Saturday, November 19, 2005

Krauthammer Avoids the Key Question

Charles Krauthammer rants today about Dover and Kansas, but misrepresents much of what Kansas did, and avoids the harder questions. I could not agree with him more that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, and all the leading intelligent design theorists agree with that point too, so why is he suggesting that they don't? Because he is writing out of ignorance and knocking down a straw man.

The main thing Kansas did was to add to its science standards scientific facts that macroevolutionary theory has a hard time explaining. It does not decrease what kids learn about evolution.

Good science recognizes that theories are provisional and are always open to testing against the facts, even if Krauthammer thinks one of them is the most "elegant" theory in the world. If it is such a wonderfully elegant theory, surely there is no harm in testing it by asking how well it explains the Cambrian Explosion. (Not very well at all.)

Instead of repeating his ad hominem attacks and knocking down straw men, why can't Krauthammer answer this:

What justification is there for insisting that students be taught the evidence for evolutionary theory but banning any evidence against it, like the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion, which all mainstream scientists acknowledge? What possible basis can there be for banning this information, when many people view this as extremely relevant to evaluating macroevolutionary theory?


At November 18, 2005 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, do I agree with you. But not only does he miss key questions, he also misses the whole point of what ID is about.

At November 18, 2005 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea! Let's also teach people about "gaps" in our understanding of such "theories" as gravity, and tell them that unless scientists explain these "gaps" immediately, then, well, the best thing to do is to trust that God had something to do with it, and just go take a nap instead of doing all that hard "science" work to figure out some alternative "natural" explanation.

At November 18, 2005 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look anonymous, lets not be stuck on stupid! We are not questioning the "Law of Gravity". It's called law because it is 100% testible. You can't do the same with evolution. What we are questioning is a theory that has no real experimentation, or cannot make any predictions. This has been going on for 150 years and it are not really any closer that it wasw then. If the computer industry moved this slow we would have given up long ago.

We know what the outcome is if we drop a hammer on our toes. However we do not know what will happen to the family dog 100 generations from now. Evolution cannot explain the beginning, middle, or the end of the story. To me that's a strikeout. It's time for a pinch hitter. Hey, maybe this is what evolution needs. If evolution is the truth(which is what we're after right)then maybe a some new ideas is exactly what it needs to get back in the game, because personally I think it's loosing.

Scientists should be able to predict and prove their hypothesis. All evolution has been able to do is present some possibilities (without scientific proof) as to what may have happened. All we are saying is show "us" the proof. Can you do that? Or is the reality that you can only point out how ID is not able to show "you" the proof!

At November 19, 2005 4:25 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

I have to continue to wonder why the knee jerk reply is- 'why not explain away all gaps by saying God did it!'

ID NEVER says 'God did it.' ID never says A THING about who or what might have done it. ID merely deals with the design itself not the designer...and many IDers think, from other branches of knowledge that the designer was NOT God.

That, and I get really tired of hearing people compare mud to man evolution to gravity! Gravity can be tested and observed TODAY in the lab...evolution cannot in any way be observed as it's claimed that it has lead to all life on earth. Gravity is, as someone pointed out, a law not a theory...and rightly so. You can test it, see the current effects of it, repeat it all in a lab today on earth with real live people. Evolution can do none of this.

At November 19, 2005 11:49 PM, Blogger stewie said...

Yosemite Sam says:


The Kansas board, in changing the definition of science to accept supernatural explanations, is not in the slightest interested in the pursuit of science. Kathy Martin (a leader of the ID charge on the KS school board) enlightens us on her support of the change in the definition:

"Of course this is a Christian agenda. We are a Christian nation. Our country is made up of Christian conservatives. We don't often speak up, but we need to stand up and let our voices be heard."

There are times that I miss burnings at the stake.

ID necessarily implies a designer, any implication or discussion of which is fodder for theology or philosophy classes, not science classes. As William Dembski said in February 2005 on the website:

"Not only does intelligent design rid us of this ideology, which suffocates the human spirit, but, in my personal experience, I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ. Indeed, once materialism is no longer an option, Christianity again becomes an option. True, there are then also other options. But Christianity is more than able to hold its own once it is seen as a live option. The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option. Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration."

It's all part of the Discovery Institute's greater plan (from their 1999 "Wedge Document"):

"Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

It's a religious agenda concerned only with an evangelical spread of religion and control by asphyxiating actual science. Stalin did the same thing with Lysenkoism. The only right thing to do is to kill it now.

At November 20, 2005 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we need to find an explanation to the gap between anonymous's ears. What does gravity have to do with evolution, ID, or the shear stupidity of his comment.

Bob: Q: How did the intelligent designer build the DNA helix?
Joe: A: Well I'm not sure but I'm sure he designed it with his intelligence.
Bob: Q: So what about the gravity thing?
Joe: A: I thought we were talking about ID
Bob: Q: We are! I just want to show that you don't have all the answers.
Joe: Q: So why didn't you ask me about how the strong force works in conjuction with particles to form the bonds necessary to create the elements needed to build molocules, and thus the chemicals that are then used to create the amino acids required to stack into proteins that will be the basic building blocks for DNA (constructed in much the same way as the proteins)to assemble the 1,000,000,000,000+ cells needed to build a human.
Bob: A: Well you don't know the answer to that either, do you?
Joe: A: No do you?
Bob: A: No!
Joe: Q: So if you don't know then why should you be qualified to ask me questions about ID?

The following is a reverse anonymous post might sound

Maybe we should just start answering all gaps with evolution! Q: "What's with this gravity thing? How does it work?" A: "Well we've seen how over billions of years how the layers of strata have been pulled deeper into the earth's surface. These layers contain many fossils. So the evidence is overwhelming that gravity is caused by fossils "falling" deeper into the earth."

Since when do we need to know all the answers to all the mysteries in the known universe before we can ask a question?

