you a drink, on me.

And if we see Iraq as an improvement over it's position in the world as it relates to its own population and its neighbors at around the same time, I'll be expecting a drink (I like bahama mamas [virgin - no alcohol]).


And even if it does turn out better, I'll even give you the option of saying it's a draw or even still a net negative due to the opportunity costs and immediate costs in prestige and lives to get there.

However, if there is no metric down the road by which you could honestly say it was not a total disaster, it was in fact worth it, then we are not dealing with empirical assertions about interventions, we are dealing about personal emotions about those actions. More religious than empirical. But I suspect a great deal of the basis of all of our stances are laced with such super empirical/logical foundations.

Why does a truther not have his beliefs in the conspiracy shaken when one of his supports is knocked down, and then another one by one? Because something else, beyond pure reason and empirical knowledge and logic sustains the view.


I cannot pierce that within people, I can however call them out with falsifiable tests, force a line by which their assertions can either succeed or fail in the eyes of time. So I offer my bet earlier, who else will take me up on it?

(let the sound of crickets come)

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 06:29 PM
In 50 years the creationists will continue to be repudiated as crackpots, just as they are today. They have no influence and no credibility.

I can only hope you're right about where we'll be in fifty years, although I sure wouldn't bet on it. Recall that the Scopes trial was in 1925.

However, I maintain that you are dead wrong about the influence and credibility of the creationists. They have plenty, especially at the school board level. Yes, we won at the Dover trial, and we seemed to have beaten them back for the time being in Kansas, but the really worrisome place is Texas.

In case you don't know, Texas is in the middle of rewriting its textbook standards, there are a lot of creationists on the Texas Board of Education, and it is far from clear that they are going to be defeated in their efforts to inject creationism into science textbooks. And it's not just Texas that is going to be affected -- due to its size, Texas often drives how textbooks are written for the rest of the nation. Start here (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/05/texas-takes-small-step-out-of-19th.html) and follow the links for more, especially the one to the Texas Freedom Network's blog. (And start here (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/09/texas-edumacation-watch-cont.html) to see how the same wingnuts are also trying to rewrite high school history books, as a further example of their clout.) (And don't forget about Jindal and Vitter in Louisiana (http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Jindal_signs_Intelligent_Design_law), last year.)

Bottom line: these people have a lot more clout than you think.

Now, maybe you think someone promoting neocon hawkery is more dangerous, in and of himself. That's a value judgment, and all I can say is that we don't share the same values. To my mind, the willful miseducation of children is how it starts, and what makes them much more susceptible to the sort of nonsense that a guy like John Bolton or Dick Cheney espouses.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 06:36 PM
Sorry, FA, I just can't discuss this any further with you. To my mind, you are acting like another John McWhorter on this: you are basing your skepticism of biology on the words of other non-biologists, and you seem to think that's fine, yet when it comes to undergraduate level math (even here in the US), you retreat to "Probability is hard!!! Who can say?"

And your equating of Hitler with Darwin is just disgusting.

claymisher
09-04-2009, 07:10 PM
Amen, John.

We have had endless reruns of John Boltonesque warmongers on BHTV. Although I support their right to rant, I'd prefer 100 creationists to one of them.

Creationists are funny, and IDers are often charming and whimsical (not that I watched either of the dialogues everyone is up in arms over).

Right-wing hawks, however, are repulsive and dangerous.

In 50 years the creationists will continue to be repudiated as crackpots, just as they are today. They have no influence and no credibility.

On the other hand, if the warists prevail they will leave misery, murder, mayhem and ruin in their wake.

David Frum, a frequent guest on BHTV and author of "the axis of exil" slogan, aided and abetted the idiotic war on Iraq with all its bloody consequences. Mr. Behe couldn't, and presumably wouldn't , dream of doing that kind of harm.

Kinda puts it all into perspective, don't it. :)

Me&theboys
09-04-2009, 07:31 PM
I can only hope you're right about where we'll be in fifty years, although I sure wouldn't bet on it. Recall that the Scopes trial was in 1925.

However, I maintain that you are dead wrong about the influence and credibility of the creationists. They have plenty, especially at the school board level. Yes, we won at the Dover trial, and we seemed to have beaten them back for the time being in Kansas, but the really worrisome place is Texas.

[.....]

Now, maybe you think someone promoting neocon hawkery is more dangerous, in and of himself. That's a value judgment, and all I can say is that we don't share the same values. To my mind, the willful miseducation of children is how it starts, and what makes them much more susceptible to the sort of nonsense that a guy like John Bolton or Dick Cheney espouses.

