Saturday, March 12, 2016

Intelligent Design vs Evolution: organising an on-line debate.

In another venue, one Joseph Gallien has challenged me to a debate over "Intelligent Design" and "evolutionism" to use Joe's words. The problem is how to arrange it. I wouldn't trust Joe to stick to any rules we might agree beforehand and I suspect he'll object to my caveats. So, I propose to use this site to post my arguments and copy them to a site of his choosing (He already has a blogger site here or he can easily set up a new one.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I think it is time to close the blog to new comments as it has started to accumulate spam. It will remain as a reminder of more interesting times. My initial encounter with ID only dates back to mid 2005. I predicted then that ID would disappear from public perspective within 5 years. I think I may have been pessimistic.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Dembski Files

Several people have expressed an interest in hearing the recordings of Bill Dembski at his recent appearance here. However, there is some suggestion that Dembski would attempt to suppress such material. I strongly believe in the free exchange of ideas, and in that spirit, would like to offer to make that material available via a French server in the (possibly naive) hope that censorship of material in the public domain will be harder to achieve here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tour de France 2007

This year's Tour de France came through our local town today. The gendarmerie closed the main road, normally busy with traffic and people gathered along the route.

For the average roadside spectator, the event consisted of two hours of la caravane, a stream of vehicles advertising various companies and products hurling trinkets (hence the hat), followed by ten seconds of the leading group and a minute of the peloton rushing by. Then we all sauntered off back home to watch the finish on TV.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Note from Joe Gallien

Joe has addressed a thread to me on his blog, copied below। As I no longer spend much time on the ID issue, I only noticed it via a thread Blipey posted at AtBC. If Joe wants to develop his theme and needs a response from me, I suggest he lets me know here.

Another Note to Alan Fox

I said on UD: and a note to Alan Fox:

ID still flourishes because educated people know that “Kitzmiller” was a farce and has been exposed as such.
September 20, 2006 @ 9:49 am

Alan replied:
I always thought you saw the world as you wished it to be, rather than how it is. Now I know. I will agree with your remark when Kitzmiller is appealed and reversed because "Intelligent Design" is discovered to have some scientific basis, rather than just being a cloak for fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Somehow, I don't think I need to worry about having to agree with you in this lifetime. (my emphasis)

Yup Alan. Obviously it is you who chooses to see the world as you want it to be rather than how it really is:

"The differences between Biblical creationism and the IDM should become clear. As an unashamedly Christian/creationist organization, ICR is concerned with the reputation of our God and desires to point all men back to Him. We are not in this work merely to do good science, although this is of great importance to us. We care that students and society are brainwashed away from a relationship with their Creator/Savior. While all creationists necessarily believe in intelligent design, not all ID proponents believe in God. ID is strictly a non-Christian movement, and while ICR values and supports their work, we cannot join them."- John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research

Oops- "ID is strictly a non-Christian movement". And that is from someone who knows more about ID and Christianity than Alan Fox ever will.

As far as the "Kitzmiller v. Dover" decision goes, many legal experts have already shown beyond any doubt that Judge Jones went too far. It is also obvious from the decison that the judge took out his wrath on ID because of a few lying and ID ignorant school board members. IOW Judge Jones is still clueless to ID reality and most likely still ignorant of science.

It is also very telling that the best moment for the plaintiffs was a bluff. That being when their attorney threw down some 58 references that allegedly demonstrated the evolution of the immune system via blind watchmaker-type processes.

Judge Jones bought that bluff whole-sale. All judges are not that stupid.

Now I know Alan will just ignore all of this because willful ignoarnce is the evolutionitwit way...
posted by Joe G @ 3:17 पम
My response:

"Another Note to Alan Fox" which, you forgot to send, Joe. Thank Blipey for posting a link to your blog at AtBC.

You write:

Now I know Alan will just ignore all of this because willful(sic) ignoarnce(sic) is the evolutionitwit way...

Joe, ID died at Harrisburg. Creationism will no doubt continue as a belief system. I defend and fully support your right to believe anything you like that does not lead you to commit or incite others to commit crimes against humanity such as mass murder (or even the odd single murder or assault). Just don't call it science, and that will avoid confusion.

from someone who knows more about ID and Christianity than Alan Fox ever will.

It is not my policy to debate the merits of competing belief systems, Joe. If you get comfort from your particular sect, then I am happy for you. I have always suspected that some people have an innate need for some kind of religious crutch and others don't, and attempts by people of either category to persuade those from another are not usually productive.

What does puzzle me is why my religious convictions are of any interest to you, as yours are of utterly no interest to me.

My wife has asked me to "stop wasting time blogging" so I can't really afford to spend more time here. I will copy this to my blog and will keep a weather eye on it in case you want to respond.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cosmic Rays and Climate Change.

Dave Springer has a thread at Uncommon Descent, based on the work of Henrik Svensmark, who claims his data show that cosmic rays are a significant contributor to global warming. It seems, however that the data have been "corrected" so that the data fit with Svensmark's hypothesis.

What puzzles me is why Dave promotes denial-ism of global warming so enthusiastically. I know he has family. Is there no doubt or concern for the future that would cause him to try and consider evidence objectively rather than source and promote any article that is sceptical of human contribution to climate change? I would really like to know what is wrong with attempting to reduce carbon emissions by conserving fossil fuels? As I have remarked before, Pascal's wager is the best policy. If we are wrong about fossil fuel, but reduce emissions anyway, the air is still cleaner, fuel stocks are available for future use, whereas if we delay and the prophets of doom are right and climate change becomes unstoppable...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Guest Posts Invited

Things have gone very quiet since the Kitzmiller decision. The Intelligent Design movement has been sidelined as a political force and, to date, there has been no serious attempt to justify in any real sense the claim that ID is scientific. There must be many, who were swayed by the pseudo-scientific musings of Dembski, Behe and others, who must be feeling a little let down.

Is there anyone out there still prepared to justify the premise that Intelligent Design is or can be considered a scientific subject?

Anyone who would like to write a post on this subject is invited to submit it (you can email the text to alan_fox_(AT)* *(change (AT) to@) and I will post it, subject to the rules of polite discourse.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For David Springer to "get down in the mud"

Rich Hughes has been commenting here and provoked a comment by none other than that feisty guardian of Uncommon Descent, ex USMC sergeant David Springer.

Dave wrote:

If I weren't banned at Pharyngula, Dispatches, Panda's Thumb, ATBC, I'd get down in the mud with them. I was sergeant in the USMC and Marines aren't exactly famous for being delicate and refined. The fact of the matter is they can dish it out but they can't take it and if any of them don't believe that then I challenge them to unban me at those sites. Even though I'm vastly outnumbered they still can't deal with me. On blogs I try to follow the rule "When in Rome do as the Romans do." Larry Moran's evolution blog is the only one where I'm still tolerated. Moran has a thick skin and for that he has my respect. Red State Rabble is a real joke. Witless, classless wimp Pat Hayes doesn't even enable comments. If not cowardice I'm not sure why since he doesn't have any semblance of refinement to guard.

Well, Dave, let's see how you deal with the cowards at AtBC. Let's see who is the first to cut and run.

Seriously Dave, Rich (and I) are amazed at your ability to dismiss climate change. Our view, independently arrived at, is that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by reducing consumption of fossil fuels has no huge downside, if, in fact, global warming turns out to be a myth. On the other hand...

Professor Davison still tilting at Windmills.

Addiction is very difficult to deal with. Unable to break mine yet, I noticed John has come out of his shell at ISCID and (since the ashtrays were full on his previous blogs) has opened a new blog.

Of course, I couldn't resist commenting, so I wonder if John will wipe the comment, ignore it, or insult me. Any guesses?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Intelligent Design; wake me when there is some news.

I have been following Intelligent Design for nearly two years now and in that time nothing in the way of credible research or evidence has emerged that supports the claim that ID is scientific. I don't think I am alone in believing that ID has no future as a vehicle to undermine the teaching of evolution, especially after the Kitzmiller ruling, and I don't think there is much point in spending time on arguing with people who believe it still has some mileage. My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.

So, unless Behe, Dembski et al. come up with something new, I doubt I shall be losing any sleep over the possibility of Intelligent Design taking over the world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Climate Change, separating science from propaganda.

