Should God be kept out of Science?

speaks to Prof. Steve Fuller, a controversial apologist for intelligent design theory, about the place that religious ideas now have in our largely secular society

Even if we’re unsure about whether there is a God most of us would not doubt that religious belief has had a profound influence on intellectual progress throughout our history. As science has developed it has had many things, both good and bad, to say about religion. I spoke to Prof Steve Fuller, a controversial apologist for intelligent design theory, about the place that religious ideas now have in our largely secular society.

Fuller has gone against the grain by attacking a view held by the vast majority in western society: the view that theories about divine creation should be kept out of science lessons. Fuller is a respected academic at Warwick University but despite the possibility of career damage he defended his view in the controversial ‘Dover trial’ of 2005. This trial gained worldwide publicity as the first in which the idea of teaching intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian evolution was challenged through the US federal courts.

Fuller has become a somewhat unlikely hero of the intelligent design movement since he does not profess to believe in a God or anything supernatural. During his time at Cambridge he was even head of the Humanist’s Society. Fuller is not motivated by any personal religious beliefs; he is motivated by a desire to improve the teaching of science which he thinks is impossible without a consideration of intelligent design theory.

Intelligent design or ID, then, is the view that the complexity of the universe is such that an intentional designer (something like God) is required to explain it. As Fuller sees it, ID theorists seek to embark on an evidence-based inquiry. Like evolutionists, ID theorists look at evidence (DNA, fossils, skeletal structures etc) in order to come up with an explanation of how that evidence came about. The difference between the two theories is that ID theorists interpret some findings as revealing a level of complexity within organisms that can only be explained by positing the existence of a designer.

When I spoke to Fuller he made sure to make a distinction between ID and creationism, the latter of which, he thinks, is an attempt to justify a similar view but on purely religious grounds. He told me: “Creationists are basically teaching the bible as science. They have abandoned the scientific method.” For Fuller, ID and evolution ought to be taught alongside as they both, unlike purely religious theories, approach evidence in a scientific manner.

Fuller’s defence of ID goes beyond its credibility as a modern scientific theory. Even if we reject the ID’s scientific legitimacy Fuller wants to say that its teaching is still important as a means to understanding evolutionary theory. “My argument is that intelligent design has a strong historical track record and, in fact, it is the actual theory that Darwin opposed […] At the very least you can make an argument for teaching intelligent design to understand what it was that Darwin was rejecting.”

He is pointing out that in the 19th century, when Darwin was writing, divine creation was the accepted explanation of the way our world had come to be. It was this position that Darwin was specifically trying to refute.

Evolution by natural selection is a theory that originated with Darwin. What Fuller points out is that without an understanding of ID we cannot have a full understanding of Darwin. As a result our understanding of modern evolutionary theory, at least in the public sphere, is doomed to be half baked unless our system of education on this topic is revised.

Fuller thinks that just as Darwin had a position to refute modern evolutionary biologists need one. Just as evolutionary theory has itself evolved so have arguments in opposition to it. Fuller worries that evolution, which is often seen as one of the defining theories of modern science, is actually being taught in a way that is quite unscientific. For Fuller consideration of a theory with respect to opposition is essential for scientific development. Evolution is no longer being taught scientifically, in Fuller’s eyes, because opposing arguments are no longer being taught, or at least given proper emphasis, in the way that they should be.

Fuller worries that evolution is starting to become taught as dogma without reference to what he calls “the critical foil of intelligent design.” Since it is essential to constantly antagonise scientific theories it is not helpful for us to decide that evolutionary theory is ‘true’. In fact he thinks that the very idea of teaching ‘true’ theories in science and rejecting ‘false’ ones is a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific process.

“The issue here is not whether intelligent design theory is ‘good’ or ‘better’ than neo-Darwinism. The issue, when we’re talking about scientific inquiry (where in the future we may not believe what we currently believe), is whether a theory ought to be taught. It’s a fool’s game to say “this is ‘true’ so we should be teaching it” or “this is ‘false’ so we shouldn’t.” We need different criteria other than just straight ‘true’ or ‘false’ judgements because what is considered ‘true’ or ‘false’ can change over time.”

The Dover trials were designed to rule on the publication of a textbook which was said to aid the teaching of ID theory. Fuller was consulted to defend the scientific legitimacy of ID theory as a whole. It should be said that his views were not intended to support the specific teaching methods employed by the Dover Area School District or the specific textbook on trial. As a result the eventual loss of the case was viewed with mixed emotions by Fuller. He told me that the textbook that the DASD advocated was, “basically a warmed-over creationist textbook” with “just a couple of words changed.” He was glad to see that particular textbook rejected but disagreed with the way that the judge delivered his verdict.

“What I was not happy about was the way in which the judge did not separate the disposition of the School Board from the disposition of the theory. In other words he took the textbook as indicative of the theory itself. A court case is always about a lot of things at the same time so in one sense it’s about the big ideas, it’s about whether intelligent design is science (that’s certainly what made the headlines), but of course it’s also about the particular litigators and the details of the School Board. What’s going down there, in Dover Pennsylvania, ends up colouring how the big issues look.”