I second what Brendan has said, especially the willful miseducation of children part. Nuts are made more often than they are born, and our society seems to be very good at making them.

daveh
09-04-2009, 08:13 PM
Here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/304?in=46:33&out=64:51) is Sean Carroll pontificating about religion -- what's that doing on Science Saturday?

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 08:36 PM
Now, maybe you think someone promoting neocon hawkery is more dangerous, in and of himself. That's a value judgment, and all I can say is that we don't share the same values. To my mind, the willful miseducation of children is how it starts, and what makes them much more susceptible to the sort of nonsense that a guy like John Bolton or Dick Cheney espouses.

Bolton, Cheney and Frum (I mention Frum because he is a frequent and apparently beloved BH guest) are complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

I don't see how Creationists do that kind of harm. I concede that teaching anti-science in our schools would be catastrophic, but it's still not bloodshed.

In either Carl or Sean's thoughtful article (I can't recall which), there was a reference to woo-woo articles on Huffington Post.

I doubt very much that an astrology reference or an article on crystal healing on HP bothers you as much as a bit of Bolton demagoguery on bombing the victims-du-jour of American exceptionalism. I could be wrong, but I think you, Brendan and Me&and, have your priorities in order on the warmongering loon front.

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 08:38 PM
If we ever meet in about 10-15 years and Iraq turns into a net cesspool far worse off than it would have been under the trajectory of Sadaam and his spawn, I'll buy you a drink, on me.

And if we see Iraq as an improvement over it's position in the world as it relates to its own population and its neighbors at around the same time, I'll be expecting a drink (I like bahama mamas [virgin - no alcohol]).

Cheers, but no thanks. The mass murder of the Iraq War will not be retrospectively justified no matter what the outcomes for post-Saddam Iraq may be.

JonIrenicus
09-04-2009, 09:39 PM
Cheers, but no thanks. The mass murder of the Iraq War will not be retrospectively justified no matter what the outcomes for post-Saddam Iraq may be.

Thank you for the honesty, mass murder, presumably by the US, and the murders by Iraqis against other Iraqis is no doubt on the US as well for being the kindler that allowed it to occur.

It would be interesting to find out what you consider mass murder, then it would be easier to differentiate this war from others.


It varies per the individual making the claim. For a woman like Cindy Sheehan, any killing in war = mass murder. So the deaths in WWII = mass murder to her.


I would submit there is a distinction between certain killings in war from normal killings and murder. But if one does not see any distinction between killing and murder in the first place, then there is a chasm of understanding that would take a longer talk to clear up.


If it is simply the killing of innocent civilians, indirectly, that = mass murder by the US, then I do wish you would be honest and call almost all wars exercises in mass murder. Vietnam veterans = mass murderers, gulf war veterans = mass murderers, wwII veterans = mass murders, korean war veterans and so on and so on.


You see, I suspect you are simply against war on general principle, what the rationale is or the outcome is, as you admit, is meaningless. If "mass murder" is engaged in (whatever that means) it cannot be justified, no matter what.

There is nothing in your take that is falsifiable, it is an emotional/super logical notion of war and intervention and what we ought to and ought not to do regarding war. I cannot engage in and dismantle religious absolutes like that.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 09:46 PM
Bolton, Cheney and Frum (I mention Frum because he is a frequent and apparently beloved BH guest) are complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

I don't see how Creationists do that kind of harm. I concede that teaching anti-science in our schools would be catastrophic, but it's still not bloodshed.

Again, to my mind, it's all part of conditioning young minds that makes them much more susceptible to swallowing the kind of nonsense put out by those you name. In a sense of personal responsibility, I'll concede that Cheney has more blood on his hands than Behe.

In either Carl or Sean's thoughtful article (I can't recall which), there was a reference to woo-woo articles on Huffington Post.

I doubt very much that an astrology reference or an article on crystal healing on HP bothers you as much as a bit of Bolton demagoguery on bombing the victims-du-jour of American exceptionalism. I could be wrong, but I think you, Brendan and Me&and, have your priorities in order on the warmongering loon front.

I am on record (e.g. (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/04/just-in-case-you-werent-convinced.html), e.g. (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/04/another-shot.html), plus here in the forums) as being appalled at the anti-vaxxers being allowed to post on HuffPo (and related: see also this (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/06/shoutout-to-member-of-msm-believe-it-or.html), this (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/06/bogus-indeed.html), and this (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2009/07/woopo.html)).