David Springer has indicated that Uncommon Descent is the place to find out the truth about global warming. However, there are those who are unable to post queries or alternative views as Dave controls access to his threads.

So, in the hope that Dave is pursuing this topic in the light of furthering human knowledge, rather than taking a particular propaganda line ( You do live in Texas, after all, Dave), I offer this thread to all who have questions, additional evidence and material that they are unable to post at Uncommon Descent.

Naturally, I invite Dave and any fellow contributors and commenters from Uncommon Descent to participate if they wish. Usual minimal rules apply, (no obscenity, no spam) and as an additional request can I ask everyone to restrain themselves from using gratuitous abuse.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Climate change is part of the Darwinian conspiracy?

As "Intelligent Design" has utterly failed as a way to insinuate creationist ideas into state school curricula, it seems that Uncommon Descent has given up all pretence that is any kind of science blog and is now openly promoting an obvious right-wing politico-religious agenda. The views of David Springer, expressed virtually unchallenged in this carefully moderated environment, would be less hilarious if they were to become part of a political party's manifesto.

The most worrying issue for me is how Springer and others can dismiss climate change in such a cavalier manner and in the face of evidence from many sources. So much evidence is available, in my own area, glaciers in the Pyrenees have disappeared. Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers have shrunk alarmingly over the last 80 years. The Antarctic , the Greenland ice shelf, the Arctic sea ice, everywhere one looks, the trend is clear. That people can still promote ID is no longer a problem after Dover, but why are the same people denying climate change? This is serious. Have these reality deniers no thought for their children's future?

Friday, February 09, 2007


I am unavailable for the next few days, as my sister-in-law and family are here for a short visit. Her husband wanted to check his emails and noticed the title of the previous thread which happened to be on the screen. "Who is Bill Dembski?", he asked me. The U. K. is definitely ripe for an "Intelligent Design" take-over.

I am temporarily suspending comments till I get back.

Edit: On reflection, I will leave comments open, so, play nice till I get back.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Explanatory Filter, a useful process?

Secondclass' thread reminded me of a question I asked at the ARN board over a year ago. What can be achieved with the explanatory filter when applying the process to a real biological system? Despite the thread running for nine months and to eighteen pages, nobody came up with any true example.

Indeed, Salvador Cordova disingenuously introduced the "red herring" of Genetic-ID, which he also trotted out again here.
The comments are amusing for several reasons, DaveScot not being impressed with Salvador's argument, and a couple of posts by one Xavier (me), with Secondclass getting a DaveScot addition to his final comment.

If Joe Gallien has time, maybe he could enlighten me as to whether the EF has yet been applied to a real biological example.

This thread might be the place for anyone else apart from Joe and Secondclass who might wish to comment on the previous thread.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"How Carefully Do Dembski's Advocates Read His Work?" by Secondclass

It seems to me that anyone who finds Dembski's work convincing hasn't read it very carefully or thought about it very much. I have yet to find an exception, other than possibly Dembski himself.

The most extreme case I've discovered is Joe G., who claims that he has read The Design Inference, No Free Lunch, and other works by Dembski, and that he has discussed complexity and specification with Dembski himself. But after all that study, Joe still hasn't grasped even the basics of Dembski's approach and terminology.

1. Joe doesn't know that the "complexity" part of "specified complexity" is synonymous with improbability.

2. Joe doesn't know that specificity is positively correlated with simplicity of description.

3. Joe doesn't know that Dembski's most oft-used example, the Caputo incident, is an instance of specified complexity, according to Dembski.

4. Joe doesn't know that knowledge of designers' capabilities plays no role in Dembski's approach. He has failed to realize the Dembski's approach is eliminative, with design exempt from consideration for elimination.

And until he was corrected, Joe thought that detachability was a sign of fabrication rather than a requirement for specification.

Those of you familiar with Dembski's work can decide whether Joe has actually read what he claims to have read. Either way, I thank Joe for adding a strong data point to my theory regarding the level of understanding of Dembski advocates.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Julian Huxley's Confession by John A. Davison

by John A. Davison

The history of any science often reveals aspects of that science that have escaped attention in the intervening years. As someone so wisely put it -”The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” I present, in this brief essay, one particularly revealing demonstration of that phenomenon, one that is especially significant to the current status of the Darwinian hypothesis.

Julian Huxley was the grandson of the distinguished Thomas Henry Huxley, known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his spirited defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Like his illustrious grandfather Julian Huxley became a major spokesperson for Darwinism when in 1942 he published his“Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.”

Two years earlier, Richard B. Goldschmidt had published “The Material Basis of Evolution” in which he had in effect dismissed the corpuscular gene as the evolutionary unit and instead proposed that it was the chromosome and its internal structure, which had served to direct evolutionary change. It is difficult to imagine two books more opposed in perspective.

Huxley referred to Goldschmidt some 28 times, yet remained a convinced selectionist Darwinian nevertheless. It is important to remember that Darwin wholeheartedly subscribed to Lyell’s Uniformitarian Doctrine; namely, that the forces we now see shaping the world are the same forces that have operated in the past. While that is what most geologists still accept there is no a priori justification for extending that concept to the living world. That is what makes what I am about to present all the more significant.

Huxley’s book ends with the chapter “Evolutionary Progress.” On page 571, seven pages before the end he presents the following synopsis. For emphasis I have italicized key words and phrases but otherwise it is verbatim.

Evolution is thus seen as a series of blind alleys. Some are extremely short - those leading to new genera and species that either remain stable or become extinct. Others are longer - the lines of adaptive radiation within a group such as a class or subclass, which run for tens of millions of years before coming up against their terminal blank wall. Others are still longer - the lines that have in the past led to the development of the major phyla and their highest representatives; their course is to be reckoned not in tens but in hundreds of millions years. But all in the long run have terminated blindly. That of the echinoderms, for instance, reached its climax before the end of the Mesozoic. For the arthropods, represented by their highest group, the insects, the full stop seems to have come in the early Cenozoic: even the ants and bees have made no advance since the Oligocene. For the birds, the Miocene marked the end; for the mammals, the Pliocene.

I was amazed to read this summary and was curious to find out what prompted Huxley to include it at the end of his book, as it would seem to negate much of what preceded it. Where did he get the notion that evolution was finished? This I feel I was able to do from a paper by the anti-Darwinian paleontologist Robert Broom. Huxley and Broom had corresponded on the subject as revealed by Broom:

And a few zoologists are beginning to recognize that evolution is slowing down, if not quite stopped. In a letter I had from Professor Julian Huxley only a few months ago he says, ‘I have often thought about your idea of the fading out of evolutionary potency, and though I cannot pretend to agree with some of the philosophical corollaries which you draw from it, I more and more believe that it is of great importance as a fact.’ (Broom, 1933).

I was disappointed to discover that the only reference Huxley made to Broom was in a footnote on page 568:

A small minority of biologists, such as Broom (1933), still feel impelled to invoke ‘spiritual agencies’ to account for progressive evolution, but their number is decreasing as the implications of modern selection theories are grasped.

The reference to “spiritual agencies” by Broom was his suggestion that there had been a Plan, a word he capitalized.

Without referring to either Huxley or Broom, Pierre Grasse reached the same conclusions:

Facts are facts; no new broad organizational plan has appeared for several
hundred million years, and for an equally long period of time numerous
species, animal as well as plant, have ceased evolving… At best, present
evolutionary phenomena are simply slight changes of genotypes within
populations, or substitution of an allele with a new one. (Grasse, The
Evolution of Living Organisms,1977 page 84.)

The period of great fecundity is over; present evolution appears as a
weakened process, declining or near its end. Aren’t we witnessing the
remains of an immense phenomenon close to extinction? Aren’t the small
variations which are being recorded everywhere the tail end, the last
oscillations of the evolutionary movement? Aren’t our plants, our animals,
lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and
fauna? (Ibid, page 71).

I unhesitatingly answer yes to each of Grasse’s three questions and I hope others can as well. The reason I have presented this brief essay is to demonstrate that, even from within the Darwinian establishment, grave doubts have surfaced concerning its basic tenets from one of their most prominent spokespersons. I am not surprised Huxley is rarely referenced these days.

Broom, R. (1933) Evolution - Is there intelligence behind it? South African Journal of Science, 30: 1-19

Goldschmidt, R. B. (1940) “The Material Basis of Evolution.” Yale University Press, New Haven.