Fuller still has a lot of convincing to do in his defence of the scientific legitimacy of intelligent design as the majority of the scientific community would still like to see the theory discredited. But regardless of the current scientific consensus on the theory it seems that the pedagogical point that Fuller is making is a fundamentally valuable one: providing a historical backdrop for our scientific theories is essential to fully understanding them. As far as evolution is concerned understanding ID is crucial to understanding Darwin. Ironically, on Fuller’s view, ‘God’ now has to play the role of Devil’s advocate if we are to breed a new generation of biologists who view evolutionary theory from a critical scientific standpoint.

65 comments

  1. Should God be kept out of Science?

    equals

    Should magic fairies be kept out of science?

    Yes. What a dumb question.

    “Fuller still has a lot of convincing to do in his defence of the scientific legitimacy of intelligent design as the majority of the scientific community would still like to see the theory discredited.”

    Since intelligent design is nothing more than a childish idiotic belief in magic, it has of course already been discredited, and in fact was never taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t insane. Also, intelligent design, also known as magic, is not a scientific theory. It’s just a fantasy for morons.

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  2. “Fuller is not motivated by any personal religious beliefs; he is motivated by a desire to improve the teaching of science which he thinks is impossible without a consideration of intelligent design theory.”

    Who is this idiot? Biology teachers should consider magic? What a bloody stupid piece of shit.

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  3. Should science be arbitrary? That is, should science be determined on the basis of “that looks right”, or “that seems to be enough”? I think just about everybody would say no.

    Should science be arrogant? Should it say “We know it all, and no one will ever know more than we do now”? Again, just about everyone would say no.

    Should science, at some point, say “no explanation for this phenomenon has been found, therefore we must admit that this happens for reasons we cannot understand – that it was simply the will of God”? Too many people would say yes, without realizing that this statement contradicts the first two. It’s arbitrary: “at some point” – does that mean after a certain number of years, after a certain number of attempts? Who gets to decide? It’s arrogant: it says “we haven’t figured it out, therefore no-one else ever will”.

    Science is the process of asking questions about the physical universe and answering those questions without reference to anything outside the physical universe. This means science can never refer to God.

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  4. 1 Apr ’09 at 9:14 pm

    Meade Pimsler

    Professor Fuller’s contention that one must learn current science in the context of the pre-scientific worldview that it replaced is nonsense. It may be entertaining to learn that the germ theory replaced the punishment for sins hypothesis for disease, for example, or that neurochemical imbalances are a better explanation for schizophrenia than demonic possession, but one does not illuminate the other. In addition, Fuller ignores that those that want to include intelligent design creationism in the science curriculum do not want it presented as the discredited predecessor of evolution by natural selection, they want it presented as an equally valid theory. This is bad science, and bad educational practice.

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  5. 1 Apr ’09 at 9:49 pm

    John the Skeptic

    “As Fuller sees it, ID theorists seek to embark on an evidence-based inquiry.”

    It would be great if the ID advocates actually did that. However, they do not. As the Kitzmiller trial revealed in exquisite detail, IDC is nothing but a sham. It is a subterfuge for getting religion into science classes. Do not take my word for this–check out “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, which documents the history of the IDC movement.

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  6. 1 Apr ’09 at 10:10 pm

    John the Skeptic

    “What I was not happy about was the way in which the judge did not separate the disposition of the School Board from the disposition of the theory.”

    WHAT theory? Seriously, what does IDC propose as its model for the development of life? What research do IDC advocates propose for advancing this “theory”? If IDC really were a theory, then it would be possible to do research on this theory. So Prof. Fuller, can you propose for us a hypothetical research proposal for studying the nature and properties of the “designer”?

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  7. Good stuff, Mr Fuller.
    The problem with this whole issue is that too many people give their opinion as dogma. Whether or not we regard intelligent design as a legitimate theory or not, the fact is that some people do treat is as such. Therefore it is an importat part of teaching about the issue.

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    • Yes teach the theory, but it should not be taught in science, it should be taught in RE.

      And i find a disinct lack of scientific proof for ID, if it doesnt have any, scientific proof, then its not science

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  8. Mr Sexy says “….. Whether or not we regard intelligent design as a legitimate theory or not, the fact is that some people do treat is as such. Therefore it is an importat part of teaching about the issue.”

    So if some people believe that the Earth is flat (and some people do) and want to teach it as fact (and they do) we must teach “Flat Earth Theory” in science classes.

    Sorry. I know that it is best to be polite in these exchanges, but Mr Sexy’s assertions show, in stark outline, the flaccid stupidity of the creationists, the ID’ers and Professor Fuller.

    And Mr Sexy.

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    • But Fuller is not suggesting that it should necessarily be taught as an equal to evolution. He’s saying that the disagreement should be included in the syllabus.