At November 20, 2005 1:26 AM, Blogger stewie said...

WRT to your last question, the basic objection still stands unanswered: While questioning and testing what we know is essential to expanding our knowledge, introducing theological questions into the forum of science is, at least, inappropriate, and more to the point, dangerous. Again, the discussion of ID belongs in a theology class, not in bio lecture.

At November 20, 2005 1:38 AM, Blogger stewie said...

AND... even the Vatican's chief astronomer has repeated what I just said above: ID does not belong in the science classroom.

At November 20, 2005 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You constantly inject opinions from people whom I have no logical reason to put any stock into. I don't care what the Vatican says. I am not catholic! I don't like what they've done with Christianity. I don't care for the opinions of evolutionists either. Just because they out number the IDers does not mean they're right. I will however listen to their arguments for the origins of life. Then I will pit it against my own logic as to how much of it is factual evidence. Their theories must be tested for me to put in in "points scored" column. But I will not listen to their "opinions" of who or what is credible in the scientific community. I choose to make up my own mind of who is credible.

You seem to enjoy a fair amount of education. I also believe that you are well read. I think that's a great thing, to be educated. But I think that common sense is a better trait to have than if you could only have one. It will almost always take you farther in life than education alone. Of coarse having both would be more desirable. Being educated can also mean you may be somewhat indoctrinated by your professors, or by who you read. So remember that "religious" folks are not the only ones with core beliefs.

I guess maybe I'm saying that we need to step out away from ourselves once in a while to see if maybe we are guilty of our own accusations. Don't loose your common sense for the sake of being educated. If something doesn't smell right, don't eat it.

At November 20, 2005 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I don't think either should be taught. I suggest we teach demonstrable things in the science classroom, not the speculative. The subjects should be restricted to empirical laws, gravty, chemistry, contemporary biology, ect... There are plenty of subjects for science without teaching such a controversial subject to young kids.

Stewie. Let them look at that turtle the way you did for a while longer. Don't you wish in some way you still could?

Happy Thanksgiving Stewie! Do you have something to be thankful for?

At November 21, 2005 4:09 AM, Blogger stewie said...


Since you've read the politics of my weblog, you should know that I'm anything but indoctrinated by professors! I won't buy in to fads, be them academic elitism, or anti-intellctualism. Indoctrination is meaningless when compared to a facile and nuanced worldview.

"I don't care for the opinions of evolutionists either. Just because they out number the IDers does not mean they're right."

is rather incompatible with the statement:

"Their theories must be tested for me to put in in "points scored" column."

Well, are you going to go by a quantifiable account of "correct" or not? You shouldn't. It is inefficient and inappropriate to justify a theory by testing it on each and every living thing before making a judgement, thus we see the value of logic. A very simple (but useful and correct) example:

Premise A
Premise B

There are three basic terms used to describe the argument and its parts. "True" refers to the factual correctness of the premises. "Valid" means that, given that the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows and will not be wrong. "Sound" means that the premises are actually true, and the conclusion necessarily follows and cannot be wrong. So, you can call an argument "valid" and "sound" but not "true" or "false."

An example of a valid yet unsound argument:

Either Elizabeth owns a Honda or she owns a Saturn.
Elizabeth does not own a Honda.
Therefore, Elizabeth owns a Saturn.

The premises aren't true, but if they were, the conclusion would necessarily follow and cannot not be wrong.

Likewise, the following argument is valid but unsound:

Evolution must never be contradicted to be considered correct.
Evolution has been contradicted,
Therefore evolution is wrong.

Evolution can be contradicted and still be considered a proper model for doing science, since the contradictions are temporary phenomena which work themselves out when we uncover further evidence.

Here's another valid yet unsound argument IDers and creationists make:

Thinking something to be right entails a religious belief in it.
Evoutionists think that evolution is right.
Therefore evolution is a religion.

Here's another valid yet unsound one:

Complete knowledge is the only way to validate a claim.
Evolution does not provide all the answers.
Therefore evolution is invalid.

The first premise is laughably untrue. Incomplete knowledge does not render an entire field invalid.

I could go on and on like this, but try making ID claims into arguments and see if they stand the test of logic.

You said that you'd judge whether or not to find it to be factual evidence. Well, judge away:

-All life shows a fundamental unity in the mechanisms of replication, heritability, catalysis, and metabolism.

-Common descent predicts a nested hierarchy pattern, or groups within groups. We see just such an arrangement in a unique, consistent, well-defined hierarchy, the so-called tree of life.

-Different lines of evidence give the same arrangement of the tree of life. We get essentially the same results whether we look at morphological, biochemical, or genetic traits. As a result, we can classify and organize life by a hierarchy of kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.

-Fossil animals fit in the same tree of life. We find several cases of transitional forms in the fossil record.

-The fossils appear in a chronological order, showing change consistent with common descent over hundreds of millions of years and inconsistent with sudden creation.

-Many organisms show rudimentary, vestigial characters, such as sightless eyes. wings useless for flight, or mechanisms which are no longer useful such as the goosebumps on your arm.

-Atavisms sometimes occur. An atavism is the reappearance of a character present in a distant ancestor but lost in the organism's immediate ancestors. We only see atavisms consistent with organisms' evolutionary histories.

-Ontogeny (embryology and developmental biology) gives information about the historical pathway of an organism's evolution. For example, as embryos whales and many snakes develop hind limbs that are reabsorbed before birth.

-The distribution of species is consistent with their evolutionary history. For example, marsupials are mostly limited to Australia, and the exceptions are explained by continental drift. Remote islands often have species groups that are highly diverse in habits and general appearance but closely related genetically. Squirrel diversity coincides with tectonic and sea level changes. Such consistency still holds when the distribution of fossil species is included.