Grasse, P. (1977 “Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation.” Academic Press, New York. (Original French edition 1973).

Huxley, J. (1942) “Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.” Harper, New York and London.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The very human face of David Springer

I have not joined in the general hilarity elsewhere over the recently published image of John's erstwhile acolyte, DaveScot. I would be too vulnerable to the "pots and kettles" accusation for that.

No, the interesting (not to say, frightening) thing is, there is a distinct resemblance. Tidy the hair, trim the beard to a neat goatee and...

Dave, we could be twins.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Darwinian Delusion by John A. Davison

It is now 147 years since the publication of Darwin’s celebrated “On the Origin of Species,” yet not a single species has been observed to be formed through the mechanism he proposed. That mechanism, the natural selection of randomly produced variations is apparently incompetent to transform contemporary species even into a new member of the same genus. The most intensive artificial selection has also proven to be unable to transcend the species barrier. Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that evolution is finished as proposed by the anti-Darwinian Robert Broom and the Darwinian Julian Huxley, curiously the same man who coined the term “the modern synthesis.” (Davison, 2004). Pierre Grasse suggested the same.

“Aren’t our plants, our animals lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and fauna?” (Grasse, 1977, page 71).

I realize that some would not agree with us that evolution is finished, but I am now convinced that it is. How then is it possible for an hypothesis to survive without verification? Both the Phlogiston of Chemistry and the Ether of Physics collapsed when controlled experiment demonstrated them to be without foundation. Darwinism also has failed to survive the acid test of experimental verification. Why then has it persisted?

The reason for this paradox is the subject of this brief essay. It is, as my title indicates, because Darwinism is a delusion. The delusion is that evolution (phylogeny) has proceeded as the result of external causes which can be identified and experimentally manipulated. In my opinion that is impossible because such causes do not now and never did exist. They also do not exist for ontogeny, the development of the individual from the egg. Ontogeny and phylogeny are manifestations of the same reproductive continuum. Since only ontogeny remains, we must look to it as a model evolution. Does not ontogeny proceed entirely on the basis of contained information present in the fertilized egg? Of course it does. The only role for exogenous factors is to provide the necessary conditions for development to take place. For the amphibian fertilized egg all that is required is a freshwater environment at a suitable temperature. In a very real sense that is all that is required for the development of a mammal. I can say that because the amniotic fluid in which the mammalian embryo is bathed is very low in dissolved salts, like the ancestral environment in which our amphibian predecessors developed. Even the crab-eating frog of India, which dives into the surf to capture its prey, must go inland to fresh-water ponds in order to reproduce. Thus the mammalian womb retains the properties of the environment in which our ancestors developed in the past as their relatives still do today. This is true also of the amniotic fluid surrounding the bird or reptile embryo. It too is much lower in salts than the blood or tissue fluids, betraying their fresh-water ancestry as well.

In every instance when we look for a role for the environment as a guide to evolutionary change we encounter a blank wall. The most that can be documented is that of acting as a stimulus for a potential already present. That includes the capacity to become resistant to insecticides and all other phasic responses which, unlike evolution, have proven to be reversible. Mendelian allelic mutations are also reversible and accordingly have played no significant role in evolution either. This realization has led me to postulate the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis (PEH) as the only reasonable alternative for the formation of species as well as any of the higher taxonomic categories (Davison, 2005).

Coupled with the Darwinian delusion is the incapacity of certain ideologies to accept the implications of a predetermined evolution. Such a scenario demands one or more past intelligences far beyond our present capacity to comprehend. Such concepts are anathema to the atheist Darwinian perspective. The Darwinians have traditionally pretended that they had no critics. It is evident in the references and citations that are missing from the writings of their primary spokespersons, Ernst Mayr, William Provine, Stephen Jay Gould and most recently Richard Dawkins.

Otto Schindewolf recognized the failure of the experimental approach to phylogeny more than a half century ago. He too has been ignored but not by this investigator.

“Many recent authors have spoken of experimental evolution; there is no such thing, Evolution, a unique, historical course of events that took place in the past, is not repeatable experimentally and cannot be investigated that way.” Basic Questions in Paleontology, page 311, italics his emphasis, bold my emphasis.

Davison, JA. [2004], Is Evolution Finished? Rivista di Biologia 97:111-116
Davison, J.A. [2005], A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. Rivista di Biologia 98: 155-166.
Grasse, P. [1977], Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation. Academic Press, New York. (original French edition 1973)
Schindewolf, O. [1993] Basic Questions in Paleontology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. (Original German edition 1950).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If it ain't broke...

Apologies to everyone. In trying to move this blog to another host to improve accessibility, I appear to have closed the comments on all previous threads and don't appear to be able to reverse the situation. You should be able to comment on this thread at least, so if anyone has any solutions to offer, I would be grateful.

As a last resort, I can always repost a thread topic.

Edit: well, isn't that amazing. Posting this has restored comments.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

For Joe Gallien and Zachriel; who's the momma's boy?

I note Joseph/JoeG and Zachriel conducting a shouting match from here and here. This neutral venue was set up to allow anyone to participate in a discussion without fear of arbitrary moderation. So I cordially invite Joe and Zachriel to post here if they wish. (No incitement to commit crime, obscenity or spam permitted, otherwise this is a moderation-free zone.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I've been Dumped, (but politely)

Freedom of expression is a valuable right and worth protecting. The right to say what you believe (within the limits imposed by avoiding incitement to commit crime, obscenity and spam) should be sacrosanct, and the right for others to disagree and get that message to you is important for your sanity.

That ID websites, particularly Uncommon Descent, feel they need to protect themselves from reasoned criticism by arbitrary moderation is greatly to their own detriment. So I was pleasantly surprised, after making a comment at Overwhelming Evidence , to receive a PM from Patrick, a poster at Uncommon Descent, asking me to not post again unless I am a student and not a Darwinist. So much nicer than a DaveScot brush-off, Patrick. There is hope for you yet.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Judge Jones Flash Animation: The Decline and Fall of Intelligent Design.

Oh dear, Bill.

Keiths, a commenter at AtBC, described by Demski as "A disgruntled former UD commenter", (maybe because Dembski assumes Keiths was annoyed for being banned from Uncommon Descent for posting polite, coherent but inconvenient observations) spotted some one's familiar "chipmunked" voice in the Flash clip. Bill's sorry attempt at (would it be) satire has now come to the attention of a wider world, here, here, here and here.

But Bill, think about this. You are complaining that Judge Jones' ruling was unfair, but the judge was only able to consider evidence presented to him. You, Bill are the Isaac Newton of Information Theory. You wrote the book on Intelligent Design. Michael Behe did his best, but what did you do, Bill? You withdrew from the case, denying Judge Jones the opportunity to weigh your evidence. You must now regret that missed opportunity, I guess.

Oh dear, Bill!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Intelligent Design: an alternative to science or atheism?

Noting a thread on Uncommon Descent and a few parallel comments at AtBC, and knowing that there is a problem with moderation that prevents direct communication between some people, I thought this might be useful.

A few random thoughts: Kristine remarked "Gods are man-made", and I find the suggestion that religious belief (gullibility even) has an evolutionary advantage in promoting social organisation quite compelling. Dawkins takes this further with his idea that children benefit from not questioning parental teaching. John Davison might say we are predetermined to believe.

Maybe there are alleles for the "believing-what-you-are-told" gene. Scientists tend to have inquiring minds and question assumptions. Does this explain why scientists are accused of being atheists?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

John Davison, this is for you


I am an optimist. I, along with one or two others, am also somewhat sceptical about your ideas. From your recent posts at ISCID I gather you are an evolutionist, if a somewhat unconventional one, and that you would like to engage with posters at After the Bar Closes. Please feel free to hold forth here (remembering my mother does not like profanity or obscenity; this simple rule applies across the board) and see what happens.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bias: Wikipedia and Uncommon Descent

At Uncommon Descent, DaveScot complains about the perceived bias and censorship at Uncommon Descent. Some of us who are sceptical about "Intelligent Design" as a scientific endeavour would like to point out the irony of complaining about censorship whilst operating the most draconian banning and deletion policy ever seen on the Internet.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Schadenfreude: Religion vs Science in the US

I like and respect most of the higher-profile participants in the current spat on religion and science. Richard Dawkins, who often appears to be misunderstood and misrepresented, is one of my heroes. PZ Myers is a great enthusiast and communicator via Pharyngula of cutting edge biology. Pim van Meurs has contributed much in the campaign to expose ID as scientifically vacuous. Lenny Flank's wry observations have deflated many pompous posters. Ed Brayton has mentioned me in dispatches. Larry Moran seems like a nice guy.