      We do the same with loads of issues – as a GCSE teacher I am regularly required to encourage my students to consider ethical and moral implications of things.

      You have to teach the science, and then tackle the implications as well.

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  9. Some of the above comments are a little overly-harsh.

    Speaking as someone studying science and who believes in evolution, I can still say that there are specific points within the Darwinian theory that need to be ironed out and that ID hasn’t been proven to be incorrect. Until we know how certain leaps in evolution occured, we can’t say for certain that ID is false – and likewise it makes perfect sense to say “these are the reasons that Darwin felt intelligent design was wrong” and show what Darwin felt was proof of evolution. Within physics, we study what people in the 19th century thought the atom looked like, what the experimentation that prooved that incorrect was and how it determines what we now think. That’s good science – showing how those giants that we tread the shoulders of determined the theories that we now accept as truth.

    However, I still don’t think that intelligent design should be taught in science lessons. I’m just pointing out that it’s not “a bloody piece of stupid shit” and I suspect that “bobxxxx” doesn’t actually know very much about either evolution or intelligent design.

    And indeed, for that matter, there are several questions within evolution that have still stumped the greatest of scientists. How a creature can jump from a specific number of chromosomes to another number (major ID challenge to , why there aren’t more fossils in strata (Darwin’s point – still not fully explained), how sea-based fossils are atop areas that were never below sea level (or, rather, according to current science were never below sea level – they might well have been), etc. Theories have been given for these and other issues but none have been proven yet.

    But we’ll see – I think that evidence will be found, methods will be learnt and humankind will create bacteria in labs… but it’s certainly out of place for criticising ALL intelligent design people as being crazy. Yes there are plenty who base that theory on the bible alone or don’t believe in evolution and see it as the only alternative – but there are some out there that know their stuff and still think it’s a plausible alternative.

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    • 3 Apr ’09 at 9:27 am

      Simon Whitten

      “ID hasn’t been proven to be incorrect.”

      That’s because it’s an untestable hypothesis (and as such is unscientific).

      Intelligent Design deserves no more respect than Intelligent Falling, less in fact as General Relativity is demonstrably false while Natural Selection as the principle driving force behind Evolution is not.

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  10. There are, as ever, a number of different issues being treated as one. Scientifically speaking, ID has comparatively far less evidence in its favour than Evolutionary Theory and so, in my opinion, is far more likely to be true. What isn’t provable, however, is that Evolution Theory in its current form is the absolute, eternal truth – it’s a theory that’s been developing since it was first posited, itself evolving in the face of both new discoveries and challenges. Evolutionary Theory is not a monolithic, unmoving Truth and wouldn’t, in true Darwinian fashion, last long if it were. Evolutionary Theory isn’t perfect – it’s just the best we’ve currently got.

    So why isn’t it presented as such? Whilst I personally disagree with Prof. Fuller on the truth of ID, I agree with his argument that Evolution cannot be unquestioningly taught as The Truth. ID should be discussed in classrooms, if only to compare and contrast it with Evolution – if evolution is as superior to ID as is claimed, it will inevitably come out as the ‘victor’ and ID will be shown to be false. Styles of teaching that involve the spoonfeeding of information – “this is right, this is wrong: accept it as true” – are both religiously dogmatic and do nothing to encourage scientific enquiry. Instead, presenting pupils with various proposed options and allowing them to discern for themselves leads both to greater analytical skills and to a more thorough understanding of Evolutionary Theory. If we lack confidence in this approach, it is only because we lack confidence in the strength of Evolutionary Theory itself and, if this is the case, it really shouldn’t be taught as scientific fact anyway.

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  11. Jason Rose claims “Speaking as someone studying science and who believes in evolution, I can still say that there are specific points within the Darwinian theory that need to be ironed out and that ID hasn’t been proven to be incorrect. Until we know how certain leaps in evolution occured, we can’t say for certain that ID is false..”

    Jason, if you are really studying science you will know that there are frequently “specific points” in scientific theories that “need to be ironed out”.

    I’m not a scientist, but I know that there are still some unknowns about e.g. The Theory of Gravity. Real scientists work to clarify “specific points”. If the answers to the clarification support the scientific theory, it becomes more broadly based and supported. If investigation of the “specifc points” tend to undermine the scientific theory, it becomes more questioned and, if the evidence against outweighs the evidence for, it becomes discredited and is replaced by a new hypothesis which better fits the facts.

    This new hypothesis is then challenged against any new evidence and is either abandoned in turn, or becomes the new accepted theory of (whatever). It is worth staing that the scientific theory of (whatever) is not the same as the “whatever” it attempts to explain. E.g. gravity is real and observable, it is the force that ensures that an apple falling from a tree is attracted towardsthe centre of the Earth. It is the force which keeps the planets in orbit around the Sun. for 300+ years, Newton’s Theory of Gravity explained how and why this happens. However, Newton’s explanation was replaced by Quantum Theory, which (for physicists at least) provides a better explanation of the observable facts.

