Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dilbert Meets Pharyngula

You might think that Dilbert's fate would be the same as Bambi's in Bambi Meets Godzilla, but you would be wrong. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert cartoons, recently commented on intelligent design and evolution. Professor P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula blogger of "steel toed boots and brass knuckles" fame, responded in his usual dogmatic manner. Adams' response to that is definitely worth reading. Adams' first post is here, Myers' reply is here, and Adams' not-to-be-missed reply is here. Denyse O'Leary's observations and other posts are here.

Since credibility is one of the issues discussed, I thought that I would provide some data on Prof. Myers' strong claims. He quotes Adams saying this:

For example, Darwinists often argue that Intelligent Design can’t be true because we know the earth is over 10,000 years old. That would be a great argument, supported by every relevant branch of science, except that it has nothing to do with Intelligent Design.

Myers then asserts:

I have never heard anyone on my side of the debate make this argument. Never. Now maybe some few people who aren't familiar with the issues might say something like this (someone like, for instance, Scott Adams), but we all know that Designists, while some are sympathetic to young earth creationism, avoid pinning any of their concepts to testable claims.
Notice the repetition and emphasis he puts on the word "never"? One such false attack was made in an Op-Ed piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the August 23, 2005 New York Times. He based his whole argument on this error .

Nearly every attack on evolution - whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution - ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time.
His assertion was contradicted by a Times news article the day before. You can find a copy of the entire Klinkenborg piece here.

Do we know if Prof. Myers was aware of this piece? He was. In fact, after criticizing several Times news articles, he praised the piece, deeming it "excellent":
I will say that this readers' opinion piece today, "Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution", was excellent (Josh agrees). Maybe what the Times needs to do is fire their journalists as tainted goods and start from scratch with a few more competent outsiders.

Perhaps, like the Captain of the HMS Pinafore, he did not mean to say "never, never," but rather "hardly ever."

* * *

My earlier post discussing the error in the Kinkenborg piece (and an amusing irony) is here.


At November 20, 2005 6:07 PM, Blogger stewie said...

The quote

"Nearly every attack on evolution - whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution - ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time."

... is absolutely right, as it is completely obvious that the agenda at work is making room for Christian explanations in the scientific sphere.**

See my comments under "Krauthammer avoids the key question" for incontestable proof of all this.

**(Elaboration: Since public school Creationism was rejected by SCOTUS in the 80s, they've had to come up with a stepping stone - a transitisonal form, if you will - to get from Evolution to Creationism, with the latter, or at least sympathy toward it, being the eventual goal. Whether or not young earth creationism is eventually introduced into science curricula isn't finally the point though. The primary objection is that these theological questions have no place in science class, especially K-12 science class.)

At November 21, 2005 1:27 AM, Blogger Vargas said...

I love the idea of Evolution (with a capital e) being challenged and I find it interesting that most of the nasty vitriol comes from the proponents of Evolution. Any idea that has not been proven as fact should be challenged. Many people who see Evolution as the answer for the origin of life have become lazy in their thinking and too used to not having their assumptions questioned in any serious way. I say ID will stir up the pot in a healthy way!

At November 21, 2005 2:40 AM, Blogger stewie said...

It's not that we don't appreciate a questioning of evolution, it's that we're offended by masquerading a theological agenda in scientific trappings. Scientists will and have debated the merits of evolution reasonably when challenged in such a manner, but when challenged in such a despicable and intellectually dishonest way, they react to it the same way a democrat (small d) responds to a sudden appearance of and groundswell of support for fascism.

At November 22, 2005 1:29 PM, Anonymous Dov said...

Your reading of "ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time", note the word "requires", is not only ridiculously tortured, it entirely misses Klinkenborg's point. True, Klinkenborg clearly says that ID is a faith-based rejection of evolution, but as clearly he takes issue with ID on the grounds that it requires belief in a time scale shorter than the time scale advocated by mainstream science.

Lawrence Selden is entirely correct in identifying this as the same argument PZ denied has ever been made by those on his side of the argument, despite PZ's own praise of this very article.

However, I do have an argument in PZ's favor. If he read Klinkenborg's piece the same way he read Scott Adams' piece then he couldn't have had the slightest idea of what it was actually saying and therefore he shouldn't be called to account. You see, PZ is only capable of seeing what he expects to see.