Crystals and astrology strike me as annoyingly stupid, but it's clear that these beliefs have no political clout (now that the Reagans are out of the White House, at least), no one is trying to get them taught as science in public schools, and therefore, can be safely relegated to a lower tier on the scale of harm to society.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 09:59 PM
Here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/304?in=46:33&out=64:51) is Sean Carroll pontificating about religion -- what's that doing on Science Saturday?

As is said in the opening seconds of the segment, this discussion has to do with the relationship between science and religion. It's clear from further listening that he brought up religion to shoot it down as having a chance to be part of science.

So, what's your point?

And do you not get the point that I've made on Sean's behalf several times in this thread and the Behe thread, that Sean has more of a problem with Behe, et al, compared to straight-up theologians, because of the formers' fundamental dishonesty?

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 10:30 PM
If it is simply the killing of innocent civilians, indirectly, that = mass murder by the US, then I do wish you would be honest and call almost all wars exercises in mass murder. Vietnam veterans = mass murderers, gulf war veterans = mass murderers, wwII veterans = mass murders, korean war veterans and so on and so on.

By the standards of "just war" as practiced by "civilized" nations, the Iraq War was an atrocity, a crime.

You see, I suspect you are simply against war on general principle, what the rationale is or the outcome is, as you admit, is meaningless. If "mass murder" is engaged in (whatever that means) it cannot be justified, no matter what.

I am against war on general principle. I am a pacifist, but I am also able to distinguish among different kinds of violence or homicide: self-defense, negligent homicide, crime of passion, premeditated murder, etc.

In those terms there are different degrees of responsibility and culpability.

There is nothing in your take that is falsifiable, it is an emotional/super logical notion of war and intervention and what we ought to and ought not to do regarding war. I cannot engage in and dismantle religious absolutes like that.

You don't need to discuss religion. I don't practice or believe in any religion. You probably can discuss guilt or innocence, however, as understood in a court of law.

daveh
09-04-2009, 11:13 PM
What I was trying to point out is that the Science Saturday editions are rarely confined to an exploration of hard science. Rather, metaphysical questions are often debated as well. I remember George Johnson joking that maybe they'll have to start talking about high-temperature superconductors, rather than the much broader areas that he and John Horgan discuss.

While it is understandable that one could object to the presence of the young earth guy or Behe, the responses of Carroll and Zimmer are hopelessly shrill and unrealistic. Where would this end? I'll miss Carl Zimmer because he's a pretty good interviewer, and hope that he reconsiders. Sean Carroll seemed like more of an irksome Victorian-era atheist type (while simultaneously holding out the possibility of multiple universes).

The implicit criticism is that the ID guys are so good at explaining their theories that they trump the truth. Well, I don't see how that can be so, unless you really have no faith in people. And, if so, why don't Zimmer and Carroll take it upon themselves to demolish these people once and for all. Also, I don't really have a good grasp of the arguments that ID people make, so I do have a passing interest, at least as a matter of popular culture, in what they say.

I don't think that Bob Wright has undertaken the obligation to protect the viewers of this site from wrong or even dumb ideas. I don't see how he could without it becoming an echo chamber.

claymisher
09-04-2009, 11:21 PM
What I was trying to point out is that the Science Saturday editions are rarely confined to an exploration of hard science. Rather, metaphysical questions are often debated as well. I remember George Johnson joking that maybe they'll have to start talking about high-temperature superconductors, rather than the much broader areas that he and John Horgan discuss.

While it is understandable that one could object to the presence of the young earth guy or Behe, the responses of Carroll and Zimmer are hopelessly shrill and unrealistic. Where would this end? I'll miss Carl Zimmer because he's a pretty good interviewer, and hope that he reconsiders. Sean Carroll seemed like more of an irksome Victorian-era atheist type (while simultaneously holding out the possibility of multiple universes).

The implicit criticism is that the ID guys are so good at explaining their theories that they trump the truth. Well, I don't see how that can be so, unless you really have no faith in people. And, if so, why don't Zimmer and Carroll take it upon themselves to demolish these people once and for all. Also, I don't really have a good grasp of the arguments that ID people make, so I do have a passing interest, at least as a matter of popular culture, in what they say.

I don't think that Bob Wright has undertaken the obligation to protect the viewers of this site from wrong or even dumb ideas. I don't see how he could without it becoming an echo chamber.