-Evolution predicts that new structures are adapted from other structures that already exist, and thus similarity in structures should reflect evolutionary history rather than function. We see this frequently. For example, human hands, bat wings, horse legs, whale flippers, and mole forelimbs all have similar bone structure despite their different functions.

-The same principle applies on a molecular level. Humans share a large percentage of their genes, more than 70 percent, with a fruit fly or a nematode worm.

-When two organisms evolve the same function independently, different structures are often recruited. For example, wings of birds, bats, pterosaurs, and insects all have different structures. Gliding has been implemented in many additional ways. Again, this applies on a molecular level, too.

-The constraints of evolutionary history sometimes lead to suboptimal structures and functions. For example, the human throat and respiratory system make it impossible to breathe and swallow at the same time and make us susceptible to choking.

-Suboptimality appears also on the molecular level. For example, much DNA is nonfunctional.

-Some nonfunctional DNA, such as certain transposons, pseudogenes, and endogenous viruses, show a pattern of inheritance indicating common ancestry.

-Speciation has been observed.

-The day-to-day aspects of evolution - heritable genetic change, morphological variation and change, functional change, and natural selection - are seen to occur at rates consistent with common descent.

The different lines of evidence are consistent, too - they all point to the same big picture. For example, evidence from gene duplications in the yeast genome shows that its ability to ferment glucose evolved about eighty million years ago. Fossil evidence shows that fermentable fruits became prominent about the same time. Genetic evidence for major change around that time also is found in fruiting plants and fruit flies

So we see that evolution is an elegant theory that explains so much, has been tested by (and actually sheds light on) everything above, and has survived a rigorous gauntlet laid down by really, really skeptical people - they're called "scientists" - since 1859. Yes, the theory itself has evolved and grown much more nuanced since then, but the changes have served to strengthen it moreso. It has actually improved itself through the very mechanisms and methods it affords. I find its usefulness and applicability completely dazzling. Evolution in and of itself doesn't make concrete predictions, more it is a method by which we can make predictions. For example, we know as a result of our evolutionary concept that diseases will become resistant to any new widely used antibiotics.

But the nature of all theories is to be simplifications, as they purposefully neglect as many outside variables as they can. Such extraneous variables, however, do affect predictions. You can predict the future position of an orbiting planet, for example, but it will be slightly off because you cannot consider the effects of all the small bodies in the solar system. Does that invalidate our planetary orbit formulas? Absolutely not. If it were possible to know all the information of all the small bodies in our solar system, we would be able to make an even more exact prediction.

Evolution is more sensitive to initial conditions and extraneous factors, so specific predictions about what mutations will occur and what traits will survive are rather impractical. Like I said, we can use evolution (remember, it's a method) to make general predictions about the future, like the effect of antibiotics on diseases.

My, this post is getting long. Actually, it's far beyond "getting."

Just because I see the tortoise's origins differently does not mean that I like the tortoise any less... I absolutely adore animals, which is why I'm so interested in evolution. Evolution does not invalidate consciousness or personality.

I'm thankful for a future which promises so much, and the sight of the heavens over the ocean at night. Have a happy Thanksgiving, Steve. :)

At November 21, 2005 7:31 PM, Blogger geoffrobinson said...

What about the "Darwin of the gaps". I know the human cell looks like a small city with a big subway system, but somehow someway natural selection came through.

At November 21, 2005 8:37 PM, Blogger stewie said...


The phrase is an excellent example of an unsound argument I cited above:

Complete knowledge is the only way to validate a claim.
Evolution does not provide all the answers.
Therefore evolution is invalid.

By that logic, it's "Darwin-of-the-Gaps" until we have every last detail of everything in existence filled in. It's also a faulty analogy - nobody worships Darwin, and his hypotheses have undergone significant revision since 1859.

At November 22, 2005 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Premise A: The more bazaar a theory is the more experimentation is needed to back it up.

Premise B: Evolution is a bazaar theory

Conclusion : Evolution needs some experiments for me to believe it.

In theory, all theories should be reality. But in reality they're not

At November 22, 2005 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, it is a theory of universal gravitation. Yes, there are laws backing it up, but then again, so are there laws backing up evolution (eg certain aspects of genetics). Just as one can see today in a lab (or anywhere) that things fall, one can say nothing absolutely for sure that gravity existed more than about three thousand years ago, since precise written records do not exist past then. Or, at the very least, why should we believe gravity existed before the earth was around (or beyond our solar system)? Because we have direct evidence for it presently existing and indirect evidence based on telescopes, mathematical equations, etc that it existd historically and in deep space. Similarly, one can see evolution in action today; there are experiments and natural observations that show evolution occurring now and definitively prove the building blocks of evolution and we have a vast amount of indirect evidence supporting evolution as a historic and ongoing process. The analogy with gravity is nearly perfect (one can definitely speak of "microgravity" that you see every day and "macrogravity" that is, by your standards of proof, unprovable/untestable); this would be the gravity supposed to make the universe what it is today and supposed to hold the universe together and there are huge holes in this theory as well. But perhaps IDers will just as correctly attack that next, and for right now you're just focusing on the issue that's in vogue.

There are only three premises to evolution:
1) More gametes (sperm/eggs) are produced than can survive to reproduce themselves.
2) The gametes that survive tend to have certain properties that make them more likely to survive.
3) At least some small portion of these properties are passed down to the next generation.

From these premises, which I think are impossible to argue with given the evidence, evolution necessarily follows (since evolution is defined as a change in the gene frequency of a population). There is absolutely no way to argue against that. That is why people who "believe" in evolution are vocal about that.

The finer points of evolutionary theory/natural selection have made great leaps forward due to experiments and observations since 1859. We've discovered the basic mechanism through which the differential contribution to the next generation is made: DNA. There have been clear experiments demonstrating all manner of evolutionary questions from the basics of genetics and cellular biology to how coevolution could work.