At November 25, 2005 2:21 AM, Blogger stewie said...

God, I hate dissecting sentences like this, but I guess I have to.

Intelligent Design is simply a means of getting a creationist foot in the academic door. No anti-ID person will tell you that ID entails young earth creationism, and that's because ID does not claim that the earth was created 10k years ago (nor does it actually claim anything else, for that matter).

The end which the ID means serves, though, does ential a shortening of the cosomological timetable, because the end it serves is creationism. Krauthammer cuts out the middle man (or "paints with a broad brush" - take your pick of applicable cliches) and siezes on the thrust of this religiously-motivated attack on science.

To recap, the plan is:

1. Debunk Evolution
2. Introduce ID
3. Make a progressive path from ID to creationism.

The DI has said as much in their "wedge memo." So while ID does not equal young earth, the end it serves does. This is why you will see further just equations of "religious attacks on evolution" with "(young earth) creationism" - because the attacks, regardless of the methods they employ, all have the same objective.

Do the right thing and stay off that medieval bandwagon.

At November 26, 2005 12:28 PM, Anonymous Steve said...


I agree that the end result of ID does point to God. But really, what does Evolution point us to? If you’re a Darwinian than you say there is "no God". If you are anti-ID then still, "no God". Both are theistic in that they have “no belief" in God.

What if you are just an Evolutionist? This takes us to the possibility that there is a God. Some folks believe that God created through the process of Evolution. (aren’t they really just IDers) Others may not, but I fail to see how they would not end up in one of the first two categories. (Agnostics need to get off of the fence) Either God is responsible for life, or he’s not.

1. IDers
2. Creationists

1. Anti-IDers
2. Darwinians

1. Evolutionists (you can’t have it both ways)

Lets be honest here. If you want to look at the “end result” there are really only two ways to look at this whole argument. Either you believe in God, or you don't. To accuse one side of a stalking horse and not the other is tantamount to believing Hillary wants to stay a senator. (you surely don't believe that some Darwinians don't have an agenda) There are fundamentalists on both sides!

Now let's look at what is science or not. I cannot agree with you that ID is not in fact a science. ID uses logic, mathematic possibilities, and basic laws to make it's argument. Whether or not you agree with the possibilities of these being valid is a different matter. (the IDers are still looking for the demonstrable evidence of Evolution) I also believe ID is falsifiable. (if it can be "demonstrated" that the eye, ear, digestive system, and even the bacterial flagellum can be constructed through decent with modification without an outside agent, I believe Evolution would tip the scales exponentially)

Now I think that Evolution is science also. (Just no more a science than ID is) I’m not persuaded that Evolution is a science that is mature enough to the point of teaching it to impressionable young children. Evolution seems to me to still be in infancy. Over 150 years and we are still in the same stages, "hunting and gathering". It is still making most of its claims as theories, and has yet to this day, proven any of these theories. (in fact the more complicated biology gets the harder it will be to prove) It is mostly a contemplative idea. Other than God coming down and proving it otherwise, is it falsifiable? I don’t think so. (I find it funny that as I was writing this I happened to see Svenson’s post, how true!) The only thing Evolution has as "proof" is the variations we have in the individual species,(microevolution)and that was not its discovery. Unquestionably Evolution has a lot against it. Its whole concept in miraculous. We as rational thinking humans do not see the confirmation of it in our every day existence, like say, gravity. In fact its assumptions are 180 deg apart from what we witness in our daily lives.

Now having said all that, I hope you see that your argument works both ways.

1. Debunk Evolution
2. Introduce ID
3. Make a progressive path from ID to creationism.


1. Debunk Creationism
2. Introduce Evolution
3. Make a progressive path from Evolution to Atheism.
(under the guise of science)

Stewie I agree that maybe ID doesn’t fit into science class, as long as we withdraw Evolution too! Don’t you see that they each belong in the same set. They are both very controversial, and each is a sort of tailor made science. The ends justify the means, so to speak. Look, God fearing Americans do not want schools teaching their children: 1.) Science (Philosophy) that is not, and has not been authenticated throughout all branches of intellect.(you and your science peers are not privy to wisdom) 2.) Philosophies that clash with the ones that they are trying to teach.

