Saturday, August 06, 2005

Menuge on ID- a little surprise from the Discovery Institute

Your post on ID is excellent and well-balanced. One small point. While Discovery does not speak for everyone sympathetic to ID, their official position is precisely that ID is not ready to teach as a theory in schools, a view echoed by Rick Sanatorum on NPR (yes, I nearly had a heartattack) this morning. Rather, they consistently urge that students are taught both what the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution says and then are fairly presented with the evidence that supports it and the evidence that doesn't seem to fit. Sanatorum's interviewer sounded ridiculous when he pointed out that many scientists don't believe there is *any* evidence that doesn't fit, granted thelist of 400+ credentialed scientists who doubt the adequacy of Darwin's model prominently displayed at All reasonable people fear a kind of American Lysenkoism, in which science has to conform to a a preconceived ideology, as Soviet biology had to conform todialectical materialism, which favored a neo-Lamarckian view that was flatly wrong, and caused mass starvation when applied to crop hybridization. Science should not be required to conform to either a materialistic or more teleological view a priori. Which of these paradigms is fruitful in a particularcase should be the result of empirical investigation. Angus


Ahab said...

Yes, that is the 'new' tactic from Discovery. That was made quite clear to anyone who listened to the testimony given at the Kansas school board hearings. But why the focus on evolutionary theory? Virtually every major theor in science still has holes in it. And there is the 'minor' problem of trying to reconcile quantam mechanics with general relativity. That seems to me a much more troublesome problem than any faced by evolution.
I'm in favor of as much science education as the public schools can spare the time for. And as a strong believer in the theory of evolution, I think it is an excellent idea to point out areas of the theory in which work needs to be done or things which the theory is incapble of addressing. But whether it is evolution or Einstein's theory of relativity, the students first need a very good grounding in what the theory actually is about. Unless they first have a good understanding of the theory, they aren't going to be able to readily identify what its true shortcomings are.

And as Blue Devil Knight has already pointed out, the reliance of science on methodological naturalism is the result of a long history of trial and error. Methodological naturalism is no guarantee that an hypothesis is going to be right, but it seems to be the best way to test its validity. And I see no reason in principle why such a method couldn't verify the likelihood of a supernatural being such as God.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Menuge's rabble-rousing is illustrative of some of my earlier points (I love the reference to Lysenko: I bet that works well at Christian colleges where you can combine hatred of Darwin and Marx and whip them up into an evangelical frenzy). This is NOTHING like Stalinism, and to suggest an analogy shows heights of ignorance or disingenuousness, I am hoping the former. There is no central dictator telling us what to think: we are independent scholars who can spot BS when it hits us in the face. Scientists are a rebellious bunch: if there were good arguments they would love to see some cherished dogmas topple, as they did under Bohr and Einstein's heavy brains. In the free market of ideas, you are selling a square wheel, calling it a spaceship, and telling those of us driving cars that we are stupid.

ID creationism is a conservative religious movement with some scientists who happen to adhere to it. IDers may point out some interesting holes in our present understand of origins, but for some reason they refuse to see that this is *not* equivalent to evidence of a designer. In fact, I have seen a more general stunted creativity, an inability to flexibly and quickly think of natural explanations of events, in many of my more fundamentalist Christian students and friends. Supernatural explanations act as a kind of intellectual short-circuit, quickly providing answers where they hit their own ignorance, even in things as mundane as how a ridge forms on a nerve tube in development. It is depressingly common and detracts from their potential as scientists. A good scientist, when they hit their own ignorance, knows he is ignorant and struggle for years to figure out how nature works.

I believe this creativity-shunting effect of NOT following methodological naturalism is one of the many (though minor) reasons that MN is so ingrained in science. By forcing ourselves to be narrowly naturalistic, we are not letting our minds have the easy way out. Science is hard, it often takes years with many garden paths and crazy dead ends before we find out how nature is doing its thing (imagine if AIDS researchers had not followed the dictates of MN). If we allowed ourselves to violate MN, we would be nowhere near where we presently are in our knowledge. It has led to more predictions, knowledge, and control over nature than any hypothesis in any other science.

Note this does not mean I am an atheist, but qua scientist, I am a naturalist. The enlightenment happened a few centuries ago. That was the turning point toward today's modern science that eschewed deities and religious authorities. The results speak for themselves. We are open to new evidence, everything, even MN, is open to revision if given good evidence. However, the evidence should be more than ad hominem attacks, complaints about persecution, kooky arguments from ignorance, and political maneuvering.

To the extent that evolution is politicized by the ID folk, to that extent they are strangling any hope of credibility. Keep talking about Lysenko: that will really help your cause. Until you run into people who know what you are talking about.

I will try to post no more on this silly persecution thread unless I change my mind in a drastic way. These arguments are basically rehashed Morris and Gish, who I used to do battle with in the 80s. This is like a flashback.

Steven Carr said...

Menuge points to crop failures as evidence that Lamarckism was wrong.

Can he point to similar failures abut Darwinisn?

If our wonderful designer gets around to designing a strain of bird flu that can cross easily to humans (now that he has put the finishing touches on his HIV design, he can turn his attention to other things),will this be the final proof that somebody is designing all these illnesses?

Victor Reppert said...

Chapter 6 of Origin of Species was dedicated to "Difficulties." So what Discovery is now proposing would be the Darwin thing to do.