My Schadenfreude comes from living in that cradle of the Enlightenment where separation of church and state is complete and unassailable, and previously growing up in a country where organised religion has been on the wane since the end of the Great War. I really do not understand how this issue seems to get so heated, when the differences of view are so slight. PZ and Lenny, in particular, seem almost deliberately to talk past each other. I agree with Lenny that ID is effectively dead as a political vehicle for the religious right, and maybe now, with no new strategy yet emerging from the fundamentalist camp for them to focus on, some internecine bickering among science supporters was inevitable.

I don't agree with Lenny when he suggests that evangelical atheists are comparable to those creo/fundie activists who would like to gain control of education to indoctrinate the young. Dawkins is careful to point out that indoctrination of any sort, including promoting atheism, is a form of child abuse. Recent threads on Pandas Thumb contain reams of comments from people who must have spare time on their hands since the Kitzmiller ruling. I love to see and enjoy to participate in a free exchange of ideas, but whilst it is natural to want to try and convince others of one's own strongly held opinion, it is disappointing to witness so much effort expended on apparently trivial differences.

Monday, November 20, 2006

David Springer and Rich Hughes, by invitation.

DaveScot has a thread on Uncommon Descent taking issue with Rich Hughes of AtBC. As neither can respond directly to the other, I am offering this neutral venue for them to post comments without fear of arbitrary moderation. Anyone else with a relevant comment is welcome to post, too.

Hello again!

I am finding it hard to break the addiction, and my wife is away today, expecting me to clear up some paperwork. (France, thy name is bureaucracy) So toe back in the water...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Farewell to blogging.

For some time I have been convinced that "Intelligent Design", as science or as a political force to be concerned about, is finished. The hard-core ID proponents will continue to push the idea while there is still money to be made from book sales, etc., but there have been no new ideas from ID since the wedge strategy was launched, and no new thinkers who are prepared to take ID along the scientific path.

If the web is any indication, when one looks at the quality of debate at ISCID, ARN and UD, reality is beginning to dawn on some of the more reflective proponents, and the rump of sycophants still posting wishful thinking seems to be shrinking.

ID is finished as a political strategy, so we need to wait for the next ploy, and not worry any longer about ID. So I am retiring from blogging to spend more time with my family. Thanks to all those who have contributed to this blog. I will leave comments open for a week or so, then "mothball" the blog.

Thanks again, everyone, it's been fun.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Richard Dawkins Website

Thanks to Janiebelle and kristine for leading me to Richard Dawkins' new website. It is definitely worth a look. Also, apparently, this article was originally posted to the site but has been withdrawn. DaveScot on Uncommon Descent attempts to slam the article, which he savages in the manner of a dead sheep. I really can't see what the problem is. Are Dawkins' personal opinions really that outrageous, or is it that he expresses himself so persuasively?

What is Darwinism? by Poul Willy Eriksen

Coral Ridge Ministries release of the book and video Darwin's Deadly Legacy has accentuated the concept of 'Darwinism'. I have done some research into the subject, and I must say it isn't easy to figure out, what exactly is meant by Darwinism. Therefore I would appreciate some ideas about, what people understand by this word. Richard Dawkins uses it, Phillip Johnson uses it; but I doubt they mean exactly the same. Or do they?

In Germany Ernst Haeckel became the leading proponent of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Haeckel also used the term 'Darwinism', and a definition can be found in The Evolution of Man, vol. I chap. V, "The Modern Science of Evolution". Here Haeckel writes:

We owe so much of the progress of scientific knowledge to Darwin’s Origin of Species that its influence is almost without parallel in the history of science. The literature of Darwinism grows from day to day, not only on the side of academic zoology and botany, the sciences which were chiefly affected by Darwin’s theory, but in a far wider circle, so that we find Darwinism discussed in popular literature with a vigour and zest that are given to no other scientific conception. This remarkable success is due chiefly to two circumstances. In the first place, all the sciences, and especially biology, have made astounding progress in the last half-century, and have furnished a very vast quantity of proofs of the theory of evolution. In striking contrast to the failure of Lamarck and the older scientists to attract attention to their effort to explain the origin of living things and of man, we have this second and successful effort of Darwin, which was able to gather to its support a large number of established facts. Availing himself of the progress already made, he had very different scientific proofs to allege than Lamarck, or St. Hilaire, or Goethe, or Treviranus had had. But, in the second place, we must acknowledge that Darwin had the special distinction of approaching the subject from an entirely new side, and of basing the theory of descent on a consistent system, which now goes by the name of Darwinism.

In other words, earlier attempts to explain the origin of living things and of man had failed due to lack of a consistent system, and Darwin provided such a system. But which system? Continuing, Haeckel writes:

Lamarck had unsuccessfully attempted to explain the modification of organisms that descend from a common form chiefly by the action of habit and the use of organs, though with the aid of heredity. But Darwin’s success was complete when he independently sought to give a mechanical explanation, on a quite new ground, of this modification of plant and animal structures by adaptation and heredity. He was impelled to his theory of selection on the following grounds. He compared the origin of the various kinds of animals and plants which we modify artificially—by the action of artificial selection in horticulture and among domestic animals—with the origin of the species of animals and plants in their natural state. He then found that the agencies which we employ in the modification of forms by artificial selection are also at work in Nature. The chief of these agencies he held to be “the struggle for life.” The gist of this peculiarly Darwinian idea is given in this formula: The struggle for existence produces new species without premeditated design in the life of Nature, in the same way that the will of man consciously selects new races in artificial conditions. The gardener or the farmer selects new forms as he wills for his own profit, by ingeniously using the agency of heredity and adaptation for the modification of structures; so, in the natural state, the struggle for life is always unconsciously modifying the various species of living things. This struggle for life, or competition of organisms in securing the means of subsistence, acts without any conscious design, but it is none the less effective in modifying structures. As heredity and adaptation enter into the closest reciprocal action under its influence, new structures, or alterations of structure, are produced; and these are purposive in the sense that they serve the organism when formed, but they were produced without any pre-conceived aim.

And "[t]his simple idea is the central thought of Darwinism," Haeckel continues.

To me it sounds as if Haeckel considers adaptation to be an active principle that by itself will produce new or altered structures. The driving force behind this principle is the struggle for existence.

But leave that as it is. For Haeckel, Darwinism is inductive and therefore, since humans are living, the origin of man must follow the same rule as the origin of any other living things:

It is important to understand this very clearly. If all living things come from a common root, man must be included in the general scheme of evolution. On the other hand, if the various species were separately created, man, too, must have been created, and not evolved. We have to choose between these two alternatives. This cannot be too frequently or too strongly emphasised. Either all the species of animals and plants are of supernatural origin—created, not evolved—and in that case man also is the outcome of a creative act, as religion teaches, or the different species have been evolved from a few common, simple ancestral forms, and in that case man is the highest fruit of the tree of evolution.

Now, if the various forms of life are related through adaptation and heredity, the conclusion is that:

The general adoption of the theory of evolution has definitely closed the controversy as to the nature or definition of the species. The word has no absolute meaning whatever, but is only a group-name, or category of classification, with a purely relative value.

Modern day creationists have accepted this in so far as they do not consider species to be the units of creation; that role has been assigned to the originally created kinds, the baramins.

Haeckel ends the book in vol. II chap. XXX, "Results of Anthropogeny", with the words:

It is clear that the prejudices that stand in the way of a general recognition of this “natural anthropogeny” are still very great; otherwise the long struggle of philosophic systems would have ended in favour of Monism. But we may confidently expect that a more general acquaintance with the genetic facts will gradually destroy these prejudices, and lead to the triumph of the natural conception of “man’s place in nature.” When we hear it said, in face of this expectation, that this would lead to retrogression in the intellectual and moral development of mankind, I cannot refrain from saying that, in my opinion, it will be just the reverse; that it will promote to an enormous extent the advance of the human mind. All progress in our knowledge of truth means an advance in the higher cultivation of the human intelligence; and all progress in its application to practical life implies a corresponding improvement of morality. The worst enemies of the human race—ignorance and superstition—can only be vanquished by truth and reason. In any case, I hope and desire to have convinced the reader of these chapters that the true scientific comprehension of the human frame can only be attained in the way that we recognise to be the sole sound and effective one in organic science generally—namely, the way of evolution.

