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Update on Dover ID trial
Posted: 17 October 2005 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Last question first…

Look on the Discovery Institute website.  They are, as you no doubt know, the clearing house for this pap.

An interesting side note:  while 400 sounds impressive at first, on reflection, it is not really so.  There are somewhere between 400,000 and 1,000,000 scientists in the US alone, depending on how one defines “scientist.”  I can assure you, looking at the DI list, they were very generous in their definition.

This, however, does not address Salerio’s post, regarding the fact that some prominent names are on the list.  Even if one discards pseudo-intellectuals like George Gilder, there are real scientists who seem to believe in ID.  As a scientist, I struggle with this, too.  How can they believe this?  How do they reconcile the evidence with their beliefs?

I think it is important to remember, though, that even the very bright can become seemingly moronic, particularly when they venture outside their field of expertise.  An inventor of MRI for medical use, Dr Raymond Damadian, believes in more than just ID; he is on the board of the Answers in Genesis foundation, responsible for the Creation Museum.  And consider Nobel laureate Kari Mullis, inventor of PCR, who thinks that HIV is unrelated to AIDS, despite the considerable evidence to the contrary arising largely from his own field of molecular biology. 

One possible explanation for these phenomena is that some people, lauded for their intelligence in one area, become convinced of their superior intellect in ALL areas.  This, plus a little old time religion, can be enough to outweigh logic and reason.  Scientists are just people too.

For those interested in the list of 400:  many people (including myself) have suggested forming a “counter” list of scientists supporting evolution.  The prevailing wisdom in the scientific community, however, is that such a list would have the effect of legitimizing the DI 400, and furthermore, the concept of lists of names trumping scientific evidence.  If such a rationale seems a little too high-minded-ivory-tower for you (while I get the point, I also think scientists shirk their responsibilities when they refuse to engage the wing-nuts in debate), check out the National Center for Science Education list of 500+ scientists named Steve, all of whom support evolution.  A tongue-in-cheek tribute honoring the late Steven Jay Gould, the site points out that on the DI list, there are only FOUR Steves.

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Posted: 17 October 2005 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I also think scientists shirk their responsibilities when they refuse to engage the wing-nuts in debate

In several years of following these things, I have never seen an evolutionist “win” any debate against a creationist.  Science has absolutly nothing whatsoever to do with it.  The latest issue of NCSE reports has several articles having to do with exactly that-why scientists shouldnt debate with them.  As you pointed out, it does nothing but create the illusion of “contraversy” that they can use against reason.

Below is a piece by Eugenie Scott, PhD, the director of NCSE:

Confronting Creationism: When and How
by Eugenie C Scott

Originally published in RNCSE 24 (6): 23. The version on the web might differ slightly from the print publication.

Everyone agrees that scientists should confront the claims of creationists, but how? Are debates of the sort that creationists love to promote the right arena? Not in my opinion.

Debaters on our side of this issue, I assume, participate in the hope of improving the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science, leading to increased support for the teaching of evolution in the public schools uncompromised by religious dogma. It is a worthy goal. (Unfortunately, some debate to gratify their egos.)

As I have argued elsewhere (Scott 1994) and as argued by the other contributors in this issue of RNCSE, such debates are counterproductive. They confuse the public about evolution and the nature of science; they increase the membership and swell the coffers of their creationist sponsors; they fuel local enthusiasm for creationism, thereby contributing to public pressure on local teachers to teach creationism or downplay evolution.

“But you’ve debated creationists,” you protest. “I’ve seen you on Firing Line and Crossfire, and NCSE even sells a videotaped debate with you, Duane Gish, and Hugh Ross! How can you say ‘don’t debate creationists’ when you debate creationists?”

Well, in fact, I really don’t debate. I appear with creationists at public events and on radio and television shows, and sometimes these appearances are called “debates,” but they are not formal debates about evolution of the sort that the Institute for Creation Research or Kent Hovind or the Veritas Forum constantly try to organize. I steer clear of such events, and, again, I recommend that my colleagues follow suit.

But I do appear in public with creationists, and you may be asked to do the same. Where, and how, do I draw the line between debating creationists and participating in a public exchange? Here are criteria to consider if you are invited to engage with creationists mano a mano.

  1. The topic of the discussion should not be the scientific legitimacy of evolution. Evolution is not on trial in the world of science. I will not defend evolution against a creationist, whether young-earth, old-earth, or “intelligent design”. I am happy to discuss the scientific illegitimacy of creationism, however. And I am even happier to talk about issues that are central to the controversy in law, religion, philosophy, education, and politics — where, unlike in science, there is real controversy.

  2. The format should be conducive to educating the audience about evolution and the nature of science. A useful format, in which proponents of “intelligent design” were required to make their case and defend it in the face of criticism, was used at the American Museum of Natural History’s forum on “intelligent design” in April 2002 (a transcript is available: Anonymous 2002). To be avoided are unstructured formats allowing presentation of misconception after misconception — what I have dubbed “the Gish Gallop” in honor of its most avid practitioner.