Some people think it's important not to grant them the legitimacy (see Dawkin's "Why I Won't Debate Creationists" (http://richarddawkins.net/article,119,Why-I-Wont-Debate-Creationists,Richard-Dawkins)). Others, like ERV, are dying to debate Behe, but apparently he's unwilling to go up against somebody with the skills to tear him down.

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 11:25 PM
I don't think that Bob Wright has undertaken the obligation to protect the viewers of this site from wrong or even dumb ideas. I don't see how he could without it becoming an echo chamber.

Not really the point. Here's what happened: Bob had a creationist on. Sean and Carl flipped out. Bob said, My bad. Won't happen again. Then it did. To add insult to perceived injury, Bob then said, You know what? I can't promise it won't keep on happening from time to time. Sean and Carl said, We don't need this aggravation, especially since we are volunteers with plenty of other paying work to do.

End of story. It's an interpersonal beef. Mediation would have helped. Both sides have respectable points of view and an honest disagreement. Bob wants to keep the site open to people of faith who will talk science, a la Templeton. Sean and Carl find that discourse objectionable, false and pernicious.

Bobby G
09-04-2009, 11:25 PM
Who is ERV?

Wonderment
09-04-2009, 11:27 PM
Points taken. I have to go to bed now so I can get up early and watch Science Saturday before I go to Bible Class and learn about so-called dinosaurs.

Prediction: Uncle George will be kindly and diplomatically sympathetic to all the players.

AemJeff
09-04-2009, 11:30 PM
Who is ERV?

Abbie Smith. Her blog can be found here (http://scienceblogs.com/erv/). She's also appeared here (http://bloggingheads.tv/search/?participant1=Smith,%20Abigail) a couple of times.

bjkeefe
09-04-2009, 11:42 PM
What I was trying to point out is that the Science Saturday editions are rarely confined to an exploration of hard science. Rather, metaphysical questions are often debated as well. I remember George Johnson joking that maybe they'll have to start talking about high-temperature superconductors, rather than the much broader areas that he and John Horgan discuss.

There's a difference between the freewheeling conversations John and George have and the special guest editions. During the latter, there is very rarely much besides science.

While it is understandable that one could object to the presence of the young earth guy or Behe, the responses of Carroll and Zimmer are hopelessly shrill and unrealistic.

Your opinion. I don't at all agree with it. I'm not going to argue about it. If you want to know my feelings, read the rest of this thread, the Behe thread, and the Nelson thread. For starters.

Where would this end? I'll miss Carl Zimmer because he's a pretty good interviewer, and hope that he reconsiders. Sean Carroll seemed like more of an irksome Victorian-era atheist type (while simultaneously holding out the possibility of multiple universes).

Ignored.

The implicit criticism is that the ID guys are so good at explaining their theories that they trump the truth. Well, I don't see how that can be so, unless you really have no faith in people.

I have very little faith in the ability of people, especially Americans, to resist a highly polished, well-rehearsed package of lies that also frequently touch on the privileging of faith and an appeal to "we should hear both sides"/"free speech." Here's an illustration (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/21329204.html) of why.

And, if so, why don't Zimmer and Carroll take it upon themselves to demolish these people once and for all.

Because that doesn't happen. It doesn't matter how thoroughly someone debunks a guy like Behe, whether in print or in a debate. At most he just changes a few talking points (used to be the bacterial flagella, now it's proteins or some damned thing). And more importantly, after each debate, he and the PR apparatus that supports him rush right out with two messages: (1) He won! (2) He must be important, else why would famous scientist X or important journalist Y debate him? Win!

Please read some of the Behe and Nelson threads before commenting further on this. Everything you're saying has been addressed, and there are numerous links put up by me and others that support and expand upon why we should not debate creationists.

Also, I don't really have a good grasp of the arguments that ID people make, so I do have a passing interest, at least as a matter of popular culture, in what they say.

Start here (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&channel=s&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=TtR&q=intelligent+design+site%3Atalkorigins.org&aq=f&oq=&aqi=). If you want the IDiots' spin unfiltered, they have plenty of web sites, and the Discovery Institute and other organizations will be happy to ship you books and DVDs.

I don't think that Bob Wright has undertaken the obligation to protect the viewers of this site from wrong or even dumb ideas. I don't see how he could without it becoming an echo chamber.