    Similarly, evolution exists and is observable. Life evolves and has evolved, there is no question about that. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (with its modern accretions) describes how evolution works.

    You should also know that science never “proves” anything conclusively. A Scientific Theory is the best available explanation of the observable facts. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the best explanation of the observable facts of evolution.

    Gravity exists, if you doubt try jumping off a tall building. The Theory of Gravity is the best explanation we have of how gravity works.

    ID provides no explanation of anything other than a vague belief that “it must be designed”, which is code for its promoters belief that “god did it”.

    Jason if you really believe that …

    “Speaking as someone studying science and who believes in evolution, I can still say that there are specific points within the Darwinian theory that need to be ironed out and that ID hasn’t been proven to be incorrect. Until we know how certain leaps in evolution occured, we can’t say for certain that ID is false..”

    ..you really need to stop “studying science” for a few minutes and get yourself familiar with the underlying philosophy of science and particularly the Scientific Method. When you understand what science is, and accept the Scientific Method, you will avoid many of the logical fallacies which underpin the above statement. You will also understand why ID is not science.

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    • The current theory of gravity doesn’t work properly anyway – as accurate as Einstein was in predicting the orbit of Mercury there is a sort of quasi-retro-gravity that appears to affect objects even as small as the Voyager crafts as well as expanding the universe beyond Einstein’s calculate rate. What it is, we don’t know, and whilst many claim it to be a different force or energy or something, I agree with the many others that think it is a flaw in our theory of gravity.

      And indeed, if we ended up with a Unified Theory then it would overrule our current force theories. I’m not disputing that the same is true of many other things; if you believe in one of the many superstring theories then you could say that the theory of gravity that should be accepted is that gravity is caused by strings that vibrate at the speed of light or some such alternative string variant.

      With this, however, you’re slightly askew. Yes, gravity does make things go down. Yes, dog breeders have shown microevolution. Yes, we have formulated good ideas of how the universe looked 10^-20 seconds after the big bang. Yes, we know that fossils of dinosaurs exist and have good ideas of the age.

      No, we don’t know how gravity works. No, we don’t know anything about the universe 10^-100 seconds after the big bang. No, we don’t know how human life came from bacteria or what consciousness actually is. Philosophise all you want but there are still major issues. Intelligent design would explain the answers, evolution would explain some answers (and hopefully will eventually provide answers to the others) and there are also other theories out there that could well be even better than those two.

      I’m still in the evolution boat though. I’m just waiting on the leap of chromosomes evidence to completely wow myself with the science :P

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  12. “As Fuller sees it, ID theorists seek to embark on an evidence-based inquiry.”

    Fine, then let them embark on this journey AND THEN approach the science community with the results. At that point they may have a reason to be included in the teaching of science. The main problem right now, regardless of the religious underpinnings of ID, is that they are asking for a seat at the table WITHOUT having done the science to support their being there.

    Claiming to be science is not the same thing as having done the legwork to be accepted as science. Right now, today, Intelligent Design is not a scientific endeavor but a political movement. If Fuller, and the other ID proponents want to change that, they need to get off their collective butts and do the experimentation, do the investigation, publish their work and methodology in peer-reviewed journals so others can confirm and support their work.

    But they are either unable or unwilling to do so. Instead they publish in popular press, where there is no requirement for support. They open their own publishing company (Discovery institute Press) where the requirements of evidence and support are even less. They also open their own lab (Biologics Institute) which has not offered a single scientific support in over 5 years.

    And after all that, we are supposed to just invite them into the science class when they have yet to offer anything approaching science? I don’t think so! If we do, then I think it’s only fair to bring in Astrology into the Astronomy curriculum, Numerology in Mathematics, Alchemy in Chemistry, and Phrenology for psychology — after all they have the same scientific pedigree as Intelligent Design.

    Ted

    [email protected]

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  13. If the human body is the result of intelligent design, why did the designer run the sewer right through the playground?

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  14. People often see scientific theories against religious beliefs such as ID as “attacks”, but in fact, as Alex says, it is vitally important to remember theories can never prove without a doubt, only present evidence for. The theory of evolution is cleary valid (our modern observance of the evidence) but against an argument such as ID even the most convincing exposition of evolution or indeed any other counter-argument can still not carry enough weight against people of faith. Heidegger’s question “why is there anything rather than nothing?” comes to me – something that exists must have a cause – the argument that the universe is “brute fact” does not make sense to me – like the scientific “It just is!” to the religious “God did it!”

    In modern science there seems to be a view that people that support ID or indeed creationism are fools or childlike. I heard one such person on the radio the other day saying “Can you believe that 48% of people in the USA still believe in a young earth? It’s scary isn’t it?” This sort of off-hand dismissal of ID in itself makes me believe it is worth consideration, but personal reactions aside it is clear that ID still bears weight. Whether it is science or not is a difficult question – I disagree with Alex where he says it is unequivocally not. Surely any argument that provides a theory based around evidence is in a way scientific? But then there is the idea that ID is a dead end – if there is a god, so what? I would call ID a hypothesis, a mix of religion and science, flawed in its dual nature but still relevant enough to be taught.

