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Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution

Posted: Thu May 17, 2007 1:38 pm
by Walden2
Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of that amazing piece of
pseudoscience The Priviledged Planet, was denied tenure
at the University of Iowa. The Discovery Institute is crying
foul, censorship, oppression, hellfire, etc.

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog has the details and some
very useful links on the news here:

http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2007 ... go-and-id/

Atheists with Attitudes

Posted: Thu May 17, 2007 1:44 pm
by Walden2
Excellent article in the May 21, 2007 issue of the New Yorker titled
Atheists with Attitudes online here:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/b ... s_gottlieb

Posted: Thu May 17, 2007 10:31 pm
by Windwalker
I found the New Yorker review interesting, although a bit perfunctory. As for Gonzalez, he made his intelligent design views the center of his career. So the news is not terribly surprising.

Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 5:18 pm
by caliban
I have no idea whether or not Gonzalez was fairly denied tenure. Maybe his book has something to do with it--I was only vaguely aware of it--or maybe not. I refuse to be snarky about it, since I don't know any of the facts (and haven't even read his book) but neither will I feel terribly bad about it. Lots of people with kooky ideas get tenure. Lots of outstanding people fail to get tenure.

Tenure is a tricky business. As Athena can attest. Sometimes people who "deserve" tenure fail to get it. Sometimes those who do not deserve it are kept anyway. To quote Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven": "Deserves got nothin to do with it."

On the whole, science is amazingly self-correcting and self-organizing--in large part due to its making skepticism a valued quality.

Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 5:46 pm
by Windwalker
No question tenure is a quirky and arbitrary process. And, of course, I agree that science is self-correcting... although sometimes it takes long to right the ship!

I have not read Gonzalez's book either, but I did read several of his articles, and his bias towards not just ID but something even stronger is obvious. Also, Gonzalez hid activities that I think constitute conflict of interest. To give one example: Like Michael Behe, Gonzalez is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, whose explicit mission is fundamentalist. He asked the Smithsonian Institute to sponsor a film based on his book, without telling them that the Discovery Institute had produced it (a violation of their rules). He also wrote openly creationist articles for evangelical newsletters, although he denied doing so.

Like many astrophysicists, Gonzalez held forth in biological domains -- not his field of expertise. There is more about this issue in David Darling's book Life Everywhere: The Maverick Science of Astrobiology, which is a very good read in itself... and I'm not saying that because it mentions yours truly! Here are two links that briefly discuss the matter:

http://www.csicop.org/sb/2005-09/reality-check.html
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-79794362.html

Posted: Sun May 20, 2007 2:34 am
by caliban
There are even weirder ones out who DO have tenure. One example is Frank Tipler of Tulane, who wrote "The Physics of Immortality" and has a new one, "The Physics of Christianity," which I have not read but can fairly easily presume to be an embarrassment to both communities referenced in the title.

I did try to read one of Tipler's "technical" articles on a similar theme; it is gobbledy-gook. Read for yourself: http://www.arxiv.org/abs/0704.0058
It apparently got published, which is beyond me.

Posted: Sun May 20, 2007 10:29 am
by caliban
Windwalker wrote: Here are two links that briefly discuss the matter:

http://www.csicop.org/sb/2005-09/reality-check.html
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-79794362.html

The second is the most interesting and, perhaps, the most damning.

I struggle with this, not because I am sympathetic to Gonzalez, but precisely the opposite. Scientists believe we should engage constructively with credible opponents. Gonzalez has damaged his credibility--but what really is the most damaging? To my mind it is less his book itself than his disingenuousness regarding his motivations and goals, as he was with Ward and Brownlee (who themselves were terribly naive not to pick up on this). And as I think about it--although I am wary of arguing to conclusions that are convenient--this really is damning. Scientists are supposed to be completely honest and open; that is the secret to the self-correction in science. Not revealing a motivation or a connection in this regard is plain wrong, despite his claims of persecution. It is equivalent to a scientist publishing a paper on a new drug without revealing she owns stock in the company.

Okay, I've convinced myself.

Posted: Sun May 20, 2007 10:52 am
by Windwalker
caliban wrote:Gonzalez has damaged his credibility--but what really is the most damaging? To my mind it is less his book itself than his disingenuousness regarding his motivations and goals, as he was with Ward and Brownlee (who themselves were terribly naive not to pick up on this). And as I think about it--although I am wary of arguing to conclusions that are convenient--this really is damning.

Exactly. If he had the courage of his convictions or wanted to truly test his predictions/theories, he would not have behaved like this.

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:07 pm
by Windwalker
And right on the heels of all this, Michael Behe is bringing out yet another book on irreducible complexity and intelligent design. I read a few excerpts, enough to realize that his molecular biology doesn't even pretend to be accurate. How is it possible to publish such a book? Behe's view of mutations are equivalent to a geologist stating that the earth is flat. Then again, Behe has tenure, so he can say anything he wants.

I'm tempted to do a review of this book as I did for that other masterpiece of tautology and errors, Rare Earth. But I'm not sure I can keep my temper while reading it.

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 4:01 pm
by caliban
Windwalker wrote:I'm tempted to do a review of this book as I did for that other masterpiece of tautology and errors, Rare Earth. But I'm not sure I can keep my temper while reading it.

I would encourage you to do it. It is useful and important to point out the flaws. Particularly useful are pointing out the basic science mistakes. As you know well, the ID'n'more crowd routinely misunderstand and misrepresent basic concepts in thermodynamics such as entropy. It would be good to know what their biochemistry mistakes are as well.