This would be what was originally understood by 'Darwinism'. But what does it mean today?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

John Davison defends criticism of his Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis

John is banned at Pandas Thumb and After the Bar Closes (and many other places) but is able to post at ISCID and Uncommon Descent. He often complains of being ignored by Darwinists, but moderation policy at ISCID and UD largely prevents any honest debate.

So I am calling Johns bluff. I guarantee this thread will be free from moderation (subject to "my mother wouldn't like it" rule on obscenity) and look forward to hearing from John in due course if he so wishes.

One point I would like to hear from him on is why he claims that is is the chromosome and not the gene that is the vehicle of inheritance.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Guest Posts Welcomed

One reason I set up this blog was to enable discussion between those of differing views on neutral ground, so that, for example, arbitrary moderation does not intervene. I have only deleted three comments for obscene content, other than that anyone can express themselves freely.

In fact I am very happy to receive submissions that I will paste as threads from anyone who would care to make one. The simplest way to do this is to email me attaching the text in a common file format (Word, Adobe etc.) and I will post it.

Please note, I am not neutral on the question of ID, but I promise the moderation will be.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Intelligent Design, My Part in it's Downfall

Ed Brayton has a post on Pandas Thumb linking to an article on his own blog, referring to an earlier post which itself links to a comment on this thread at Pandas Thumb. (Phew!)

So, allow me to relive my fifteen minutes of fame, with my tiny contribution to the undermining of Michael Behe's credibility on the "peer review, but much more rigorous" testimony at the Dover trial. Thanks Ed Brayton for bringing it up.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ken Miller is a Creationist

I have pasted a thread and comments from Uncommon Descent for Carlos and Crandaddy to continue their conversation should they wish, Carlos having just been banned and Crandaddy expressing an interest in continuing.

September 9, 2006
Ken Miller is a creationist — although you didn’t hear it from me

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy. Check out the following: Ken Miller is the best friend Myers and his merry band of atheists ever had, putting a veneer of respectability and religious tolerance over the village atheism of Darwin’s most ardent followers.
Filed under: Evolution, Darwinism, Science — William Dembski @ 10:35 pm



I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

Comment by jpark320 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

Thanks, Dr Ken! I know what side you’re on, now…it’s you and the creationists, best friends 4ever! Did they promise to let you strike the match at the atheist-burning?

If that doesn’t make it clear it’s not about science for them nothing will.

Comment by tribune7 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

I’ve noticed a lively debate among the Pharyngula commenters — some of them taking Myers to task, others congratulating him. It’s an interesting read.

I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

To some extent — insofar as supernaturalists and militant atheists aren’t willing to accept any compromise with an alternative conceptual/evaluative framework, or indeed, willing to consider that irremediable problems that arise from within their respective frameworks may be resolvable from the perspective afforded by an alternative. And of course there are many such alternative frameworks.

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology; theistic evolution (TE) is an attempt at constructing a theology that’s compatible with roughly a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

And of course, human psychology being what it is, IDers regard TErs as closet materialists, whereas TErs see IDers as closet supernaturalists.

It’s a nice family drama, all right.

Comment by Carlos — September 9, 2006 @ 11:06 pm

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology

Oh, you should know better than this by now! Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability? Why the western bias? The three book religions are not the only ones in the world. I have little interest in Abrahamic theology, yet I agree with ID.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

What are those?

Comment by avocationist — September 9, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

Ken Miller, the best I can tell, you believe in creation “by law”. Your position seems much like Denton’s expresses in “Nature’s Destiny”. Denton recognises that if God engineered all that is by fine-tuning the big bang, then we are still the design of God. The By Law position, as far as I can see, and as far as Denton can see is an ID position.

Dr. Miller, why not follow the truth that you know, and recognize that you believe that God made all of this, that He designed it. Let this be the day that you come out of the closet and admit, “I am an IDer.”

Comment by bFast — September 10, 2006 @ 12:03 am

Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability?

Speaking strictly for myself, it’s because I think the notions of “informational complexity and probability” at work in ID theory are vacuous by contemporary standards of empirical and mathematical precision.

Theologically, avocationist, I consider you a sort of Neoplatonic emanationist. Neoplatonism is the skeleton of Abrahamic mysticism, whether Christian, Jewish (Kabbalah), or Muslim (Sufism). I suppose I haven’t considered carefully enough the role that “Eastern” (Hindu? Buddhist? Taoist?) influences play on your theology — though I should pay more attention to your use of “nondual,” which should have alerted me right off.

What are those?

Militant atheists consider theistic evolutionists to have strayed off the reservation of evidence as construed by contemporary scientific methods. (E.g. personal experience isn’t “evidence,” since it isn’t reproducible, quantifiable, objective, etc.) So Myers criticizes Miller, and even calls him “the c-word”(!), because Miller reconciles personal faith with NDE.

(Incidentally, I’ve read most of Finding Darwin’s God, and while I applaud his attempt to have his cake and eat it, too, it really does look like more “god-of-the-gaps” stuff.)

I’m not sure what criticisms supernaturalists make of intelligent design theorists, but I’m sure that someone else here can flesh out this half of the picture.

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:16 am

PZ Myers writes as follows

“To those who disagree with my calling Miller a creationist: tough. I’ve read his book, I’ve listened to several of his talks.

He believes that evolution is insufficient to explain our existence, and has to postulate a mysterious intelligent entity that just happens to be the Christian god as an active agent in our history,

and further, he believes he can make common cause with more overt creationists by highlighting his religious beliefs.

Theistic evolutionists are part of the wide spectrum of creationist beliefs, and that he personally endorses the power of natural processes in 99.99% of all cases does not change what he is, it just means we’re haggling over the degree.”

Comment by — September 10, 2006 @ 12:17 am

Miller doesn’t like the interventionist conception of God that he thinks is implied by ID. He doesn’t like to think of God as a tinkering mechanic. Whether a theistic IDer is committed to that conception of God is an interesting question. A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?

I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic. AID, atheistic or agnostic intelligent design, would designate intelligent design theorists and supporters who are either undecided on the identity of the designer or who think that the designer couldn’t be God, but could be an advanced alien race, e.g. “the Progenitors.”

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:21 am


If ID simply meant God fine tuned the beginning, then at best it would support a Deistic view of the Universe. While I agree, this can be seen as an ID view, it is a very general definition of ID that does encompass theistic evolution. The most common I.D. view is that the Universe is fine tuned, but not fine tuned enough for life to be able to form, radiate and adapt on its own. The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament. (types being formed individually)
While I understand that ID is simply about detecting design in biological organisms, it should have the ability (since it’s trying to remain grounded in science) to formulate time tables of design events over the course of the geological time scale. If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory. Examples would be design events, radiation events, extinction events, newer design events, etc. If it does accept change over time, make phylogenic trees for the speciation events it does accept. It’s not doing any of this. Instead it’s spending its time on the political front, attacking Wikipedia web pages, and basing Darwin’s theory in every conceivable fashion. (as if they’d win by default if Darwin’s ideas were shown to be incorrect)

Comment by Fross — September 10, 2006 @ 12:28 am

Carlos is no longer with this forum. –WmAD

Comment by William Dembski — September 10, 2006 @ 1:19 am

“The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament.”

Whoever defines this so-called movement doesn’t define ID the scientific endeavour as forwarded by the scientists proposing it.

” If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory.”

ID is not an alternative and does not purport to be. ID is compatible with evolution.

“I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic.”

“A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?”

What do you mean? Is this what you are you looking for?


In Finding Darwin’s God, Miller (1999, 241) writes: “The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.”"

Behe has responded that ID is not incompatible with complete front-loading of all information at the Big Bang, or with design being expressed in quantum events, a la Miller.


“Intelligent design is not a theory about the frequency or locality at which a designing intelligence intervenes in the material world. It is not an interventionist theory at all. Indeed, intelligent design is perfectly compatible with all the design in the world being front-loaded in the sense that all design was introduced at the beginning (say at the Big Bang) and then came to expression subsequently over the course of natural history much as a computer program’s output becomes evident only when the program is run. “

“In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry.”


Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:26 am

Sorry for the bad format, the last quote is from MIller, on Behe.

These easy-to-remember points really should be part of a FAQ page.

Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:29 am

It may or may not be appropriate to comment as I have before, that the Judeo/Christian view of salvation history looks to many like “tinkering”. If that is how salvation looks, it may be that the biosphere will look like that too. It may be intellectually uncomfortable or it may indicate one of the meanings of the term “living God”.

Comment by — September 10, 2006 @ 1:37 am

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy.

Oh boy! Poor fellow evidently doesn’t have the mental capacity to realize the gun is pointing in the wrong direction. I’m thankful for PZ; I really am. Without people like him around, this world would be a lot less entertaining! :lol:

BTW, it’s too bad Carlos isn’t around anymore. I wanted to ask him a question about comment #6.

Comment by crandaddy — September 10, 2006 @ 2:07 am

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Professor Davison's Lament

at ISCID, that graveyard of IDers, Professor Davison complains that no-one is responding to his "Evolutionary Manifesto".

It is increasingly obvious that I am doing little more than carrying on a monologue with my Manifesto. Surely if there are serious problems with it, there would be some critical comments made wouldn't you think?

Am to believe that everyone accepts my convictions that -

1. allelic mutations had and still have absolutely nothing to do with creative evolution beyond possibly playing a role in extinction?

2. the primary role for sexual reproduction had and still has that of stabilizing species and bringing creative evolution to a complete halt?

3. natural selection prevents rather than promotes creative evolution and artificial selection cannot produce new species?

4. creative evolution is finished?

5. no evolutionary event of any significance ever took place gradually?

6. internal "prescribed" information has played a large if not exclusive role in phylogeny just as it so obviously does in ontogeny?

7. evolution is irreversible and was orthogenetic and goal-directed rather than random?

8. there are laws that have controlled evolution?

9. the only role for the enviroment was to release an inner potential?

10. the individual, rather than the population, was and still is the origin and the instrument of all genetic changes including those producing creative evolution?

11. Mendelian genetics had nothing to do with phylogeny beyond that of the production of varieties and subspecies neither of which are incipient species?

12. evolution will not resume?

Those are all implicit in the evidence presented in the Manifesto.

Or are there other possible reasons for the silence with which these challenges have been met? I suggest that one reason for this silence may be summarized in a single word - FEAR - fear that everything one has held dear all of ones professional life may be a myth without a shred of reality, nothing but an illusion based on the stubborn inistence that ontogeny and phylogeny both have been caused by factors outside the organism. In my opinion, THAT IS NOT TRUE.

Of course there is another possible explanation for the silence with which my challenges have been met both here and everywhere else I have presented them.

"Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn."
George Bernard Shaw

or more recently

"I get no respect."
Rodney Dangerfield

I sure haven't received any from David Springer here or anyplace else have I?

A real scientist, which I regard myself to be, does not give a fig about respect as he is interested in one thing only, which is ultimate undeniable truth. As far as I am concerned, "I have found it," the literal translation of Archimedes famous EUREKA.

If others think I am wrong they should be willing and anxious to prove it. Pretending I don't exist or heaping abuse on me is cowardly, revealing and totally unprofessional. For those reasons -

I love it so!

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Firstly, John, it is the height of hypocrisy to complain about a lack of response. The moderation policy at ISCID allows idiots such as Walter ReMine, Peter Borger, Bruce Fast, Sal Cordova, David Hagen (and yourself) free reign to spout arrant nonsense whilst preventing any real criticism from rational people. You have never been able to respond civilly to honestly expressed scepticism about your hypothesis, thus most rational people that have made some effort to communicate with you no longer bother.

That said, I would not want you to think that a lack of response was implicit agreement with your statements quoted above.

So 1,2,3 and 4 are completely wrong. 5 depends on how you define event and gradually. A mutation, such as a copying error, is instantaneous. So I could in a sense agree with this statement. 6 and 7 are assertions for which there is no scientific evidence. 8 is meaningless. 9, 10 and 11 are wrong. 12 is based on a false premise (that evolutionary processes have stopped).

Friday, August 18, 2006

For Ekstasis

On a recent thread at Uncommon Descent Ekstasis picks me up for misunderstanding "faith".

My comment:

If he admits that he could never see DE as being false, even if there were no evidence, he has shown his bias to the tune of ignoring facts, and therefore should not be in the discussion.

If certainty in one’s own point of view without evidence (would not that be a defintion of faith?) disqualified one from discussion, I doubt there would be as many contributors here. :)

Comment by Alan Fox — August 18, 2006 @ 7:38 am



Your statement “If certainty in one’s own point of view without evidence (would not that be a defintion of faith?) disqualified one from discussion, I doubt there would be as many contributors here.”

Besides other problems with this statement, this demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of what faith is. Faith is taking evidence and acting on it and behaving in a way consistent with it. Let me quickly prove to you that you have faith, of sorts. You probably own investments of some sort. You have faith that, based on limited evidence such as past history or limited knowledge of the stock or bond issuer, your investments will increase. Of course, theoretically, they could all fail tomorrow and go to zero. So, we all make decisions based on limited evidence. Life is impossible without it.

Comment by Ekstasis — August 18, 2006 @ 8:44 am



Faith is taking evidence and acting on it and behaving in a way consistent with it.

This seems inconsistent with every definition of faith that I can find. The example of Doubting Thomas (and Dawkins’ “virtuoso believing”) suggests faith is belief without requiring evidence.

You have faith that, based on limited evidence such as past history or limited knowledge of the stock or bond issuer, your investments will increase.

This is consistent with my understanding of faith.

So, we all make decisions based on limited evidence. Life is impossible without it.

Absolutely. This is in itself an interesting (though I suspect off-topic)subject. If you want to pursue the subject you are welcome to post here.

Comment by Alan Fox — August 19, 2006 @ 1:51 am

As the subject is likely to be considered off-topic I set up this thread in case Ekstasis wishes to comment further.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Designer or No Designer? by Nicholas Trevor

Designer or No Designer? Or Why I Will Not Accept ID

You could call this discussion a 'back to basics' one…if we strip the evolution-ID debate of all the details, then we are ultimately left with one basic question: was there a designer/were there designers involved in the evolutionary process (I don't think there is a debate whether evolution did actually occur, it is about whether the evolutionary mechanisms involved are sufficient to account for the entire process, as we know it), whether from scratch, sometime in between, or even at present. Let's leave the nature of the 'designers' aside for a minute: what needs to be considered here is that they were 'intelligent' and they 'consciously' made actions that resulted in these processes (I am using 'intelligence' and 'consciously' as terms that we generally accept). The other option obviously would be whether the myriad of biological mechanisms observed are capable, by themselves, for resulting in a process that ultimately resulted in the diversity of life forms present today.

Of course, the notion that we were 'designed' in that sense is nothing new. After all, folklore in most cultures was that humans were created by God/s in some way or the other. That was the generally accepted worldview, which continues even to this day. For many people, the thought that the complexity of the biological world, with its interconnections can never be accounted for by the so-called 'blind' or 'unintelligent' natural processes. Darwin's ideas were thus revolutionary in the sense that he made observations that showed a chain of events that linked different species over time. He had no understanding of genetics, which would later show how much genetic material we share, in spite of morphological differences with other animals. Over a hundred years down the line, his ideas persist, and are still as controversial as the day they were born.

That the scientific theory of evolution is 'godless' and 'morally unacceptable' is a commonly held notion from Darwin's days. I personally think that most people, who argue for the 'designers' to be present, are bound by this conviction, and are not genuinely trying to advance scientific understanding. Such people try to put up a scientific façade for their 'designer' argument, and this is extremely dishonest. These include the majority of the DI stable. I think the people who genuinely try and make scientific arguments (by scientific, I mean testable hypotheses) are far and few, and they realize that they can never win the argument when it comes to who or what the designer was. After all, how many ID'ers sincerely argue the option that the designer would have been an advanced race of aliens? The oft asked question is that why does the designer have to be a Christian god? Why not others? (I see religion as a social construction and since this is not a debate about religion, so I will leave at these comments) It is an open secret that many of the people in the ID movement carry a negative assumption about evolutionary theory because it stands at odds with their religious beliefs. Thus they try to prove it wrong in many ways: whether through outright denial or through more nuanced arguments, where they try to flesh out the cracks. (The 'god of the gaps' argument). Unfortunately, religion and science do cross paths when people feel that the beliefs espoused by either of the two are at odds with each other. It is easy to say that they should be kept separate, but is more difficult in practice.