There is a difference between legitimate dissents and crackpottery. Read Sean's post on the Grid of Disputation (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/08/06/the-grid-of-disputation/) if you're having trouble understanding why arguing against airing a discredited idea -- a lie, in the case of Behe -- isn't anywhere near the same thing as building an echo chamber. He wrote it shortly after the first creationist diavlog was posted. You should really read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt (emph. added):

But it’s worth laying out the precise source of my own unhappiness — I’ll let other scientists speak for themselves. One potential source of discomfort is the natural reluctance to give credibility to creationists, and I think that’s a legitimate concern. There is a long-running conversation within the scientific community about whether it’s better to publicly debate people who are skeptical about evolution and crush them with superior logic and evidence, or to try to cut off their oxygen by refusing to meet them on neutral ground. I don’t have strong opinions about which is the better strategy, although I suspect the answer depends on the precise circumstances being contemplated.

Rather, my concern was not for the credibility of Paul Nelson, but for the credibility of Bloggingheads TV. I’m fairly sure that no one within the BH.tv hierarchy is a secret creationist, trying to score some public respect for one of their own. The idea, instead, was to engage in a dialogue with someone who held radically non-mainstream views, in order to get a better understanding of how they think.

That sounds like a noble goal, but I think that in this case it’s misguided. Engaging with radically different views is, all else being equal, a good thing. But sometimes all else isn’t equal. In particular, I think it’s important to distinguish between different views that are somehow respectable, and different views that are simply crazy. My problem with the BH.tv dialogue was not that they were lending their credibility to someone who didn’t deserve it; it was that they were damaging their own credibility by featuring a discussant who nobody should be taking seriously. There is plenty of room for debate between basically sensible people who can argue in good faith, yet hold extremely different views on contentious subjects. There is no need to pollute the waters by engaging with people who simply shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. Paul Nelson may be a very nice person, but his views about evolution and cosmology are simply crackpot, and don’t belong in any Science Saturday discussion.

bjkeefe
09-05-2009, 12:01 AM
Points taken. I have to go to bed now so I can get up early and watch Science Saturday before I go to Bible Class and learn about so-called dinosaurs.

You mean, Jesus's horsies (http://images.google.com/images?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=jesus%20dinosaur&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi). Or someone else, even more important (http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&channel=s&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&um=1&sa=1&q=sarah+palin+dinosaur&aq=f&oq=&aqi=&start=0).

Prediction: Uncle George will be kindly and diplomatically sympathetic to all the players.

Ugh. I'm afraid you're right. But there is a chance (~1 in 4, I'd say) that George will be adopt a particular point of view and be firm (though not unkind) about it. He's done it before.

But wouldn't it be great if at some point he melted down and said, "So help me, Bob, I'll hang up THIS PHONE RIGHT NOW!!!"?

;^)

Wonderment
09-05-2009, 12:29 AM
But wouldn't it be great if at some point he melted down and said, "So help me, Bob, I'll hang up THIS PHONE RIGHT NOW!!!"?

That would provide Bob with a precious opening to later argue (endlessly at every opportunity with anyone who will listen) that he got Dan Dennett (er, George Johnson, I mean) to concede the possible existence of a Somebody who might be Helpful.

So help me G----- rrrreat conceivablyintelligentdesignerwhomightbeajuniorhig hschoolstudentinanalternatemultiverse!!!

bjkeefe
09-05-2009, 03:40 AM
That would provide Bob with a precious opening to later argue (endlessly at every opportunity with anyone who will listen) that he got Dan Dennett (er, George Johnson, I mean) to concede the possible existence of a Somebody who might be Helpful.

So help me G----- rrrreat conceivablyintelligentdesignerwhomightbeajuniorhig hschoolstudentinanalternatemultiverse!!!

LOL!

Francoamerican
09-05-2009, 05:55 AM
Can I suggest reading a bit a about Chaos theory, and the function of feedback in chaotic systems? Gleick's masterpiece (http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Making-Science-James-Gleick/dp/0143113453/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252100639&sr=8-1) is a good place to start, although it doesn't concentrate on evolution. But the answer to your questions seem to be that the development of the sorts of complex traits that concern you is that these traits represent examples of the tendency of chaotic systems to find stable configurations around "attractors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor)". Admittedly it's an extremely abstract idea, but Gleick, particularly, makes sense of it in an intelligible way.

Looked at through this point of view, I think the idea of deep structure emerging from a feedback system seems much easier to comprehend, at east broadly. This (http://books.google.com/books?id=lZcSpRJz0dgC&dq) is a preview link to a book that provides a fairly long and technical, but relatively specific, treatment of the idea.