Now let's make an appropriate analogy. One looks at Boston today and says there must have been a purposeful designer for that to occur. In one sense, this is true: individual actions were rewarded if they were generally beneficial to the creation of that city and punished if they were against it. But there was no designer. No all-knowing entity that decided to build a city and came up with the final product. No, on the contrary, the city started up much, much simpler and slowly built up by parts, with no one having the goal of building Boston as it looks today. There was no grand purpose at all, just individuals going about their daily business, interacting with each other, and being rewardd or punished for little things over years. And Boston was not the inevitable result: London, Paris, San Fransisco, Cairo, Shanghai, Kinshasa, Rome; all these resulted from the same kinds of interactions but with subtle differences in what was rewarded and punished. Just as, say, humans, chimps, and gorillas all were rewarded for different genetic and behavioral changes over evolutionary time and came to look different.

Ultimately evolution does rely on a belief that the processes we can test today are the same as those we were not around to see millions of years ago. But, all of astronomy as well as much of physics and chemistry also rely on that. To one extent or another, everything relies on these kinds of beliefs: psychology, sociology, and even general human interaction at all require us to believe that the input from our senses is true (which is demonstrably false at least in certain ways) and that those people really exist as entities similar to ourselves. In these senses, evolution cannot be proved, and nor can any other science. So, yes, one can define science so that it is legitimate to question evolution in a scientific way, but at that point "science" would be useless since it would require a suspension of the most basic of logic. Science is one attempt to explain the world using logic. Every way it's been explained to me, ID just doesn't work logically. Yes, it is possible that 5,000 years ago God created everything in 6 days and just made everything look like he didn't. And it's certainly possible God just really loved the concept of a weasel so he made sure they evolved. And it's certainly possible God created the governing rules of the universe and provided the impetus for the Big Bang, but none of these ideas belong in a science classroom any more than a theory that held that God will create unlimited fossil fuels as long as we need them belong in an economics classroom. It's just not an idea with any explanatory power in terms of policy making, even if it is true.

I was raised in a Christian household and stopped believing in anywhere near a literal Genesis long before school taught me about evolution just from what I saw around me. When evolution was presented to me, it took me a long time to believe it as I questioned it as much as anything else I'd ever encountered (and my school teachers themselves didn't believe in evolution). But after careful examination of the facts made with an open mind, I reached my (always tenative) conclusion. Religion is taught in many places, but evolutionary theory normally has only one place of instruction for children. (Don't confuse materialism for evolutionary theory - they are not nearly the same thing.) If you want to give children an open mind, allow them to work with logic in the classroom even as they work with faith elsewhere. Otherwise you're just handicapping your children for life in a world enriched by nearly 150 years of evolutionary knowledge (and yes, that knowledge has greatly helped the world).

At November 22, 2005 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you've read the politics of my weblog, you should know that I'm anything but indoctrinated by professors!

A: Stewie shares the same political views as Steve.

B: Steve is indoctrinated by religion, and has a false sense of what science is.

C: Therefore Stewie is indoctrinated.

How can I possibly know what the impact of the books you've read, the teachers you've had, your parents and other family members, or your peers have had on your life. Stewie you are guilty of the same stupid logic you accuse us of.

You have a dishonest presentation to your argument. When you present the arguement for your side (anti ID) you pick sophisticated and often articulate (I believe you get the majority from web sites) examples. But when you post an example of the ID argument it is a lways a dumbed down version.

"Complete knowledge is the only way to validate a claim.
Evolution does not provide all the answers.
Therefore evolution is invalid."

This is not the claim and you know it. The claim is that evolution has not proven their theories beyond “reasonable” doubt. Not that it doesn’t have every single answer.

Another example,

"Evolution must never be contradicted to be considered correct.
Evolution has been contradicted,
Therefore evolution is wrong."

This is stupid.

How about this one,
“As vehemently as we disagree, people like s.o.s. make me appreciate posters like yourself who can have a conversation with someone like me in a somewhat-civil manner. For another theory to counter evolution, with at least as much supporting evidence as ID, please see”

As much supporting evidence? Stewie, do you think you are taken seriously by anyone other than a retard by cheap shots?
You said it-“Point 3: Magic annexation of brand new DNA. This is just pathetic. Even though I revel in taking cheap shots at creationists,.
“Do you know that some might view this sort of thing with the notion that you have no argument.

Stewie do you also know that most of our greatest physicists were Christians? In fact science would most likely not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Christianity. I could go into that the founders of this country were overwhelmingly Christians. Christians are largely responsible for all that is good in the world today. I want to bring this to your attention because you keep attacking with the “dangers of religion”. Lets be more specific, Christianity is not a dangerous religion. It is largely responsible for our modern times. So stop spewing that theology is so terrible.

You also said,
“There are times that I miss burnings at the stake.”

“ID necessarily implies a designer, any implication or discussion of which is fodder for theology or philosophy classes, not science classes. As William Dembski said in February 2005 on the website”

So by your statement we would possibly be missing the Scientists that follow. Ease up Stewie!

I know this is a bit lengthy but you have some epistles also. This is an excerpt from an essay of Dr. Schaefer

Dr. "Fritz" Schaefer is the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize and was recently cited as the third most quoted chemist in the


Science Developed in a Christian Environment
1. I'd like to begin with an outrageous statement that always causes reaction. This is a statement from a British scientist, Robert Clark. It will make you think. He says,
However we may interpret the fact scientific development has only occurred in a Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on, science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non–Christian world felt there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire–bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven thus incurring the wrath of the Gods."
I'd prefer if he had said "sustained scientific development." I think he's gone a little too far here, but this will certainly give people something to think about.