    We can spend all day philosophizing about creation and the nature of ID but the question is whether it has a place in the modern teaching of science. I have personal faith, but I still believe that it should be taught that science and religion, though by nature incompatible, always have done and always will be irrevocably intertwined, (wow that was poetic) especially in the modern world where issues of religion become more pertinent every day. Intelligent design is still accepted by prominent scientists (I’m pretty sure I read that Anthony Hewish, who discovered pulsars, is a christian…) and therefore should still be taught in the same manner as a scientific theory, and given equal value.

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  15. The issue is not religion vs. science, but censorship of inconvenient scientific ideas and questions, who can hog the microphone, and who loses their funding and their job for disrespecting holy Darwinism.

    The question is who wrote our DNA? It qualifies as a writing, language use, because it represents instructions for building one of us from a single cell. Language necessitates a conscious mind to pick and place the appropriate symbols to convey meaning according to the conventions of the system used. There must be a compatible receiver of the information, an interpreter.

    Systems of highly functional systems do not fall together by any happy chain of accidents as Darwin guessed. We are the expression of somebody’s plan, manufactured goods. This is the logical scientific reasoning to the best explanation, done every day in fields of science other than biology, where it is being made illegal to think certain ways by the thought nazis who want to dictate everyone’s worldview for their own gain. fight back.

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    • 3 Apr ’09 at 12:17 am

      George Papadofragakis

      Evolution is, in its core, a very simple scientific concept. Excuse me the apparent arrogance, but I think it can only challenged by those who do not possess the intellectual capacity to understand it.

      An evolutionary process takes place in every reproducing population that exhibits the following traits:

      a) inheritance: i.e. children resemble their parents.

      b) variation: i.e. children are not carbon copies of their parents.

      c) selection: i.e. ‘fitter’ children survive in preference to less fit children.

      Hence, the population ‘improves’ over time – it evolves. This process takes place in every single such environment – it has been discovered even in artificial populations in computer programs.

      Given enough time, the emergent system may have unimaginably higher complexity. This is what the process of emergence refers to in the first place – high level patterns emerging from lower level simple interactions.

      In short, to challenge the legitimacy of biological evolution is to challenge whether it fits the three criteria that I described above.

      Is a biological species not a reproducing population? Is there no inheritance in biological reproduction? Is there no variation? Is there no selection?

      If you believe that this is the case, please elaborate.

      If you succeed in providing an answer that does not automatically presuppose the existence of an (inefficient and unintelligent) supernatural creator, you would have won yourself a Nobel Prize.

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      • Has anyone won a nobel prize for contribution to evolution theory? Because if not it sounds like nobody has improved the theory for a hundred years. None of the theories are comprehensive enough yet.

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        • 3 Apr ’09 at 4:23 pm

          George Papadofragakis

          Equivalently, no one has ever won a Nobel Prize for contributions to our understanding of the Earth’s curvature. That does not mean that the Earth is flat.

          The ‘comprehensiveness’ of a scientific theory is not judged by the number of times it has been improved over the last century. Forgive me but your statement was rather absurd.

          Also, the theory of evolution is still called ‘theory’ because it is impossible to verify through empirical means. That does not go to say, however, that it is not ‘comprehensive enough yet’. All evidence points towards it – it is as comprehensive as we can realistically hope to get.

          ID is not a scientific theory – not by any stretch of the imagination. It is pseudo-science denying facts, logic and reason. It is a pathetic attempt to masquerade religion as science – it is not a result of scientific method and it simply does not stand at an equal footing.

          How does ID explain the fossils of dinosaurs? By refuting paleontology? In what way does it challenge the evolutionary process that I described before? By failing to even address it?

          I honestly can not understand this reaction. Even though I am an atheist, I do not believe that the theory of evolution poses such a serious threat to religion.

          If the fundamentalist lobby behind ID had any common sense they would have stopped making a mockery of themselves and they would have accepted evolution as an answer to HOW we came to exist, and not as an answer to WHY.

          Of course, this would then bring us into the ‘God of the gaps’ argument, so let us leave it at that..

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    • Thing is, Intelligent Design is not science. There is no evidence to indicate a god does exist, and God is by nature untestable. These two things alone mean that anything requiring a god cannot be science. Science simply shrugs it shoulders at God; God is untestable and unprovable, and the positive or negative result of such a test would not allow us to make predictions for the outcome future events. All of these things are required for a thing to be considered science, otherwise it is simply an idea, a belief, if you will. Science cannot and does not “disprove” the existence of a god or gods, it simply has nothing to say on the matter.

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  16. George – nobody here is espousing creationism, least of all Prof. Fuller.

    Just as we need to engage with the BNP and challenge them, pointing out their errors, flaws and incosistencies, we need to tackle the creationist movement head on.