Thanks a lot. I'll check out the Gleick, as I pursue my chaotic scientific education. Chaos appeals to us humanists. See Paradise Lost:

The secrets of the hoary deep, a dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound.
Without dimension, where length, breadth and height,
And time and place are lost: where eldest Night
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal anarchy amidst the noise
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand.

It is true Milton puts these words into the mouth of Satan.

Francoamerican
09-05-2009, 06:05 AM
Sorry, FA, I just can't discuss this any further with you. To my mind, you are acting like another John McWhorter on this: you are basing your skepticism of biology on the words of other non-biologists, and you seem to think that's fine, yet when it comes to undergraduate level math (even here in the US), you retreat to "Probability is hard!!! Who can say?"

And your equating of Hitler with Darwin is just disgusting.

It is a commonplace of intellectual history that social Darwinism was influential in Germany in the early 20th century. Actually, I said nothing about the difficulty of understanding probability. I was simply quoting Fisher, the founder of probability theory as applied to evolution, who said that natural selection is a mechanism for generating exceedingly improbable results.

Your ability to understand other people and other points of view is so limited that I don't really care what you think of me. Your tiresome tirades against religion is of the schoolyard bully type, seasoned with all the platitudes of 19th century positivism.

bjkeefe
09-05-2009, 06:45 AM
It is a commonplace of intellectual history that social Darwinism was influential in Germany in the early 20th century.

We are very far from early 20th century Germany, and social Darwinism is an idea that is widely discredited.

Actually, I said nothing about the difficulty of understanding probability.


What's this, from a few posts ago?

Probability theory isn't exactly the easiest thing to understand.

As to the rest, so be it.

Francoamerican
09-05-2009, 07:02 AM
We are very far from early 20th century Germany, and social Darwinism is an idea that is widely discredited.

Yes, social Darwinism is discredited but it was once a widely held view. It is a commonplace that Hitler's racism and anti-semitism were directly related to it. Darwin, like many of his contemporaries, believed things about "other races" that today would be considered racist.

My comments on probability theory were in a context of a continuing discussion I was having with claymisher and a few others on the unfalsifiability of natural selection.

bjkeefe
09-05-2009, 07:17 AM
Yes, social Darwinism is discredited but it was once a widely held view. It is a commonplace that Hitler's racism and anti-semitism were directly related to it. Darwin, like many of his contemporaries, believed things about "other races" that today would be considered racist.

I don't see what that has to do with anything. Finding some problems with Darwin's beliefs does not discredit evolutionary theory. Much work has been done since he laid the foundation. You might as well say calculus and physics are suspect because Isaac Newton spent some of his time investigating alchemy and parsing the Bible.

And that goes double for people who went down blind alleys with some half-baked interpretations of Darwin's ideas -- you can't credibly introduce these in an attempt to bolster your present-day skepticism.

My comments on probability theory were in a context of a continuing discussion I was having with claymisher and a few others on the unfalsifiability of natural selection.

I am aware of that. I read them. That's why I said what I said.

Francoamerican
09-05-2009, 01:57 PM
I don't see what that has to do with anything. Finding some problems with Darwin's beliefs does not discredit evolutionary theory. Much work has been done since he laid the foundation. You might as well say calculus and physics are suspect because Isaac Newton spent some of his time investigating alchemy and parsing the Bible.

And that goes double for people who went down blind alleys with some half-baked interpretations of Darwin's ideas -- you can't credibly introduce these in an attempt to bolster your present-day skepticism.

You brought up Hitler and Darwin, not me. I did not try to discredit Darwin by bringing up racist ideology. It is a fact of history. You are tone-deaf and ignorant.

WilliamP
09-05-2009, 02:43 PM
Yes, social Darwinism is discredited but it was once a widely held view. It is a commonplace that Hitler's racism and anti-semitism were directly related to it.

It wouldn't be an argument if so, but this is far from clear. Hitler never mentions Darwin, natural selection, or evolution in Mein Kampf. If it were even slightly related to his philosophies, this would seem odd.

bjkeefe
09-05-2009, 07:03 PM
You brought up Hitler and Darwin, not me. I did not try to discredit Darwin by bringing up racist ideology. It is a fact of history. You are tone-deaf and ignorant.