Francis Bacon
Let's explore the idea involved in the statements that Clark and Polanyi made, that is, that science grew up in a Christian environment. I was taught that Francis Bacon discovered thescientific method. The higher critics now claim he stole it from somebody else and just popularized it. We'll leave that to the science historians to settle.
One of Francis Bacon's statements is called the two–books statement. It's very famous. He said:
Let no one think or maintain that a person can search too far or be too well studied in either the book of God's word or the book of God's works.
He's talking about the Bible as the book of God's words and nature as the book of God's works. He is encouraging learning as much as possible about both. So right at the beginning of the scientific method, we have this statement.

Johannes Kepler
Johannes Kepler posited the idea of elliptical orbits for planets. He's considered the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion. He was a devout Lutheran Christian. When he was asked the question "Why do you do science?", he answered that he desired in his scientific research to obtain a sample test of the delight of the Divine Creator in his work and to partake of his joy. This has been said in many ways by other people, to think God's thoughts after him, to know the mind of man. Kepler might be considered a Deist based on this first statement alone. But he later said:
I believe only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In him is all refuge and solace.

Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal was a magnificent scientist. He is the father of the mathematical theory of probability and combinatorial analysis. He provided the essential link between the mechanics of fluids and the mechanics of rigid bodies. He is the only physical scientist to make profound contributions to Christian thinking. Many of these thoughts are found in the little book, The Pensees, which I had to read as a sophomore at M.I.T. (They were trying to civilize us geeks at M.I.T., but a few years later decided that it wasn't working, so we didn't have to take any more humanities courses.)
Pascal's theology is centered on the person of Jesus Christ as Savior and based on personal experience. He stated:
God makes people conscious of their inward wretchedness, which the Bible calls "sin" and his infinite mercy. Unites himself to their inmost soul, fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, renders them incapable of any other end than Himself. Jesus Christ is the end of all and the center to which all tends.
Pascal also said:
At the center of every human being is a God–shaped vacuum which can only be filled by Jesus Christ.

Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle was perhaps the first chemist. He developed the idea of atoms. Many of my freshman chemistry students know Boyle's law. Every once in a while I'll meet one of my former chemistry students. I ask them "What do you remember from the course?" Occasionally they will say: pv = nrt. Then I know I was successful. This is the ideal gas law of which Boyle's law is a part.
Boyle was a busy man. He wrote many books. One is The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation. He personally endowed an annual lectureship promoted to the defense of Christianity against indifferentism and atheism. He was a good friend of Richard Baxter, one of the great Puritan theologians. He was governor of the Corporation for the Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England.

Isaac Newton
Although I disagree, a recent poll on who the most important person of history was gave that honor to Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a mathematician, physicist, co–discoverer with Liebnitz of calculus, the founder of classical physics. He was the first of the three great theoretical physicists. He wrote about a lot of other things. He tried to do chemistry, but was a little bit before his time. He wrote more books on theology than on science. He wrote one about the return of Jesus Christ entitled Observations on the prophecy of Daniel and the Revelation of Saint John. He said:
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.
One might assume from this statement that Newton was a Deist (system of natural religion that affirms God's existence but denies revelation). However, quotes like this shows this is not true:
There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.
One concludes that Newton was a Biblical literalist. It was not enough that an article of faith could be deduced from Scripture, he said:
It must be expressed in the very form of sound words in which it was delivered by the apostles. For men are apt to run into partings about deductions. All the old heresies lie in deductions. The true faith was in the Biblical texts.
George Trevellian, a secular historian, summarized the contributions of these individuals as follows:
Boyle, Newton and the early members of the Royal Society were religious men who repudiated the skeptical doctrines of Thomas Hobbs. But they familiarized the minds of their countrymen with the idea of law in the universe and with scientific methods of inquiry to discover truth. It was believed that these methods would never lead to any conclusions inconsistent with Biblical history and miraculous religion. Newton lived and died in that faith.

Michael Faraday
My very favorite—and probably the greatest experimental scientist of all—is Michael Faraday. The two hundredth birthday of Michael Faraday's birth was recently celebrated at the Royal Institution (multi–disciplinary research laboratory in London). There was an interesting article published by my friend Sir John Thomas, who said if Michael Faraday had been living in the era of the Nobel prize, he would have been worthy of at least eight Nobel prizes. Faraday discovered benzene and electromagnetic radiation, invented the generator and was the main architect of classical field theory.
Let me contrast the end of his life with the end of Lev Landau's life. Faraday was close to death. A friend and well–wisher came by and said, "Sir Michael, what speculations have you now?" This friend was trying to introduce some levity into the situation. Faraday's career had consisted of making speculations about science and then dash into the laboratory to either prove or disprove them. It was a reasonable thing to say.
Faraday took it very seriously. He replied:
Speculations, man, I have none. I have certainties. I thank God that I don't rest my dying head upon speculations for "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."