  3. The setting should be neutral. Why debate evolution before an audience consisting predominantly of conservative Christians? Why be the evolutionist Federals to the creationist Globetrotters? The event should be accessible to members of the general public, so in general, a venue in a church is not the first choice, compared to, say, a university auditorium. On the other hand, if the topic is science and religion, then a predominantly religious audience in a church setting is understandable.

Preparation is necessary for any venue, and it’s not enough to know the science: you have to know the pseudoscience, too. (May I suggest my recent book [Scott 2004] and Mark Isaak’s new book [Isaak 2005] to help you study?) And it’s useful to work on your delivery as well. In person and especially on television, affect is often more important than content, so be nice. No matter how technically brilliant your presentation, the effect will be lost if the audience finds you arrogant, boring, or unpleasant, much less all three.

Instead of a face-to-face debate, consider a written one. On the internet, there is unlimited time and space for debates, including the opportunity for documentation and references, impractical in oral debates. A good on-line debate that showed clearly which side has the real science is a debate hosted by NOVA between “intelligent design” advocate Phillip Johnson and NCSE Supporter Kenneth R Miller (Johnson and Miller 1996). Be warned, though: it is increasingly difficult to find a creationist to debate in such a format!

You can be a voice for evolution even without debating, of course. You can write letters and op-eds to the editors of newspapers and magazines, respond to bogus claims on internet blogs, and even organize your own pro-evolution forums, as the residents of Darby, Montana, and Grantsburg, Wisconsin, did in response to assaults on evolution education in their communities. NCSE’s pamphlet “25 ways you can support evolution education” (available on-line at http://www.ncseweb.org/25_ways.asp) suggests a number of ways to contribute.

In short, scientists, and those who are concerned about the quality of science education, should indeed confront creationism in all its forms as well as support evolution education, but they should do so in ways that advance, rather than thwart, the goal of a scientifically literate public that understands and appreciates science.

References
[Anonymous]. 2002. Transcript of American Museum of Natural History discussion on “intelligent design”; 2002 Aug 23; New York, NY. Available on-line via ; last accessed July 5, 2005.
Isaak M. The Counter-Creationism Handbook. Westport (CT): Greenwood Press.
Johnson P, Miller K. 1996. How did we get here? A cyber debate. Available on-line via http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/odyssey/debate/index.html; last accessed July 5, 2005.
Scott EC. 1994. Debates and the Globetrotters. Creation/Evolution Winter; 14 (2) nr 35: 22–6. Available on-line at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/debating/globetrotters.html; last accessed July 5, 2005.
Scott EC. 2004. Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. Westport (CT): Greenwood Press.

Author’s address
Eugenie C Scott
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Posted: 17 October 2005 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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...HSP, but the interesting thing about your except from Dr Scott is that after explaining why “debating” creationists is a bad idea, she proceeds to lay out the framework for doing so.  Look, I agree that no one is going to “win” a “debate” in mega-church against Kent Hovind or Ken Hamm or any of the holy-rollers.  But when scientists fail to show up at public hearings on ID in Kansas, the message the public gets is, “They are too scared/arrogant/lazy to defend their point of view.”  While it takes a special person, with a vast amount of patience, to politely but convincingly counter the fundies and inform the public, I think that is what is needed.  I know I’m NOT up to the task; I get frustated too easily, and lose my cool.  But I fear that if no scientists address the issue, the next thing you know, we will all have to give equal time to creationism in ALL public forums:  university classes,  government publications, the NIH, etc.  I don’t hope to convert the fanatics - they are a lost cause, and have already drank the Kool-aid.  But if the public, who ultimately pays for most of the science done in this country, becomes curious and starts to sip it, too, because we were not able to explain why they shouldn’t, well then I feel we will all lose.  Certainly the US will lose out to other industrialized countries, where this stuff is met with head-scratching disbelief.

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Posted: 18 October 2005 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Mhatter13:

I agree with you completly.  I “debate” on local talk radio, local letters-to-the-editor, and whenever I get a chance one-on-one.  I also bring my fossil show-and-tell into the local grammer schools.  For the most part, the teachers and kids love it, and I have a ball.

I am not, by any means, a scientist, but there are things any of us can do.  Thank you for your reply.

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Posted: 18 October 2005 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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...for doing the heavy lifting.  It gets less media coverage than head-to-head debates, but is ultimately more important.  I

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Posted: 18 October 2005 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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..applaud you for your time and effort.

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Posted: 19 October 2005 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“pcrane”][quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“pcrane”]This online reprint of an article from Natural History magazine (April, 2002) seems a good starting point for those interested in the debate.