Okay, whatever. Clearly you're in one of your moods, and it's not even worth the bother to dispute this nonsense. Anyone who has read the exchange can figure it out for themselves, same as they can for the backtracking you did on your probability-related claims.

claymisher
09-06-2009, 05:44 PM
Can I suggest reading a bit a about Chaos theory, and the function of feedback in chaotic systems? Gleick's masterpiece (http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Making-Science-James-Gleick/dp/0143113453/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252100639&sr=8-1) is a good place to start, although it doesn't concentrate on evolution. But the answer to your questions seem to be that the development of the sorts of complex traits that concern you is that these traits represent examples of the tendency of chaotic systems to find stable configurations around "attractors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor)". Admittedly it's an extremely abstract idea, but Gleick, particularly, makes sense of it in an intelligible way.

Looked at through this point of view, I think the idea of deep structure emerging from a feedback system seems much easier to comprehend, at east broadly. This (http://books.google.com/books?id=lZcSpRJz0dgC&dq) is a preview link to a book that provides a fairly long and technical, but relatively specific, treatment of the idea.

Have you read the Stuart Kauffman book? I came across it just this last week. It looks like a monster. I mentioned him when I was posting about noncreationist critiques of the neodarwinian view here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=127985#post127985) and here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=128197#post128197).

The creationists have really hurt science with their antics. It's hard to hear things like "natural selection may not explain the emergence of morphological complexity" and not think the subtext is "Evolution is a lie!" They're making science-minded folks jumpy and defensive. It's lame. For example, in Michael Lynch's fantastic presentation about evolution and complexity (http://sackler.nasmediaonline.org/2006/ileacd/MichaelLynch/michaellynch.html) (watch the whole thing! There's even a little Dawkins vs Gould in it. Paper here (http://www.indiana.edu/~lynchlab/PDF/Lynch155.pdf)) he calls the view that "evolution is natural selection" a myth. What!? Creationist! But no, he's right. Evolution is descent with modification. Natural selection is just one mechanism of evolution (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIMechanisms.shtml). Lynch writes:


Evolutionary biology is treated unlike any science by both
academics and the general public. For the average person, evolution
is equivalent to natural selection, and because the concept of
selection is easy to grasp, a reasonable understanding of compar-
ative biology is often taken to be a license for evolutionary
speculation. It has long been known that natural selection is just one
of several mechanisms of evolutionary change, but the myth that all
of evolution can be explained by adaptation continues to be
perpetuated by our continued homage to Darwin’s treatise (6) in
the popular literature. For example, Dawkins’ (7–9) agenda to
spread the word on the awesome power of natural selection has
been quite successful, but it has come at the expense of reference
to any other mechanisms, a view that is in some ways profoundly
misleading. There is, of course, a substantial difference between the
popular literature and the knowledge base that has grown from a
century of evolutionary research, but this distinction is often missed
by nonevolutionary biologists.


If you're like me you read that and feel a little twitch in your gut. "Who's he to slag Dawkins?! What's this guy up to?" Lynch is just doing science. Good job sowing confusion and suspicion, creationists!

claymisher
09-06-2009, 06:08 PM
That Evolution 101 site I linked to is pretty neat. For example, they have a really clear page on the question of increasing complexity:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/VIID1bTrendTowardComplexity.shtml

AemJeff
09-06-2009, 09:35 PM
Have you read the Stuart Kauffman book? I came across it just this last week. It looks like a monster. I mentioned him when I was posting about noncreationist critiques of the neodarwinian view here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=127985#post127985) and here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=128197#post128197).

The creationists have really hurt science with their antics. It's hard to hear things like "natural selection may not explain the emergence of morphological complexity" and not think the subtext is "Evolution is a lie!" They're making science-minded folks jumpy and defensive. It's lame. For example, in Michael Lynch's fantastic presentation about evolution and complexity (http://sackler.nasmediaonline.org/2006/ileacd/MichaelLynch/michaellynch.html) (watch the whole thing! There's even a little Dawkins vs Gould in it. Paper here (http://www.indiana.edu/~lynchlab/PDF/Lynch155.pdf)) he calls the view that "evolution is natural selection" a myth. What!? Creationist! But no, he's right. Evolution is descent with modification. Natural selection is just one mechanism of evolution (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIMechanisms.shtml). Lynch writes:



If you're like me you read that and feel a little twitch in your gut. "Who's he to slag Dawkins?! What's this guy up to?" Lynch is just doing science. Good job sowing confusion and suspicion, creationists!