    Just dismissing these things doesn’t achieve anything.

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    • 3 Apr ’09 at 3:29 pm

      George Papadofragakis

      ‘Q Mann’ said: “Systems of highly functional systems do not fall together by any happy chain of accidents as Darwin guessed. We are the expression of somebody’s plan, manufactured goods.”

      My post was intended to be a reply to that. I do not believe I have simply ‘dismissed’ his case.

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  17. No offense George, but you have only studied genetics through a grossly simplified module in computer science – and before that, you were only taught biology at an elementary level 6 years ago.
    The point ID is making is that these “emerging” properties as you call them could not have occurred in the (relatively) short time frame in which life has existed.

    The point this professor is making is that biology and science is becoming the new religion: absolute, and not withstanding any criticism. Anyone who dares proposing an alternative is labeled “lunatic”, “uneducated”, “ridiculous” etc. Which is far from true. Many supporters of ID are respected biologists, some are heads of biology departments at respected universities, and far more educated on evolution than any of us. So before you dismiss anything you do not believe in as nonsense, at least go through the scientific process of doubting your own ideas. Science has always been about not accepting something blindly, like nearly everyone is doing in this discussion.

    I personally believe in evolution. However, I do believe that ID should be taught, because unlike what some of you think, it is actually a scientific theory, not a religious one. Of course, it all depends on how it would be taught etc. This discussion would be much better if we were educated in ID. At the moment, most of you think that its sole argument is “God made all”, or that it is based on lies or misconceptions, which is far from true.
    Oh, minor point: this is nothing like teaching that the earth is flat. This is something PROVEN, beyond doubt, to be wrong. You may say “well, I believe that ID is wrong beyond doubt”, but you do not actually have any proof.
    A.

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  18. 5 Apr ’09 at 4:11 pm

    George Papadofragakis

    “No offense George, but you have only studied genetics through a grossly simplified module in computer science – and before that, you were only taught biology at an elementary level 6 years ago.”

    No offense Ari, but so have you. I’ve never claimed to be a biologist and I am sure you know that it is not very good debating practice to try to discredit the source rather than to challenge the arguments.

    “The point ID is making is that these emerging properties as you call them could not have occurred in the (relatively) short time frame in which life has existed.”

    It has been shown by paleontologists that life has existed in this planet for (roughly) 3.7 billion years – that’s about a third of the age of the universe.

    a) exactly how much time would have been ‘enough’?
    b) in what way is this arbitrary assertion a scientific hypothesis?
    c) where is the evidence supporting this case, or even hinting towards that direction?
    d) is it merely a coincidence that ID supporters are usually Young Earth creationists, holding that the earth is approximately 6000 years old?

    Also, I do not doubt that secularists are often extreme as well, I am only saying that this supposed ‘alternative’ only exists as a result of well known and open political lobbying by Christian fundamentalists. In its core, it is religion masquerading as science.

    What else can be said of a theory that only exists to provide a convenient answer for a particular group of people? It is exactly the same logic that has led people to try to refute that the Earth is round and that it moves around the sun. It is called ‘being in denial’.

    “So before you dismiss anything you do not believe in as nonsense, at least go through the scientific process of doubting your own ideas.”

    Ari let me remind you that, you may know me well, but not nearly well enough to be reading my mind. The fact that I do not support ID does not automatically mean that I have not even thought about it.

    “I personally believe in evolution. However, I do believe that ID should be taught, because unlike what some of you think, it is actually a scientific theory, not a religious one”

    Any actual arguments or should we all just stick to groundless assertions? What exactly is it that makes it scientific? In all seriousness, how does it even explain fossils? How does it explain dinosaurs? How does it explain Neanderthals, Australopithecus, homo habilis and homo erectus? By ignoring the findings? By calling them all forgeries? By assuming that we all used to live together in harmony, as part of God’s divine plan, when we all just sprung together into existence?

    Let’s be serious, ID does not stand at an equal footing with real science and, as such, it has no place in schools. The only argument worth considering is the one concerning its ‘historic value’. And even that is feeble.

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  19. “in what way is this arbitrary assertion a scientific hypothesis?”

    I’m no supporter of ID (at least I do not believe in it), but let’s think about what a scientific hypothesis is for a moment.

    This is broadly Karl Popper’s approach: a scientific hypothesis is a postulation that can be falsified. ‘Falsified’ here means that it can be proven true or false (and yes, I know that ‘falsified’ means ‘proven false’).

    Generally, scientific standards require that any proof is based on empirical evidence. Some standards are stricter than others, requiring empirically gained numerical evidence; that is quantitative data as opposed to anything more qualitative. So when we encounter an ID claim, or any other claim, we should be able to ask ‘is this true?’ or ‘is this false?’. Or if you are only interested in hypotheses that can be tested scientifically this might be ‘is this scientifically true?’ or ‘is this scientifically false?’. Of course, the way that we test these claims is by consulting, and properly testing, data.