We see Evolution as a Atheistic maneuver, just as Atheists see ID as a Christian one. You have to know that to those of us who believe in Jesus, the most important thing to us as parents, is that our children are lead to Christ. This is more important than life itself, because we are talking where we will spend eternity.

You say you are a personal Christian, and a intellectual Atheist. What exactly does that mean? Do you follow Christ because He “was”cool and you think that He “was”a great teacher? Or do you follow him because He “is” who He said He “is”? If it is the latter then you must believe that God created the Universe and all in it. Therefore even Evolution to you would have design behind it, and you and I should not have any real differences of opinion. Just logistics. Stewie I could easily believe that God created life through the vehicle of Evolution, which is undoubtedly ID, I just don’t see the evidence. If it’s the former then you are wasting time. Yours and mine! Because if you think that everything came from nothing, you will never convince me and 90% of the world of it, nor could I, convince you it didn’t. If you do not believe in God, then arguments via the internet about wether or not ID is valid or not will not convince you He exists. And if you don’t believe He exists you will never agree ID is valid. In the mean time stop pretending this is all about science!!!!!

Oh yea! As of this post, their remains only one Steve.

At November 27, 2005 12:07 AM, Blogger stewie said...

Wow - you read only what you wanted to see in my last post. You're better than that.

What I was saying (in what I thought was a rather clearly worded post) was that the movement to introduce ID is religiously motivated and is part of a larger religious agenda. Religion has no place in the science classroom, especially in public schools. The fact that it entails a God-as-designer is a separate issue.

Plenty of smart Christians think ID is a big stinky load. Your generalizations are simple-minded and unworthy of your critical resources.

So, making sure that your kids only believe things in accordance with a doctrine penned by humans centuries ago is more important than learning and understanding scientific fact? And you would actually have them reject scientific fact? Subjugation of science to religion. That sounds frighteningly similar to Taliban and fundie Islam tenets. It also gets us nowhere as a species.

God does not hate evolutionists. I'm not going to hell simply because of the fact that science has uncovered a more complex and nuanced universe than what could be explained to tribal people hundreds and thousands of years ago.

I've explained why I'm a personal Christian - I have an unshakable and woefully inexplicable belief that there was and probably still is a greater, unexplained and possibly even supernatural force that started the great experiement of existence. I also see the benefits of the moral code that Christianity teaches. But, to quote Galileo:

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations."

If God really is all-powerful, then we are certainly free to test our inborn intellect and reason to discern the natural world around us which he caused. More to the point, it is incumbent on us to test and critically examine the wonders of the natural world in a mindset secure enough in its place in the universe and afterlife that it feels free to explore and deduce things as they actually are, without the pollution of religious doctrine. If he really is all-powerful, we are not going to uncover something that voids the possibility of his existence. I feel that's a profound statement of faith - saying that not even the bible holds the empirical answers to questions that we have - that one can make, because God really is bigger than the bible, certainly bigger than the extraordinarily limited and capricious being that humans have designed as a deity for themselves.

Einstein wrote of the necessity for priests and ministers to move beyond the personal and personified God that they have clung to for so long:

"In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself."

It's an amazing speech - worth your time to read. It's a penetrating faith that reaches deeper than simple belief in and adherence to the doctrine of Christian man. Condemn me for rejecting a party line if you will, but it is more consistent, complete, and needs fewer qualifications than the strained definition of "belief" that contemporary Christian denominations demand.

I have no pretenses that ID is about science. It's not. It's about changing our definition of science to afford space for theistic and non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena. It's about subjugating science to religion, and that is wrong, backward and treacherous, and they are marketing their campaign in a sickeningly deceitful manner. "Teach the controversy." ... what they really mean is "Teach the controversy that we, ourselves have carefully manufactured."

It's offensive on every level.

At December 17, 2005 5:00 PM, Blogger Vargas said...

And that last comment is why some Darwinists are every bit as narrow-minded and ignorant as some fundamentalist Christians. If you had bothered to actually educate yourself on what ID is you would find that it isn't masquarading around as anything. It is a legitimite, well thought out challenge to a closed, lazy and unproven mountain of theories foisted on to the public by a hypocritical scientific establishement.


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