Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

An article authored by Jonathan Bartlett which appeared in 'Tulsa Today' took the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Alan Leshner, to task for his arguments against proposed Oklahoma legislation which related to teaching science. Leshner's views appeared in 'The Oklahoman.'

Bartlett showed that Leshner referred to a legislative intention to encourage critical thinking and expose students to the debate over evolution. He quoted Leshner as stating:

"But this is the sort of code language that supporters of intelligent design doctrine have tried to inject into science education standards in other communities and states nationwide -- not to promote science, but to promote a narrow religious agenda."

It is not just a religious agenda but incredibly, according to Leshner, "a narrow religious agenda." How narrow can it be when no particular religion or religious doctrine is endorsed and intelligent causality points to a likely divine source only as a secondary inference? And who is Leshner to judge what will promote religion? While there are advocates of intelligent design, there are also opponents of the concept and the arguments and data fought over reference actual scientific research. What Leshner and others like him want is to control how science is defined; an endeavor that philosophers of science have differed over for quite some time. Ironically, in my view, it is intelligent design opponents like Leshner who fuel the growth of the movement which has developed roots throughout the world. What began as an American phenomenon now has spread to other parts of the globe including the non-Christian world. Who was it who said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come?

21 Comments:

At 8:33 AM, Blogger sinned34 said...

Yawwwn! Perhaps you ID supporters should try doing some actual science before attempting to get your unproven hypotheses inserted into high school curriculum. Despite attempting to strip as much of your God out of your ID movement as possible, you're still merely rehashing the same creationist arguments against evolution that have been addressed and rejected by the scientific community for a long time. Cheers.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger William Bradford said...

The arguments advanced in this blog have been primarily aimed at abiogenesis. The arguments arrayed agasinst standard origins beliefs are sound. The scientific evidence supporting them is manifestly weak. If this is about science then scientific critiques aimed at empirically weak theories should be welcomed. If it is simply a matter of faith in which origins theory is better then citing scientific consensus is a vapid scientific argument.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Doug said...

"Despite attempting to strip as much of your God out of your ID movement as possible, you're still merely rehashing the same creationist arguments against evolution that have been addressed and rejected by the scientific community for a long time."

Amusing.... and he yawned at our perspective.
So, while he says that we are merely rehashing the same old arguments.... he uses the same old tactic that claims that, "you aren't saying anything new.". So, he thinks he has conveniently waved away any of the importance.
He also is incorrect by conflating the intentions and arguments of ID proponents with those of scientific creationism. He might as well say that, "At Wistar, those were all special creationists as well.... just going under the title of 'agnostic jews'".

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Doug said...

William,
He hasn't even read the topics in your blog. Sinned has nothing to offer.... except a stereotypical criticism backed by an understanding that doesn't even seem to have bothered reading your posts.
"sinned34" is the punchline to any joke.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

"How narrow can it be when no particular religion or religious doctrine is endorsed and intelligent causality points to a likely divine source only as a secondary inference?"


"Intelligent causality"... is that what they call inteligent design nowadays? And how is "divine source" a scientific explanation, even if a "secondary" one?


"And who is Leshner to judge what will promote science?"


He is just the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an organisation that believes in scientific education for the improvement of society.


"What Leshner and others like him want is to control how science is defined; an endeavor that philosophers of science have differed over for quite some time."


Nobody can control how science is defined, but it is open to debate in a field of philosophy called Philosophy of Science. Although I doubt that any contributor on this subject, like Karl Popper or Bertrand Russell, would have any problem discarding Inteligent Design as unscientific.


"What began as an American phenomenon now has spread to other parts of the globe including the non-Christian world. Who was it who said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come?"


Argumentum ad populum. Yup, that's exactly how we do science.

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger William Bradford said...

How narrow can it be when no particular religion or religious doctrine is endorsed and intelligent causality points to a likely divine source only as a secondary inference?" "Intelligent causality"... is that what they call inteligent design nowadays?

Where is the evidence of a narrow religious agenda?

And how is "divine source" a scientific explanation, even if a "secondary" one?

Secondary inferences are not scientific explanations. That's the point. That theological arguments could be predicated thereon should no more negate data supporting ID than atheistic arguments would negate the data associated with them.

 
At 5:35 AM, Blogger Doug said...

"And how is "divine source" a scientific explanation, even if a "secondary" one?"

Do me a favor. Provide me with a consistent argument that shows that science can give a complete account on its own terms (also showing that science can account for science).
Science itself rests on metaphysical assumptions/presuppositions. It cannot explain these assumptions... because science is the product of them (not the other way around). With out these assumptions that science rests on you have no science. Because their justification does not lie with in the explanatory scope of science they therefore transcend science. And, if you accept the validity of science then you have to accept the validity of these assumptions. You indirectly admit that there is a more fundamental source of rationality.
And were do we traditionally get the idea that there is a rational source for the cognition, science and the universe.... a rational source that transcends the physical world (since the physical world, to a large part, can fall with in the scope of science)?