    So why do you think that an ID hypothesis such as (at risk of badly paraphrasing I know) “Only the intervention of an intelligent designer can explain the existence of life”, cannot be scientific?

    I mean I could test the claim:

    P1) Pigs are things that fly

    scientifically; and this could be accomplished scientifically by providing empirical evidence that things that fly have wings, and that pigs are not things that have wings (you might prefer another method, but I think the point remains).

    You might think that it makes little scientific sense to ask this question (and, doubtlessly, so would others), but then your claim would not not be that ‘P1 cannot be a scientific hypothesis’ rather it is closer to ‘It makes little scientific sense to regard this as a competitive hypothesis’.

    Now, Evolution and ID were thought up to explain the facts. By this I mean their purpose is to explain the facts; I say nothing about whether they do or do not explain those facts. If you do not think that a theory or hypothesis explains the facts then just say ‘Theory x does not explain the facts, and therefore I do not subscribe to it’.

    It might also be prudent to provide a direct counter-argument to the theory; attacking the motives of those that forward a theory is dangerously close to a fallacious attack on character and has little relevance to the quality of the theory advanced whatsoever. This is even if these motives attract suspicion, attack arguments not people:

    “is it merely a coincidence that ID supporters are usually Young Earth creationists, holding that the earth is approximately 6000 years old?”

    My point is that it is one claim to say that a theory is bad (you might even think it is laughably bad); it is entirely another to say that it cannot be a legitimate scientific theory altogether.

    Surely it is harmful to scientific progress to call an hypothesis ‘unscientific’ just because it is weak? Or is strength a necessary condition for scientific theories?

    Unless you have a very different idea of what ‘scientific hypothesis’ means?

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  20. “a) exactly how much time would have been ‘enough’?
    b) in what way is this arbitrary assertion a scientific hypothesis?
    c) where is the evidence supporting this case, or even hinting towards that direction?
    d) is it merely a coincidence that ID supporters are usually Young Earth creationists, holding that the earth is approximately 6000 years old?”

    I don’t know. But if I had been taught ID in the IB (because I did take biology in a relatively advanced level), I would be able to answer these questions.

    Which is exactly the problem. Neither you nor I know ID’s arguments, and we’ve been taught by most biologists to dismiss them as groundless assertions. This may be true, but it may not be. Surely, we should study it to know. And reading a wikipedia article in-between studying for exams is not exactly illuminating. If, of course, you have studied the articles and dissertations published not by priests but acclaimed biologists, such as William Dembski or Michael Behe, and still believe their arguments are ridiculous, then I pass.

    Once again: I never said I believe in ID. I never said it’s true. I said, like any theory, it should be considered in an objective manner. You say it’s an arbitrary assertion. What about string theory? Is this not also an assertion? Yet it is examined. You would not make fun of someone investigating this theory.
    A.

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  21. 6 Apr ’09 at 12:35 pm

    George Papadofragakis

    No Ari I would not make fun of someone INVESTIGATING any theory.

    I would make fun of any person, however, if they tried to teach this theory at schools for the sole purpose of furthering a political agenda. Which is undeniably the case here, as you will agree if you are familiar with the fundamentalists behind the ID lobby.

    So, to answer the point raised by Anonymous as well, the question here is not whether we should be EXAMINING this claim.

    In science, every claim is worth to be examined. But the question here is whether we should be teaching discredited theories as equivalent alternatives to some of the most basic principles of modern science.

    For the reasons I explained, this theory ignores basic facts and overwhelming evidence against it and, as such, it is simply not worth the privilege.

    The only way this should be allowed anywhere near a school curriculum is if it’s brought up as an argument on religious classes. If it’s all about ‘hearing the other side’ then I think that’s the best compromise.

    But let’s be serious, we can’t just lightheartedly accept the demands of fundamentalist Christians to introduce religious brainwash into schools, masquerading it as science.

    On a different note, watching a debate on Youtube in-between studying for exams is not exactly illuminating either, so let us please leave the more-knowledgeable-than-thou-tone out of this discussion.

    Anonymous: “It might also be prudent to provide a direct counter-argument to the theory”

    I quote from my previous post:

    “How does it even explain fossils? How does it explain dinosaurs? How does it explain Neanderthals, Australopithecus, homo habilis and homo erectus? By ignoring the findings? By calling them all forgeries? By assuming that we all used to live together in harmony, as part of God’s divine plan, when we all just sprung together into existence?”

    In my opinion, ID’s failure to address these questions is, in itself, a pretty strong counter-argument against it.

    Extraordinary claims (such as that biology, paleontology and geology have it all wrong) require extraordinary evidence. ID has failed to provide this evidence and, as such, it is not worth this kind of attention.

    At the very least, not until it provides some convincing arguments why everything we know about life and earth is wrong, and why (I quote) “life on earth was created, virtually all at once, and not that long ago.”