As you probably know (but others may not), there is a very useful website (and book, I have a copy) that dissects creationist and ID claims:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

Do it.

Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:54 pm
by Windwalker
Two major players already dissected Behe's book. So I think mine would be surperfluous at this point!

Richard Dawkins, NY Times
Jerry Coyne, New Republic

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 1:52 am
by Walden2
http://www.terradaily.com/reports/The_S ... m_999.html

The Society Of Vertebrate Paleontology Speaks Out On The Creation Museum


For example, Tyrannosaurus rex existed over 65 million years ago, whereas modern humans didn't show up on the scene until 200 thousand years ago. They never walked side by side. The Creation Museum neglects to include this critical data in its analysis of the history of life on earth. "Most of us in the public view museums as places to get the latest information on scientific discovery. In this case, the Creation Museum is using the disguise of science museums and centers without including an iota of science inside," said Dr. Kristi Curry Rogers of the Science Museum of Minnesota.

by Staff Writers

Northbrook IL (SPX) Jul 26, 2007

Professional paleontologists from around the world are concerned about the misrepresentation of science at the newly opened Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Creation Museum has been marketed to the public as a "reasoned, logical defence" for young-earth creationism by Ken Ham, the President and CEO of Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, a world-wide scientific and educational organization concerned with vertebrate paleontology, contends that the museum presents visitors with a view of earth history that has been scientifically disproven for over a century.

The Creation Museum's fossil exhibitions, though artistically impressive, include a vast number of scientific errors, large and small. These errors range from implying that the Earth's sedimentary rocks were deposited by a single biblical Flood, to claiming that humans and dinosaurs lived alongside one another, to denouncing the reality of transitional fossils.

"Ken Ham is not recognized as a scientist or educator among experts in the fields of geology and paleontology, and his views on the interpretation of Biblical texts are extremist. Visitors to his 'museum' may arrive knowing little about these sciences, but they will leave misled and intellectually deceived," said Dr. Kevin Padian, professor and curator, University of California, Berkeley and president of the National Center for Science Education.

The fossil exhibits at the Creation Museum discount the last 150 years of paleontological and geological discovery. Not only are transitional fossils, including snakes with limbs and dinosaurs with feathers, abundant in the fossil record, but radiometric dating allows paleontologists to pinpoint the timing of major events in the ancient history of the earth.

For example, Tyrannosaurus rex existed over 65 million years ago, whereas modern humans didn't show up on the scene until 200 thousand years ago. They never walked side by side. The Creation Museum neglects to include this critical data in its analysis of the history of life on earth. "Most of us in the public view museums as places to get the latest information on scientific discovery. In this case, the Creation Museum is using the disguise of science museums and centers without including an iota of science inside," said Dr. Kristi Curry Rogers of the Science Museum of Minnesota.

"That's the real danger of such a place - undermining the basic principles of science, eroding the public's confidence in science, and causing a general weakening of science education in the country," commented Dr. Glenn Storrs of the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Dr. Catherine Badgley, a professor at the University of Michigan and president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, remarked, "according to the Creation Museum, the history of life is short, sin-ridden, and laden with moralizing imperatives. In contrast, the real fossil record shows that this long history is brimming with discoveries of new kinds of animals, plants, and environments, inviting people to use their unusual minds to question, to reason, and to wonder at life's remarkable variety."

Founded in 1940, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is the leading North American scientific and educational organization concerned with vertebrate paleontology. The purpose of the society, which has 2200 members from 40 countries, is to advance the science of vertebrate paleontology, including the history, evolution, comparative anatomy, and taxonomy of vertebrate animals, as well as the field occurrence, collection, and geological context of fossil vertebrates. The society is also concerned with the conservation and preservation of fossil sites. It publishes The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a leading journal in the field.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:20 pm
by Windwalker
The resistance of humans to evidence never ceases to amaze and frighten me. This museum, like ID proponents and their ilk, actually masquerades as friendly to/compatible with science. It won't fool the savvy, but it might mislead the unwary.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:22 pm
by caliban
Windwalker wrote:The resistance of humans to evidence never ceases to amaze and frighten me.

In actuality, the "debate" over evolution and other non-controversies such as global warming usually have little to do with evidence. Instead they are really debates over colliding master narratives.

In every case of creationism, intelligent design, etc., there is always down deep the following syllogism:

If you believe in evolution, you cannot believe in God.

And if you don't believe in God, then you cannot be moral.

Both statements are utterly absurd, of course, but it is the belief in the above syllogism that ultimately drives creationism.

Go to any creationism website you like--pretty quickly you'll find some statement to the above effect. (Often it is posed as the contrapositive: evolutionists reject creationism because they like the freedom from being moral. Wacky as that sounds, it is a sentiment frequent expressed among creationists and IDers.

I think this is important to keep in mind because you won't ever convince creationists by evidence, because at heart they don't care about evidence. They believe that there has been a decline in morals since the rise of evolutionary theory. Again, absurd, but there you have it.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 7:12 pm
by Windwalker
caliban wrote:
Windwalker wrote:In every case of creationism, intelligent design, etc., there is always down deep the following syllogism:

If you believe in evolution, you cannot believe in God.

And if you don't believe in God, then you cannot be moral.

It seems to me that the debate is not about morality, but about control -- of thought and behavior. There is also the demeaning concept that humans will behave abominably unless a sword of eternal punishment hovers over them. Granted, humans act badly more often than not, but fear of punishment in the afterlife is not a very effective deterrent.