So, a 'divine source' is more fundamental than either you care to admit.... or (and more likely) understand.

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Nathan Munson said...

Nobody can control how science is defined, but it is open to debate in a field of philosophy called Philosophy of Science. Although I doubt that any contributor on this subject, like Karl Popper or Bertrand Russell, would have any problem discarding Inteligent Design as unscientific.

Russell's atheism would have prejudiced his views. As for Popper he wrote the following about a prediction made by Einstein that was verified experimentally:

"Now the impressive thing about this case is the risk involved in a prediction of this kind. If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation"

Before gettting smug about Popper's assumed views about an ID explanation for origins how do you think he would view current alternative explanations? How is the claim that life arises from non-life ever put at risk? How could it be?

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Good question Munson.

"How is the claim that life arises from non-life ever put at risk?"

Do you think that one could establish life could not arise from non-life? If that which is required to create life from non-life exceeds the abilities of law, chance and a combination of the two then I think one would be justified in arguing that a naturalistic approach is fatally lacking.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

Secondary inferences are not scientific explanations. That's the point. That theological arguments could be predicated thereon should no more negate data supporting ID than atheistic arguments would negate the data associated with them.


Inference is a process of the scientific method where conclusion is derived from observed facts. These facts come from repeatable experiments, systematic procedures and reasoning. That's not how theological knowledge came to be.

So, theological arguments couldn't possibly be predicated by an "unbiased" science, free of "preconceived atheistic arguments". Because theological knowledge is not obtainable by scientific experiments. "Atheistic arguments" are not necessary to disprove anything, only the scientific method itself.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

Do me a favor. Provide me with a consistent argument that shows that science can give a complete account on its own terms (also showing that science can account for science).


Before I start debating about metaphysics, let me ask you this: by that question, are you not actually trying to disprove science as a whole, and not just evolution?

(And that would make it quite off-topic, based on what is on debate here.)

Because that [trying to disprove science as a whole] would defeat the purpose of teaching science in schools, wouldn't it? Or is it that evolution is bad because, although it is based upon the same scientific methods that gave us physics and chemistry, it gets special attention because it becomes a political issue?

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

Before gettting smug about Popper's assumed views about an ID explanation for origins how do you think he would view current alternative explanations?


If you put so much importance in "alternative explanations", I suppose you mean the generally accepted theories that are based on "life coming from non-life" also known as abiogenesis (not the old and beaten spontaneous generation hypothesis).

If this is the case, they are not "alternative".


How is the claim that life arises from non-life ever put at risk? How could it be?


Anyway, I assume you are just trying to tell me that those explanations are not falsifiable experimentally, so they should not be considered science. Am I close?

The most important aspect of falsifiability is that it allows scientists to make predictions. And by making wrong predictions based on those theories, they can be falsified.

And those theories are also potentially falsifiable with experiments simulating prebiotic Earth in laboratory.

(By the way, Karl Popper was pro-evolutionism.)

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger William Bradford said...

Inference is a process of the scientific method where conclusion is derived from observed facts. These facts come from repeatable experiments, systematic procedures and reasoning. That's not how theological knowledge came to be. So, theological arguments couldn't possibly be predicated by an "unbiased" science, free of "preconceived atheistic arguments". Because theological knowledge is not obtainable by scientific experiments.

I have no argument with this but would point out that a scientific theory must allow for falsification. If scientific experiments indicate that a minimal genome is not generated from stochastic reactions involving nucleotides in prebiotic conditions, then inferences can be drawn from this relevant to the insufficiency of abiogenesis based explanations. There is nothing theological about it.

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger Nathan Munson said...

How is the claim that life arises from non-life ever put at risk? How could it be?

Anyway, I assume you are just trying to tell me that those explanations are not falsifiable experimentally, so they should not be considered science. Am I close? The most important aspect of falsifiability is that it allows scientists to make predictions. And by making wrong predictions based on those theories, they can be falsified. And those theories are also potentially falsifiable with experiments simulating prebiotic Earth in laboratory.


The falsification referred to relates to specific hypotheses connected with the formation of amino acids, nucleotides etc. The questions relate to the theory behind the hypotheses. Popper wrote:

"Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is."

What does abiogenesis forbid happening? Popper also wrote:

"A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice."

What event would refute abiogenesis?

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

I have no argument with this but would point out that a scientific theory must allow for falsification. If scientific experiments indicate that a minimal genome is not generated from stochastic reactions involving nucleotides in prebiotic conditions, then inferences can be drawn from this relevant to the insufficiency of abiogenesis based explanations. There is nothing theological about it.


You are describing how science naturally evolves. What does this explanation have to do with using "divine source as a secondary inference" anyway?

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

The falsification referred to relates to specific hypotheses connected with the formation of amino acids, nucleotides etc. The questions relate to the theory behind the hypotheses. Popper wrote:

"Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is."

What does abiogenesis forbid happening?