This also: http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/050922_ID_main.html

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Posted: 19 October 2005 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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[quote author=“pcrane”]
This article looks interesting and it appears to address some of the issues you raise.
http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/2005/05jf/05jfforr.htm
We should both read it and then compare notes.
P.S.—Where can I get the list of 400?

Here is the listing of scientists:
http://tinyurl.com/cnqs3

Thanks for the excellent article. It discuses Dr. Fritz Schaefer who is my favorite study of this fascinating topic. In fact, Dr.  Schaefer was the impetus for my interest in this question. Byron (SkepticX) from this forum is also familiar with Dr Schaefer.

I have had many conversations with Dr Schaefer who is a professor of Chemistry and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He is indeed an accomplished (just ask him) professor at my undergrad alma mater. This is where I got my exposure to his crypto-desperate brand of scientific Christianity.

Below is an excerpt from the good Dr’s testimony:

“Finally, I discovered that the intellectual challenge to fully understand the depths of the Christian faith is quite comparable to that required to plumb the depths of molecular quantum mechanics.”

It is obvious that Dr Schaefer brings an obvious bias to every issue that is connected with the Bible. This bias has little if any bearing on his research findings in chemistry. I can logically follow this irrational bias to other areas of science where he is not an expert.

The best popular treatment I have found on this subject comes from “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer.  His answer to this dilemma is that “smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.” I believe that this describes Dr Schaefer perfectly.

I find Shermer’s a reasonable explanation for Dr Schaefer acceptance of creationism, but I can’t logically follow how any biology professor can posit ID or creationism while denying evolution.

Your thoughts?

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Posted: 19 October 2005 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“Salerio”]  “Finally, I discovered that the intellectual challenge to fully understand the depths of the Christian faith is quite comparable to that required to plumb the depths of molecular quantum mechanics.”

Salerio—

The good doctor, as you call him (affectionately?), would have no argument from me if those words “Christian faith” were taken out, and replaced with something like “the meaning of life” or “what’s it all about.”

So far as I can tell, the Christian faith as such has no depths to plumb: it is just one pious fraud heaped on another.  By which I mean no disrespect to those who have been duped, only to those who started the duping and those who have perpetuated it now for almost two millenia.  (I say “almost” because what we know as Christianity did not really get its legs until Jesus of Nazareth had been moldering in the grave for about three hundred years.)

The number of reputable, honest scientists aligned with ID is almost trivially small in comparison to the number who stand resolutely behind both the fact and the theory of evolutionary biology and all that it entails.  Surprisingly, those apostate few have jumped the shark by making the same mistake as all the others who have even less reason to know better,  namely: by conflating materialism as a methodology with materialism as a metaphysic.

What we are and what the world is, how and when things came to be—in Aristotelian terms, the material, formal and efficient causes—these are questions to be answered by science.  The why and the what for— the “telos”—are in the realm or philosophy.  Maybe religion, too, but I doubt it.

Paul Crane

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Posted: 24 October 2005 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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[quote author=“pcrane”]
The good doctor, as you call him (affectionately?),

Sure, why not? He is very interesting. I agree with almost nothing he has to say, but he is a fascinating, albeit frightening, study.

[quote author=“pcrane”]Surprisingly, those apostate few have jumped the shark by making the same mistake as all the others who have even less reason to know better,  namely: by conflating materialism as a methodology with materialism as a metaphysic.

You are correct. It seems Behe argues that metaphysics should hold true until proven false. Below is too rich. This is the testimony of Behe at the Dover trial. You would think Scopes would inform the defense better than this.

Q Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?
A Well, I am not a historian of science. And certainly nobody—well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time. But if you go back, you know, Middle Ages and before that, when people were struggling to describe the natural world, some people might indeed think that it is not a priori—a priori ruled out that what we—that motions in the earth could affect things on the earth, or motions in the sky could affect things on the earth.
Q And just to be clear, why don’t we pull up the definition of astrology from Merriam… And now the term is used, “The divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects.”
That’s the scientific theory of astrology?
A That’s what it says right there, but let me direct your attention to the archaic definition, because the archaic definition is the one which was in effect when astrology was actually thought to perhaps describe real events, at least by the educated community.
Astrology—I think astronomy began in, and things like astrology, and the history of science is replete with ideas that we now think to be wrong headed, nonetheless giving way to better ways or more accurate ways of describing the world.
And simply because an idea is old, and simply because in our time we see it to be foolish, does not mean when it was being discussed as a live possibility, that it was not actually a real scientific theory.
Q I didn’t take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?
A I’m sorry?
Q I did not take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?
A It seems like that.
Q Okay. It seems like that since we started yesterday. But could you turn to page 132 of your deposition?
A Yes.
Q And if you could turn to the bottom of the page 132, to line 23.
A I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
Q Page 132, line 23.
A Yes.
Q And I asked you, “Is astrology a theory under that definition?” And you answered, “Is astrology? It could be, yes.” Right?
A That’s correct.

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