For these people, problems in the understanding of the evolutionary theory are seized upon as the evidence for an ID 'theory'. This is the reason why, I would never accept Behe's arguments for ID. Using the example of a bacterial flagellum as an example is a wonderful case of intellectual laziness. If our current level of knowledge is insufficient to definitively account for all the aspects surrounding its evolution, would we rather try and find other possible natural mechanisms, or just assume that they are designed?

On the other hand, if we were designed, how would we know? In my opinion, and in this particular case -- not until the designers explicitly reveal themselves to us. We can argue all we want (in the current situation) that X is the sign of the designer or that Y shows proof of a designer, but then none of these can scientifically hold water. I am confident that our understanding of these gaps will continue to improve. I make this argument without the assumption that science can take a know-it-all attitude, or that science can make decisions about the moral implications of certain findings. Contrary to this, I think people need to make informed judgments about the moral and ethical consequences. And these need not come from religion. People can see an image of Jesus wherever they want to, but are these definitive proofs that he is giving us a sign?

I think we are scratching the surface of our understanding as how life has evolved on this planet. I also think knowledge is slowly converging from various disciplines. Take Stephen Wolfram, for example. Although I am not fond of quoting him, he hammers home a single important point in his book A New Kind of Science: complexity can arise from the use of very simple rules. This is overwhelmingly seen in computer simulations (interestingly Wolfram emphasizes that the diversity of species we see today can be better explained by self-organizing processes rather than natural selection, however, he is trained as a physicist and not a biologist. Personally, I think self-organization has a much larger role to play in evolutionary biology, and we are only beginning to discover this). One can use this model to see, for example, how complex biological structures may 'emerge', without being entirely 'programmed' (for the lack of a better word). I think that there are many mysteries in the evolutionary process, and they will not be solved for a long time to come. To embrace ID would be to underscore our weaknesses in accepting the evolutionary challenge.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Intelligent design, an obituary

I first heard of ID not much over a year ago. Early on in my voyage of discovery, I registered at Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, and posted a question along the lines of "Could Dr. Dembski give a definition of Intelligent Design for a layman?". I was disappointed to see my comment did not appear and my registration was cancelled, such was my naivety back then.

I found the build up to the Dover trial fascinating, following events on Pandas Thumb. I had email exchanges with Mark Perakh, David Wolpert, Robert Shapiro, K. John Morrow and others (whose courtesy highlighted Dembski's attitude to his many critics) and joined in the elation at the resounding common-sense judgement.

I am convinced ID met its Waterloo with that judgement, and there is no possibility that "Intelligent Design" can ever again be touted as a scientific concept in the real world beyond the fundamentalist ghettos.

Now I am finding it hard to remain excited about the remaining rump of ID proponents, still trotting out the same tired old arguments at ISCID and ARN for example. Behe has retired form the field, there is no-one with any similar credentials willing to argue the ID cause, and the void is filled by engineers, cranks and laymen. UD has even invited Professor Emeritus John A. Davison back to the fold, though goodness knows his many published web comments clearly show he has no love for or meeting of minds with Bill Dembski. The UD meltdown and morphing into undisguised Christian apologetics is a significant indicator of the failure of ID and the wedge strategy.

Someone pointed out that arguing science with ID proponents forces you to sharpen your own thoughts and improve your own scientific knowledge. I almost feel I have gone back to school, with all the new stuff I have learned by following the posts and links of other bloggers. PZ Myers'Pharyngula and Tara Smith's Aetiology, for example, are great places to learn about scientific progress. So I am grateful to ID for re-stimulating my interest in science, which I intend to maintain.

ID is, I believe, utterly discredited as anything other than a failed political strategy, and can be safely ignored. I don't expect to be worrying about ID taking over the World any time soon.

Does anyone think I am being complacent?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Intelligent Design: The Scientific Evidence.

Lord Timothy on another thread says "Now that the media spot light has been dimmed, more research is able to be done without huge public controversies and court hearings over every sneeze that IDists make."

There are many who would like to hear about "more research" or, in fact, any research.
Anyone with information about any possible, planned or ongoing research (preferably scientific) that is relevant to the "hypothesis" of Intelligent Design, please post it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Recent Posts at John Davison's Blog

Alan Fox said...

Salvador on Uncommon Descent

my sincere apologies to Dr. John Davison, he notes at the EvolutionAndDesign weblog:

I proposed that marsupial and placental mammals were reading the same “prescribed” information as part of my recent paper - A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypthesis.

A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypthesis. was yet another pro-ID peer-reviewed paper that explicitly mentions ID.

Comment by scordova — July 13, 2006 @ 11:46 am

It's a shame that you are unable to participate in the thread, John. There is a parallel thread at ARN, but are you still unable to view there? I could start a thread on my blog on the subject and see if we could stir up some interest.

Come on, you know you want to.

8:52 AM
Salvador T. Cordova said...


On a purely technical note, I noticed you have only 1 thread going here at your website and at your old one.

Do you need technical assistance enabling multiple threads?

That would enable you to only have a few comments with each thread to deal with, and you won't have to start a new website every time.

If you start a thread on the Cornell ID Class at your old website "PrescribedEvolution", I'll be more than happy to reference it at IDEA GMU blog.

I will however direct all commentary to your weblog where you can moderate comments.

Because I consider you, Bill Dembski, and DaveScot my friends, I would prefer not to take sides in disputes. We all have a common opponent in the Darwinians, and I would rather focus my efforts at helping young minds see the truth at our nation's university.

I'm a creationist, and it has taken a while to warm up to your PEH. I hope you'll forgive the slow process, but I'm by nature cautious to accept new ideas, even sound ones.

Regarding, D'Abrera you might find this intersting:

He and Richard Sternberg (a double-PhD and also a victim of the Darwinians at the NCSE) collaborated on a periodic table of butterflies.

They were able to predict the morphological characters of species which had not even been discovered, and one can guess how exciting it was to eventally discover these predicted species in the field later on!!!!


9:06 AM
DaveScot said...


It's a dirty rotten shame that John couldn't abide by the rules at Uncommon Descent.

People get banned there for being stupid, unoriginal, inflammatory, trollish, proselytizing, insulting, lewdness, or cussing. John's unforgivable sins were only in the last two categories.

9:38 AM
Alan Fox said...

DaveScot says:

People get banned there for being stupid, unoriginal, inflammatory, trollish, proselytizing, insulting, lewdness, or cussing. John's unforgivable sins were only in the last two categories.

You omit to mention people being banned for disagreeing with whatever the current policy is on any particular day, such as when you decide ID has nothing to do with religion. It is also difficult not to be unoriginal WRT to ID considering the paucity of original ID material that there is to discuss.

9:54 AM

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bastille Day

Yesterday's stage of the Tour de France cycle race finished at Carcassonne. Anyone thinking of visiting the Languedoc should include it in the itinerary. The medieval Cité is used on July 14th as a backdrop for a spectacular firework display, and you can join the crowds in the park opposite for the free show. Some claim it rivals the display in Paris (using the Eiffel Tower). It was even televised this year, which saved me the trouble of travelling in 35°C temperatures to witness it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

From biomimetic: Nanowires from bacteria.

Biomimetic has posted the following, asking for a thread to be started. I'd like to start a topic about Uncommon Descent and the dishonest way they try to wow their readers with BS.

The latest example is a post about bacteria that excrete metal nanowires. This is cool, but it's really not that special.