James Clerk Maxwell
The second of the three great theoretical physicist of all time would certainly have been James Clerk Maxwell. Someone has documented Maxwell's career this way:
Maxwell possessed all the gifts necessary for revolutionary advances in theoretical physics—a profound grasp of physical reality, great mathematical ability, total absence of preconceived notions, a creative imagination of the highest order. He possessed also the gift to recognize the right task for this genius—the mathematical interpretation of Faraday's concept of electromagnetic field. Maxwell's successful completion of this task resulting in the mathematical [field] equations bearing his name, constituted one of the great achievements of the human intellect.
I disagree with one statement made above. If Maxwell indeed had a total absence of preconceived notions, he would have accomplished a total absence of science. So this is obviously written by somebody who is not a scientist (a squishyhead). However, this statement is basically good.
Maxwell said:
Think what God has determined to do to all those who submit themselves to his righteousness and are willing to receive his gift [of eternal life in Jesus Christ]. They are to be conformed to the image of his Son and when that is fulfilled and God sees they are conformed to the image of Christ, there can be no more condemnation.
Maxwell and Charles Darwin were contemporaries. Many wonder what he thought of Darwin's theories. In fact, once he was to go to a meeting on the Italian Riviera in February to discuss new developments in science and the Bible. If you've ever spent time in Cambridge, England, you know it is very gloomy in the wintertime. If I had been a faculty there, I would have taken an opportunity to go to the Italian Riviera at this time of the year.
Maxwell turned down the invitation. He explained:
The rate of change of scientific hypotheses is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretation. So if an interpretation is founded on such a hypothesis it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.
This is true. An example of this is the steady–state theory, which was popularized by Fred Hoyle and many others. It is one of the two competing theories of the origin of the universe. The steady–state hypothesis basically says that what you see is what was always there. It became less tenable in 1965 with the observation of the microwave background radiation by Arnold Pansias and Robert Wilson. There are not very many people left who believe in the steady–state hypothesis. It is interesting to go back to about 1960 and find commentaries on the book of Genesis and see how they explain how the steady–state hypothesis can be reconciled with the first chapter of Genesis. Any reasonable person can see that Genesis is talking about a beginning from nothing (ex nihilo), so it takes interesting explanations to reconcile a beginning with the steady–state hypothesis.
The steady–state hypothesis is going to be, within about 20 years, gone and forgotten. These commentaries will probably still be available in libraries and no one will be able to understand them.
Science is Inherently a Tentative Activity
[Shaefer shows audience a well–known cartoon].
In checking with several mathematicians, I came to realize that the equation in this cartoon means absolutely nothing at all, but the punch line is appropriate. [One character] says, "What is most depressing is the realization that everything we believe will be disproved in a few years." I hope that is not true of my work in quantum chemistry. I don't think it will be true, but there is some truth to this in that science is inherently a tentative activity. We come to understandings that are subjected to, at least, some further refinement.
Somebody who obviously not an admirer of the Christian of Faraday and Maxwell said:
The religious decisions of Faraday and Maxwell were inelegant, but effective evasions of social problems that distracted and destroyed the qualities of the works of many of their ablest contemporaries.
What he is saying is that because they were Christians, Maxwell and Faraday did not become alcoholics nor womanizers nor social climbers as their able colleagues appeared to do.

Organic Chemists

William Henry Perkin
I need to put a little organic chemistry in here so that my colleagues on the organic side will know that I paid a little attention to them also. William Henry Perkin represents perhaps the first great synthetic organic chemist. Discoverer of the first synthetic dye and the person for whom the Perkin transactions of the Royal Society of London is named, Perkin sold his highly profitable business and retired to private research and church missionary ventures at the age of 35 in the year 1873.

George Stokes
We can read about George Stokes in any issue of the Journal of Chemical Physics, which is the best journal in my field. In recent issues, Coherent Anti–Stokes Romin Spectroscopy (CARS) has been a subject of discussion. He is one of the great pioneers of spectroscopy, study of fluids and fluorescence. He held one of the most distinguished chairs in the academic world for more than fifty years, the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics at Cambridge—a position held by Sir Isaac Newton and currently by Stephen Hawking. He was also president of the Royal Society of London.
Stokes wrote on other topics besides organic chemistry, including the topic of natural theology. Concerning the issue of miracles, Stokes said:
Admit the existence of a personal God and the possibility of miracles follows at once. If the laws of nature are carried out in accordance with his will, he who willed them may will their suspension….

William Thomson
William Thomson was later known as Lord Kelvin. Thomson was a fantastic scientist. He is recognized as the leading physical scientist and the greatest science teacher of his time. His early papers on electromagnetism and heat provide enduring proof of his scientific genius. He was a Christian with a strong faith in God and the Bible. He said:
Do not be afraid to be free thinkers. If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to the belief in God.

J. J. Thomson
In 1897, J. J. Thomson discovered the electron. He was the Cavendish professor of physics at Cambridge University.
The old Cavendish laboratory sits in the middle of Cambridge campus. So much was discovered there that it was turned into a museum. A total of fifteen Nobel Prizes resulted from work done there. Inscribed over its door is a Latin phrase "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." [A new] Cavendish laboratory was rebuilt out in the country. However, it also has this sentence from the book of Proverbs written over the door, but in English rather than Latin.
J. J. Thomson made this statement in Nature,
In the distance tower still higher [scientific] peaks which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects and deepen the feeling whose truth is emphasized by every advance in science, that great are the works of the Lord.

Theoretical Chemist

Charles Coulson
Charles Coulson is one of the three principal architects of the molecular orbital theory. He probably would have received the Nobel prize but he did not pass the first test. The first test to get the Nobel prize is to live to be 65 years old. The second test is to have done something very important when you were about 30 years old. Coulson did very significant work when he was in his thirties, but he died at 64, thus disqualifying himself from the Nobel prize.
Coulson, a professor of mathematics at Oxford University for many years was also a Methodist lay minister. He was a spokesman for Christians in academic science and the author of the term "God of the gaps" theology.
From the biographical memoir of the Royal Society after Charles Coulson's death, we read a description of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ in 1930 as a 20–year–old student at Cambridge University. Coulson testified:
There were some ten of us and together we sought for God and together we found Him. I learned for the first time in my life that God was my friend. God became real to me, utterly real. I knew Him and could talk with Him as I never imagined it before and these prayers were the most glorious moment of the day. Life had a purpose and that purpose coloured everything.
Coulson's experience is fairly similar to my own at Berkeley. It would be nice if I could say there was a thunderclap from heaven and God spoke to me in audible terms and that is why I became a Christian. However, it did not happen that way, but I did have this same perception Coulson is talking about—this sense of purpose and more of a vividness to the colors of life.
The successor to Coulson as theoretical chemistry professor at Oxford, was Norman March, a good friend of mine. He as well is a Methodist lay minister.
Robert Griffiths, a member of our U.S. Academy of Sciences, Otto Stern professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon University received one of the most coveted awards of the American Physical Society in 1984 on his work in physical mechanics and thermodynamics. Physics Today said he is an evangelical Christian who is an amateur theologian and who helps teach a course on Christianity and science.
He recently said:
If we need an atheist for a debate, I'd go to the philosophy department—the physics department isn't much use.
At Berkeley University, among 55 chemistry professors, we only had one who was willing to openly identify himself as an atheist, my good friend Bob, with whom I still have many discussions about spiritual things.

