Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where I Went to College . . .

Where I went to college, you could discuss any topic in any class. Not so at Ball State University. I can only imagine that the President of Ball State University thinks her students are too immature to handle certain interesting ideas in a science class-- even if the subject of the science class is the "Boundaries of Science."

President Gora has firmly established Ball State as a second rate university.  No-- third-rate.

Will Ball State also get a reputation as a leader in censorship?

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Plausibility Survey: Please comment

I am reposting this, and will update the results when a few people have given their answers in the comments section.  Please comment and ask others to comment.  Thanks!


How plausible is the following statement with respect to various events in the history of life on earth?
Random mutation and natural selection, together with other known natural mechanisms and environmental events adequately explain "X".

For X, fill in the following, and then state the plausibility of each (10 = highly plausible; 0 = highly implausible):

1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.

Please comment! I will wait for some comments before giving you my answers. Feel free to describe yourself when you give your answers in whatever way may be of interest to readers.

I encourage links to this survey, as I am genuinely curious to see how others evaluate the evidence.

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My Favorite Posts, Vol. 2

Here is Volume 2 of My Favorite Posts. Volume 1 can be found here.

Science? Religion? Philosophy?
Explores the question whether intelligent design and macroevolutionary theory are science, religion or philosophy, and examines the relationship to each field of inquiry.

Polls on Evolution and Education
Links to several public opinion polls regarding attitudes towards the issues, including showing overwhelming public support for teaching the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian theory.

ACLU, Kitzmiller and Banned Books Week
I explore the irony of the ACLU filing a lawsuit during Banned Books Week that seeks in part to ban a book from science classrooms.

I will be adding to this post over time.

Links to Background Posts

If you would like to read more, but don't feel like randomly clicking through archives, you can find a summary of some of my favorite previous posts, with links, here. These posts also give you a good idea of what this blog is all about.

For a discussion of what Darwinian Fundamentalism is, go here.

For a post with links regarding Challenges to Macroevolutionary Theory, go here.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Richard Dawkins on Design Detection as Good Science

In The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins calls design detection a "genuinely important question":

[I]t is possible to imagine validly using some version of the argument from design, or the argument from irreducible complexity. Future visitors from outer space, who mount archaeological digs of our planet, will surely find ways to distinguish designed machines such as planes and microphones, from evolved machines such as bat wings and ears. It is an interesting exercise to think about how they will make that distinction. They may face some tricky judgements in the messy overlap between natural evolution and human design.


Given that the illusion of design conjured by Darwinian natural selection is so breathtakingly powerful, how do we in practice, distinguish its products from deliberately designed artifacts? Jacques Monod began his Chance and Necessity in similar terms. Could there be genuinely persuasive examples of irreducible complexity in nature: complex organization made up of many parts, the loss of any one of which would be fatal to the whole? If so, might this suggest genuine design by a superior intelligence, say from an older and more highly evolved civilisation on another planet?

It is possible that an example of such a thing might eventually be discovered. pp. 549-550. 

After discussing Francis Crick's theory of Directed Panspermia (seeding life on earth from outer space), and saying it raises interesting questions, he noted:

Crick was talking about superhuman, not supernatural, design. The difference really matters. On Crick's world view, superhuman designers of bacteria, or of the means to seed Earth with them, would themselves have originally evolved by some local equivalent of Darwinian selection on their own planet. p. 552.

Dawkins gives no serious attempt to explain how we would determine the identity of the designer scientifically. He does not say what a scientist is to do if she detects design but cannot identify the designer. He does not give clear criteria for distinguishing designed from non-designed objects. But he is clear that the question is "important" and gives no indication or reason why it would not be scientific.

For a video of Dawkins saying much the same thing to Ben Stein, go here.

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