I haven't read Kaufmann's book in much detail, except skimming the chapter on self-organization. You're right, the book is motherfucker. If you're capable of getting through it, though, it seems like it's more than worth the slog.

You're right, the difficulties involved in sifting expansive arguments about specific evolutionary mechanisms and pathways from intentionally obfuscatory horseshit make it harder for an entire class of arguments to even get heard. I'm listening to the Lynch presentation right now. Behe's argument ultimately reduces to: after a certain level there's no there, there; analysis will fail beyond some finite limit, like trying to factor a prime. Lectures like this one, that begin to hint at the degree of complexity and structure represented here, the reach of which we're only becoming dimly aware of, just totally gives the lie to that point of view.

cragger
09-06-2009, 10:13 PM
Behe's argument suffers another fundamental fault, beyond that particular distortion of the probability. His argument further rests on the fallacy that there is exactly one and only one developmental outcome that would leave us in the position of asking just how we got here. We could just as easily have a world that was somewhat different in biological makeup, but with successful species, including questioning ones.

An analogy, as I'm likely not clear enough here -

We know that genetic makeup in sexual reproduction takes genes from both parents, but not the same set every time those same parents reproduce. The siblings will differ. I don't know right off if anyone has calculated the number of possible combinations that will produce a viable offspring, but will opine that the number is "large".

We can consider as well the number of people in the world. Behe's claim is analagous to the argument that the odds against you mating with a particular individual with a given particular genetic makeup from among the worlds billions are extremely high. Billions to one against. The odds of your child getting a particular set of genes from you and your spouse are also high. Therefore, the claim is, that particular child cannot be reasonably said to exist in the face of such odds.

bjkeefe
09-06-2009, 11:07 PM
Behe's argument suffers another fundamental fault, beyond that particular distortion of the probability. His argument further rests on the fallacy that there is exactly one and only one developmental outcome that would leave us in the position of asking just how we got here. We could just as easily have a world that was somewhat different in biological makeup, but with successful species, including questioning ones.

An analogy, as I'm likely not clear enough here -

We know that genetic makeup in sexual reproduction takes genes from both parents, but not the same set every time those same parents reproduce. The siblings will differ. I don't know right off if anyone has calculated the number of possible combinations that will produce a viable offspring, but will opine that the number is "large".

We can consider as well the number of people in the world. Behe's claim is analagous to the argument that the odds against you mating with a particular individual with a given particular genetic makeup from among the worlds billions are extremely high. Billions to one against. The odds of your child getting a particular set of genes from you and your spouse are also high. Therefore, the claim is, that particular child cannot be reasonably said to exist in the face of such odds.

Or as Richard Feynman used to say, "On the way to this lecture today, I saw a license plate reading W92-XL73! What are the odds of that???"

cragger
09-07-2009, 09:23 AM
I thought after posting that a clearer analogy might be a hand of poker against Mr. Behe, about which he claims after losing that the odds against of each of us getting randomly dealt those 10 cards in that order are astronomical (1/52 x 1/51 ... x 1/43), and that this proves that he had been cheated since those hands must therefore have been dealt by design.

Little surprise that Feynman made the case more succinctly.

bjkeefe
09-07-2009, 02:03 PM
I thought after posting that a clearer analogy might be a hand of poker against Mr. Behe, about which he claims after losing that the odds against of each of us getting randomly dealt those 10 cards in that order are astronomical (1/52 x 1/51 ... x 1/43), and that this proves that he had been cheated since those hands must therefore have been dealt by design.

Little surprise that Feynman made the case more succinctly.

Both of your examples are good. Feynman's is succinct, yes, but not everyone gets the point of that. People who know nothing about probability have looked at me quizzically when I've used that in the past, like, "Yeah. So what are you saying?"

claymisher
09-07-2009, 02:03 PM
I haven't read Kaufmann's book in much detail, except skimming the chapter on self-organization. You're right, the book is motherfucker. If you're capable of getting through it, though, it seems like it's more than worth the slog. ...

I'm listening to the Lynch presentation right now. Behe's argument ultimately reduces to: after a certain level there's no there, there; analysis will fail beyond some finite limit, like trying to factor a prime. Lectures like this one, that begin to hint at the degree of complexity and structure represented here, the reach of which we're only becoming dimly aware of, just totally gives the lie to that point of view.

From what I gather the people interested in self-organization are just getting started. It should be an exciting next few decades.

Let me know what you think of the Lynch presentation. I'm planning on listening to it again.