Richard Bube
For many years, Bube was the chairman of the department of materials science at Stanford and carried out foundational work on solid state physics concerning semiconductors. He said:
There are proportionately as many atheistic truck drivers as there are atheistic scientists.

John Suppe
Member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences and noted professor of geology at Princeton, expert in the are of tectonics, began a long search for God as a Christian faculty member. He began attending services in the Princeton Chapel, reading the Bible and other Christian books. He committed Himself to Christ and had his first real experience of Christian fellowship in Taiwan, where he is on a fellowship. He states:
Some non–scientist Christians, when they meet a Christian, will call on to debate evolution. That is definitely the wrong thing to do. If you know what problems scientists have in their lives—pride, selfish ambition, jealousy—that's exactly the kind of thing Jesus Christ said that He came to resolve by His death on the cross. Science is full of people with very strong egos who get into conflict with each other. The gospel is the same for scientists as it is for anyone. Evolution is basically a red herring; if scientists are looking for meaning in their lives, it won't be found in evolution. I have never met a non–Christian who brought up evolution with me.

Charles H. Townes
My candidate for the scientist of the century is Charlie Townes. (Of course, he is a friend of mine and there could be some bias here.) He did something fairly significant when he discovered the laser. He almost got a second Nobel Prize for the first observation of an interstellar molecule. He has written his autobiography, entitled Making Waves (a pun referring to the wavelike phenomenon of lasers).
An excerpt from his life's story:
You may well ask, "Where does God come into this," to me, that's almost a pointless question. If you believe in God at all, there is no particular "where"—He is always there, everywhere….To me, God is personal yet omnipresent. A great source of strength, He has made an enormous difference to me.
At eighty [years old], Charlie Townes still has a very active research program at Berkeley.

Arthur Schawlow
Schawlow won a Nobel Prize in physics, 1981, serves as physics professor at Stanford and identifies himself as a Christian. He makes this unusual statement which I think could only be made by a scientist:
We are fortunate to have the Bible, and especially the New Testament, which tells so much about God in widely accessible, human terms.

Allan Sandage
The world's greatest observational cosmologist, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, was called the Grand Old Man of cosmology by The New York Times when he won a $1 million prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He said:
The nature of God is not to be found within any part of the findings of science. For that, one must turn to the Scriptures.
In one book, Sandage was asked the classic question, "Can one be a scientist and a Christian?" and he replied, "Yes, I am." Ethnically Jewish, Sandage became a Christian at the age of fifty—if that doesn't prove that it's never too late, I don't know what does!
This is the man who is responsible for our best values for the age of the universe: something like 14 billion years. Yet, when this brilliant cosmologist is asked to explain how one can be a scientist and a Christian, he doesn't turn to astronomy, but rather to biology:
The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance…I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order and each of its organisms is simply too well put together.

William Phillips
Now in physics, you can be a lot younger and get the [Nobel] Prize. Phillips is not even 50 years old and he's got it already. His citation was for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. At a press conference following the announcement of his winning the Nobel Prize, he said:
God has given us an incredibly fascinating world to live in and explore.
According to The New York Times, Phillips "formed and sings in the gospel choir at Fairhaven United Methodist Church, a multi–racial congregation of about 300 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He also teaches Sunday School and leads Bible studies." If you read further in that article, you find out that every Saturday afternoon, he drives with his wife into downtown Washington, D.C. to pick up a blind, 87–year–old African American lady to take her grocery shopping and then to dinner.
David Cole & Francis Collins
Since my area of expertise is right between chemistry and physics, I cannot speak as well for the field of biological sciences. However, my longtime colleague, Berkeley biochemist David Cole and cystic fibrosis pioneer, Francis Collins—director of the Human Genome Project, the largest scientific project ever undertaken—are both well–known as outspoken Christians.

Why Are There So Few Atheists Among Physicists?
Many scientists are considering the facts before them. They say things like:
The present arrangement of matter indicates a very special choice of initial conditions.
—Paul Davies

In fact, if one considers the possible constants and laws that could have emerged, the odds against a universe that produced life like ours are immense.
—Stephen Hawking

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.
—Fred Hoyle

As the Apostle Paul said in his epistle to the Romans:
Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.

At November 23, 2005 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You make some very good points. However, they wouldn't hold up in a "neutral" court.

"There are only three premises to evolution:
1) More gametes (sperm/eggs) are produced than can survive to reproduce themselves.
2) The gametes that survive tend to have certain properties that make them more likely to survive.
3) At least some small portion of these properties are passed down to the next generation."

You make this statement as if one was throwing loaded dice. These gametes are highly sophisticated building plans, complete with foremen and engineers to build a toe, foot, eye, and every componet one needs to build a frog, horse, weasle, and human beings. They are not some simple combination crapped out of an amoeba.

You also imply that we have as much evidence for evolution as we do for gravity.