The fact that microorganisms excrete metals is far from new. A friend of mine would feed certain bacteria metal ions and they'd crap out reduced metal, usually in the form of nanoparticles or nanocrystals. The nanocrystals would even have neato shapes, like tertrahedra and cubes, but that is due to the crystal structure of the metal and slow crystal growth, not to some magic that was front-loaded into the bacteria. These metal nanowires are just anopther case of that. This time, though, the crystal grew along one crystallographic axis for a really long time, yielding a nanowire. Nothing magic, just chemistry and biology at work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I believe it is due to a combination of their drought resistance and the availability of European Community grants, but there are fields of sunflowers everywhere at the moment.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

World Cup Update

Our village Comité des fêtes picked this weekend for festivities (a few cultural events such as a painting and sculpture exhibition, a dance demonstration, some local bands in concert, a firework display, but mainly an excuse to eat and drink as much as possible). They obviously didn't expect France to be in the final of the World Cup either, as the open air communal meal (salade de gésiers, coquille de saumon, daube de gardian etc.,) clashes with the final.

But never fear, We are promised a large screen TV so I don't have to miss the match or the feast. Allez les Bleus!!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Detecting design: specification vs. liklihood.

This thread is offered as a neutral venue for anyone wishing to discuss Mark Frank's paper featured at Talk Reason, with an associated thread at Panda's Thumb.

John Davison's sources

A recurrent theme in threads, here and in other places, where John Davison's ideas on evolution have been discussed is his list of sources. The french zoologist, Pierre-Paul Grassé (1895-1985) and author of the mammoth reference work "Traité de Zoologie" (1963) is the most recent of John's sources. John quotes a book written by Grassé in 1973 (available in English translation from 1977 as "Evolution of Living Organisms") when he was the same age as John is now, 78. This book is not listed on and Google does not yield much information about his late work, other than from creationist websites.

Grassé appears to have had a distinguished career, becoming president of the French Acadamy of Science, and it seems odd to me that his last work would receive so little attention if it were as controversial as John asserts. One problem with Grassé is he unavailable for comment, and his book is not widely accessible. I seem to glean, from the little available about Grassé, that he was a staunch Catholic, and might fit into the category "theistic evolutionist", taking the Catholic church's line on evolution being part of God's creation.

Am I misrepresenting anything here, John? I welcome your response.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The World Cup

The tension mounts.

The France vs Brazil match is less than a day away. Many local bars have set up large screen TV for the occasion. Then England vs Portugal. I don't think France have a chance against Brazil but if they win and England beat Portugal....

Don't look for posts from me for a day or two.

Elliot Sober

Thanks to Tim Hague for suggesting this thread topic, and slightly reducing the many things of which I am ignorant. Elliot Sober has written several papers on ID and evolutionary theory. One that caught my eye immediately was "Intelligent Design and the Supernatural -- the 'God or Extraterrestrials' Reply."

As science is the method for studying, observing and measuring the natural world, and the supernatural by definition lies outside the scope of science, I (as did Judge Jones) find it difficult to understand how anyone can honestly suggest ID "theory" is, or can ever be, science. Unless, of course science is redefined.

Professor Davison's Creed

John Davison contributes to a thread at EvC in a Showcase forum. This is for bloggers with a history to enable them to participate in a thread without invading and derailing other threads. One downside is that that blogger can demand the exclusion of any other participant. In John's case, this is pretty much everyone. Then he complains he doesn't get much feedback! So to help John's ideas reach a wider audience (not by much, I admit) I am pasting below John's list of his convictions.

Maybe this will stimulate some sort of response. I am now convinced of the following:

1. Evolution, including true speciation and the formation of any of the higher categories, is a thing of the past.

2. Sexual reproduction is incompetent as a progressive evolutionary device. It is much too conservative to ever produce anything very different from what it already is and always was. It has been demonstrated only to be able to produce varieties and that only in certain forms. None of those varieties are incipient species.

3. Population genetics never had anything to do with evolution beyond the distribution of Mendelian alleles in sexually reproducing populations, populations which can only undergo subspeciation. Subspecies are not incipient species either.

4. Allelic mutations have played no role in creative evolution but have probably played a role in some but not all extinctions.

5. Phylogeny, exactly like ontogeny, has been driven entirely from within with no role for the environment beyond that of acting as a stimulus or releaser of latent front-loaded specific information.

6. The entire Darwinian model is an illusion based on the assumption that phylogeny HAD an extrinsic cause. Such cause cannot be demonstrated because it never existed.

7. There has never been a role for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny.

8. The number of times and the locations in the geological column when life was created are unknown as are the number of creators and their nature.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Blipey's questions for ID theorists.

Chris Hyland sparks Blipey into proposing some questions that he thinks might be a way forward for ID.

Blipey writes:

I think this would be a fabulous discussion. Here are a few specific questions. Speculations don't even have to be fully formed IMO. It would be informative if IDers could enlighten us as to what we should be looking for in light of their supposition that we can't make any suppositions.

1. Not knowing anything about the designer's purpose, do we know if we are a final product? How?

1b. If we are not a final product, how do we know? Does this imply that we are evolving? How do we know?

2. Not knowing anything about the designer's origins, where did he get the raw material to design us? Was it already here? How do we know?

2b. Did the designer also design the raw material we come from? How do we know?

2c. If he used extant material, how did he alter it so that we can tell?

2d. If he created the raw material, how did he leave his imprint so that we can investigate his workings?

Is Dawkins right to insinuate that religion is The Root Of All Evil?'

asks fellow blogger Tim Hague. Thanks for your suggestions, Tim. I never intended this blog to be full of my unworthy opinions, so any more ideas for threads will be gratefully accepted (especially if I can just copy and paste from a post on the suggestions thread.)

I have all Dawkins' books. "The Extended Phenotype" was a struggle but worth it, and "The Ancestor's Tale" is a masterpiece, with a usable index, and a proper reference section. It is recent enough for me to use as an initial reference for all things evolutionary. I don't find his atheism intrudes, and the little creationist bashing he indulges in is passing and peripheral to the main thrust of the book.

His recent venture into TV punditry, "The Root of All Evil" seems to have offended fundamentalists. (I suspect almost anything would offend that creepy Southern Baptist minister. Is he typical?) But Dawkins is expressing a personal view. He is not proselytizing for the atheist religion.

Are there parallels with PZ Myers recent "we should be proud to be atheists" outburst and spat with Lenny Flank? PZ did not cover himself with glory, not because of his views, but in calling for an argument then banning Lenny from his thread. I never expected to see such unfairness from PZ, whose site is a wonderful source of information on evo/devo. I can't imagine Dawkins acting in such a way. His stance of refusing to debate with creationists seems so much more sensible.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Second second thoughts.

One reason I set up this blog was to see if the sky would fall in if there was no real moderation. My supposition was that, perhaps, if you give people free rein and let posts stand, the excuse to escape from a losing argument by being banned is no longer available. Hoping that the blog might be thus almost self-sustaining I asked for ideas for thread topics because I am well aware that others are much more well versed in the ID/evo debate than me, and are better qualified, having much better grasp of scientific issues. Whilst I was very pleased to receive the suggestions I did, interest seems to be waning a little, and I am finding it very time consuming to maintain my current level of input (not that it is huge, now but I have to work), and was wondering if it was worth keeping going.

But there was a subtext. Certain particular members of the blogging community (you may be able to guess who I am thinking about) are well known for their inability to "play nicely". I hoped they might be persuaded to visit, and see how things would develop in an open forum. I wondered how they would cope when no-one can either ban or delete others comments or claim martyrdom by being banned. I think the results have been quite telling.

I would be interested in hearing others comments.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What would make ID scientific.

Judge Jones was very clear.ID is not science. Where is the research, where are the testable hypotheses? My view is that claiming to be able to detect the effects of the supernatural is an inherently bogus approach, and supernatural science is an oxymoron.

Am I wrong? Is there ID research, planned or happening. Does anyone plan to test an ID hypothesis, if such a concept exists. Call it my challenge to Intelligent Design. Show me the Emperor is really wearing clothes.

Perhaps Not such a Good Idea

I have found trying to run a blog is very time-consuming, and there are other calls on my time. I think it has been demonstrated that if enough people are unable to self-moderate, the nuggets of interest are swamped by the rubbish. Sadly I agree with Mark Frank's assessment. I had hoped more thread topics would be proposed nothing has been suggested by anyone for a while.

My personal view is that, considering DaveScot's generally perceived blog persona, I have to admit that he hasn't been (on this site) quite the unmitigated disaster predicted. John Davison, on the other hand has conformed perfectly to predictions, which is a shame, but his choice.

I am happy to let things run for a while, but would like to hear from anyone who has a suggestion for a thread topic. Post here or in the suggestions thread