Well, it certainly forbids criacionism and spontaneous generation. It also forbids life being too complex 3.5 billion years ago.


Popper also wrote:

"A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice."

What event would refute abiogenesis?



I don't think you know what "refutable" means in this context. It doesn't mean that there must be something to refute a theory for it to be valid (that would be illogical). It means that there must be something capable of *potentially* refuting it.

For instance, a discovery that could change the current established knowledge of how prebiotic Earth was like could change the "ingredients" necessary for amino acids and primitive life.

That would put abiogenesis in need of a reform.

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger William Bradford said...

What does this explanation have to do with using "divine source as a secondary inference" anyway?

I did not write of using a divine source as a secondary inference. Rather I wrote: "How narrow can it be when no particular religion or religious doctrine is endorsed and intelligent causality points to a likely divine source only as a secondary inference?"

The point of the secondary inference comment was to indicate that secondary inferences are irrelevant to the scientific nature of a hypothesis. Hypothesis x cannot be discounted a priori because it might advance a non-scientific agenda.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Nathan Munson said...

What does abiogenesis forbid happening?

Well, it certainly forbids criacionism and spontaneous generation. It also forbids life being too complex 3.5 billion years ago.


It is not abiogenesis which forbids spontaneous generation. It is knowledge based on an historic scientific experiment and subsequent ones that revealed the nature of cells. As for creation, by which I assume you refer to the belief that God both exists and created the universe and the life in it, the appropriate response is that science takes no position either way. To contend that abiogenesis forbids it does science no favors. The complexity of life issue is valid but I would phrase it as abiogenesis forbidding the concept that cellular complexity is a barrier itself.

For instance, a discovery that could change the current established knowledge of how prebiotic Earth was like could change the "ingredients" necessary for amino acids and primitive life.

That would put abiogenesis in need of a reform.


There are specified events that could refute Einsteins' GR. There were events, like numerical molecular measurements, which could have refuted Avogadro's Principle. Your comments indicate that events could only lead to differing related hypotheses based on different starting conditions. If so abiogenesis is fundamentally unlike GR and AP in that both of them potentially could be discredited by experimental outcomes, not just shown to be in need of adjustment. Abiogenesis is more like a basic assumption than a theoretical proposal.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger velvet_dinossaur said...

As for creation, by which I assume you refer to the belief that God both exists and created the universe and the life in it


No, I was actually talking about the Earth having 10,000 years and that it was created in 7 days; this kind of thing (although that is not scientific).


Your comments indicate that events could only lead to differing related hypotheses based on different starting conditions. If so abiogenesis is fundamentally unlike GR and AP in that both of them potentially could be discredited by experimental outcomes, not just shown to be in need of adjustment. Abiogenesis is more like a basic assumption than a theoretical proposal.


That's because the term "abiogenesis" is misleading.

There are other theories about the origin of life that revolve around the concept of life coming from non-life, for instance, the clay theory.

Also, once the label "abiogenesis" was slapped to that theory, it suddenly didn't matter anymore how exactly it happened; even if it was specifically suggested that complex molecules form coacervates that can duplicate and so on.

You can still refute that.

But, at the very least, geologic studies of primitive Earth suggest that soil and atmosphere were very different and that life (as we know it now) could not exist, suggesting that the origin of life was, somehow, "abiogenetic".

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger William Bradford said...

Sinned34-

I rejected your comment for two reasons. First, I don't allow labeling with words like jerk or idiot etc. Second, if you are going to level a charge related to
quote mining, misrepresentations, and baldfaced lies then be prepared to back it up with specifics. Anyone can make allegations but if they are serious charges they need to be linked to evidence. The quotes found in this blog are linked to online articles or books and articles not online. Lying should be easy enough to substantiate if the allegation is true. Most of the comment was printable even though I disagreed with it. If you want to revise it by all means do so.

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger sinned34 said...

I rejected your comment for two reasons.

Fair enough, it's your blog, you can do what you wish with it.

I don't allow labeling with words like jerk or idiot etc

Fine, but I was merely responding in kind to the insult directed at me. I suppose I shall have to respond in the future with more indirect contempt towards those directing slights at myself.

Second, if you are going to level a charge related to
quote mining, misrepresentations, and baldfaced lies then be prepared to back it up with specifics.


Wonderful! I would be glad to offer links to such information, but I'm certain you've already looked at the sites that I would list. We could start with the Quote Mine Project, if you like. How about the excellent Panda's Thumb critique of Jonathan Wells' Politically Incorrect Guide To Evolution. If you're requesting me to find quote mines or falsehoods in your own posts, I'll have to request more time to browse and investigate. (Upon reading this again to myself, it sounds like I'm already accusing you of lying, which I hope you understand is not the case.)

Most of the comment was printable even though I disagreed with it. If you want to revise it by all means do so.

Thank you, but I'm afraid I didn't keep a copy of it. I suppose I can attempt a repost at a later time. Cheers.

 

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