"Because we have direct evidence for it presently existing and indirect evidence based on telescopes, mathematical equations, etc that it existd historically and in deep space. Similarly, one can see evolution in action today; there are experiments and natural observations that show evolution occurring now and definitively prove the building blocks of evolution and we have a vast amount of indirect evidence supporting evolution as a historic and ongoing process"

Droping a hammer on your toe and feeling the effects of it(direct proof) is a huge experiment as opposed to comparing fossils and speculating whether or not scales turned into feathers. If scientists could show us "one" experiment as believable as the hammer experiment (say, showing us a virus that evolves from a parisite to become a non-dependent entity, without the help of an outside agent) then I would agree in the direct/indirect statement. For now all evolution can prove is the indirect. Also the gravity/evolution comparison is sort of 180 deg out. Gravity's direct relationship has been proven here and now, evolution's direct relationship hasn't.(the direct proof would be the proof of macroevolution, or the end result).

Here is another way to look at it.
Gravity is a "Fact" that causes us to look for a theory. Evolution is a theory that causes us to look for the "fact". To me there's a difference. The jury's still out!

I like the city analogy

"No all-knowing entity that decided to build a city and came up with the final product."

So the city didn't start with a person, or group with the intention of building a "community"?

"No, on the contrary, the city started up much, much simpler and slowly built up by parts, with no one having the goal of building Boston as it looks today."

So no one was in charge of what went where, if the construction was sound, what each part would be used for ect...

"There was no grand purpose at all, just individuals going about their daily business, interacting with each other"

"No grand purpose"? The community was the grand purpose, and the end result! It just had to grow as more people came in. "Just individuals"? Come on Ryan, individuals all have "purpose". This is something that evolution doesn't have. The truth is these "individuals" were "purposely" going about their daily business "interacting" (communicating)with each other to further enhance their lives. It was actually "multiple" intelligences (the individuals) directed by a "master" intelligence (the leaders)to build the city. (You surely aren't talking about "Intelligent Designers"!!!!) While It's true that no one could predict what the precise outcome was, it wasn't by chance that it happened.

Either teach both, or teach neither. This argument is way to controversial. I say teach neither!

Happy Thanksgivng Ryan!

At November 25, 2005 2:03 AM, Blogger stewie said...


Wow, someone's had a mood swing. Maybe there is more than one poster using the "Steve" handle.

First off, since it sounds like you're a Republican, you're probably aware that college professors trend liberal. I was making the point that the fact that I went to college with lots of liberal professors is obviously meaningless in light of my political viewpoints which span the political spectrum.

Secondly, my prahsing of the argument that "Evolution doesn't have all the answers" is in response to the IDologues' methods of argument. Most of their claims stem from assertions that "well what about this, smart guy? This is obviously irreducibly complex/designed/etc etc..." which is an implementation of the same insipid argument I supplied above. Of course it sounds dumbed down, because it is to begin with.

Thirdly (and this is where I get the strongest indication that a different "Steve" is writing) I've told you that I am a Christian personally, and I have no problems with anyone being a Christian. What I do have a problem with - try to follow me here - is


... which is what these "alternatives" to evolution are. It's a religious attack on a scientifically demonstrable fact with the sole objective of implementing a backward and purely ideological structure for "science" that is conducive to theism and Christianity specifically.

Yes, I do pepper my prose with grossly ad hominem attacks. I like doing that. It's fun. I'll continue doing that. Because it's fun. And because I really, really hate Kathy Martin. :)

At November 27, 2005 12:18 AM, Blogger stewie said...


fact/apparatus != theory.

fact of evolution != theory of evolution by natural selection.

The theory is "evolution by natural selection." The first part (evolution) is indisputible, and the natural selection part is what is undergoing further study and constant revision (and to even understand what most of those disputes are over you need a graduate degree). Don't obscure evolution and natural selection, and learn what the hell you're talking about. Theories are things that can be disproven, but the fact of evolution is just that: a fact that we witness every day through mutation. Rf: bird flu.

Go to school.

At November 27, 2005 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stewie, I think Svenson is talking about "falsification". Do you know what he's talking about? Maybe you should look it up.

Also the flu thing? A completely ridiculas example of Evolution. It is still a "flu virus", and always will be.

At November 27, 2005 6:30 PM, Blogger stewie said...

Yes of course I know what falsification is, and making flimsy objections based on insufficient evidence does not falsify a tested scientific theory.

Our fears of the bird flu are based on simple fact that it will evolve into a flu strain that can be transmitted between humans. Evolution in action. And only ID and other pseudo-creationist people make the distinction between macro and micro evolution and say that the first one doesn't happen and the second one does. As I've shown (but you are too religiously instransigent to accept) the machinery is and has been in place for it to happen, it has happened before, and it continues to happen. Evolution, at both the localized level and on the grander scale, happens, and is an integral part of both how nature works and how science is done, and links up all of life. You cannot disprove the fact, only nitpick at it or reject it on philosophical grounds. That doesn't falsify anything.

At November 29, 2005 3:54 AM, Blogger stewie said...

Oh dear lord - you did not just post that...

Whomever wrote that completely confused "reassortment" with "recombination." Fine scientists they are. Human receptor binding domains are on the H, so if H3 was substituted through reassortment for H5, then we'd have an H3N1 virus that could be transmitted human-to-human. Unfortunately for your authors, humans are already fairly immune to H3 because we've built up antibodies from H3N2 infections, and we're vaccinated H3. No pandemic there. Reassortment does nothing. If, through recombination, the human receptor binding domain from H3 was attached to the avian H5, then H5N1 would be transferable between humans, resulting in an H5N1 that is just as deadly as the avian, but to which humans are completely susceptible.

Recombination, not reassortment. That's evolution my dear, in black and white. You want to enlighten me with some more "real" science?

At January 23, 2006 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

---- <BEGIN QUOTE> ----

Here's another valid yet unsound one:

Complete knowledge is the only way to validate a claim.
Evolution does not provide all the answers.
Therefore evolution is invalid.

The first premise is laughably untrue. Incomplete knowledge does not render an entire field invalid.

---- <END QUOTE&rt; ----

This example itself is invalid. The correct conclusion of the given statements is not that "evolution is invalid", but that "evolution cannot be validated".


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