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  22. 6 Apr ’09 at 12:37 pm

    George Papadofragakis

    “On a different note, watching a debate on Youtube in-between studying for exams is not exactly illuminating either, so let us please leave the more-knowledgeable-than-thou-tone out of this discussion.”

    Sorry, I just re-read your post and realised I took your comment on Wikipedia a bit out of context – scratch that :P

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  23. 6 Apr ’09 at 2:25 pm

    A. Catsambas

    ID does not ignore scientific evidence – you mistake it for other theories. ID acknowledges fossils etc.
    Most ID supporters are not devout Christians or anything like that. They are scientists. The fact that their theory is hijacked by Christian fundamentalists in an effort to promote their own agenda is not very relevant.
    In the same way, I could argue that we should not be teaching evolution either, since people like Dawkins use it to promote their own, anti-religion agenda. In other words: it does not matter why people try to promote a theory, as long as it has some grounds. ID is merely pointing to the fact that the theory of evolution has many gaps unaccounted for, and promotes an alternative theory. Personally, I would like to have been taught this theory as well. Then, I would be able to exercise informed and educated criticism on both theories. As it is, we are being taught that evolution as a theory is 100% correct, and we are told that any gaps will soon be filled in by scientists. This is of course completely unscientific. Proper scientists should never believe that any theory is 100% correct, and should always consider alternatives.
    A.

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  24. “Anonymous: “It might also be prudent to provide a direct counter-argument to the theory”

    I quote from my previous post:

    “How does it even explain fossils? How does it explain dinosaurs? How does it explain Neanderthals, Australopithecus, homo habilis and homo erectus? By ignoring the findings? By calling them all forgeries? By assuming that we all used to live together in harmony, as part of God’s divine plan, when we all just sprung together into existence?”

    In my opinion, ID’s failure to address these questions is, in itself, a pretty strong counter-argument against it.”

    Do you actually know of any actual arguments for ID? For at the moment it is difficult to see exactly what this list of objections is specifically targeting. How can you provide a counter-argument to an argument that you have not clearly presented?

    I think you are in danger of confusing ID with Creationism. I only say ‘in danger’ because you have not said which variant of ID that you’re talking about. Sure some ID proponents are creationists, but this does not mean that all ID proponents are therefore creationists. Because of this you seem to conflate a number of claims that creationists might make, but some ID proponents would not:

    “By ignoring the findings? By calling them all forgeries?”

    When you say things like:

    “Extraordinary claims (such as that biology, paleontology and geology have it all wrong) require extraordinary evidence.”

    I can imagine both evolutionists *and* ID-proponents jumping up and down and saying ‘yes, that’s exactly our point’. The wider debate is about whether or not the evidence supports either claim, and let’s face it both are pretty extraordinary.

    Another thing, It appears to me that ‘the evidence’ here is largely the same for *both* sides. Obviously the evidence is: biodiversity of species, the interrelatedness of these species and so on. The evolutionist claims that this can be explained by concepts such as natural selection and what not.

    ID arguments deny that these phenomena are explained by these concepts and as such deny that evolution is the answer. They then put forward an alternative (I make no claim yet about the equality of this alternative) theory that, to them, seems to explain what is going on.

    So if you are going to claim that ID does not explain the facts (that is, the evidence) then you need to provide us with an argument for this. For example, you could point to any number of epistemic points such as the mutation of viruses, the constant need to create ever more powerful anti-biotics and so on. Couple this with the ontological need to explain these aspects simply and you’re underway.

    Standard arguments against ID utilise epistemology and ontology. The strong versions of these suggest that ID cannot be a legitimate scientific theory, the softer (but not therefore automatically worse) strand suggests that ID is just a bad theory.

    The point is that if ID were true, it would (or at least could) explain these phenomena that you list above. Therefore I think you have to say why it is that ID is false. There are many good ways to accomplish this, but the easiest is to go ‘Suppose ID is true, look at all these things that this would require; or that this would entail’.

    Even if ID is or is not science, can or cannot be science, does or does not explain phenomena; a properly balanced discussion of this debate in schools can only be beneficial. Sure you’ll get the possible disadvantage that some kids might actually believe in this, but this is countered, and outweighed, by the strengthened ability of future scientists, and thinkers, to encounter difficult theories and say what it is precisely that they think is wrong with them.

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  25. I would argue against both sides on a number of points:

    a) Most ID supporters are NOT scientists and ARE devout Christians. Most ID supporters are common people who don’t really know what it is that they support and are devout Christians without much of an idea why – i.e. the half of America that supports ID is generally very Christian and doesn’t really think about this sort of thing on a scientific level.

    b) The people lobbying for ID are not all fundamentalists with a political agenda. As you can probably tell from the article, some are decent scientists that have perfectly logical reasons for it.

    c) “How does it even explain fossils?…By calling them all forgeries?” No. You’re entirely failing to understand what you are talking about. Creationism is the belief that the world was formed about 6,000 BC and that fossils are from the great flood, or whatever the personal explanation is. Intelligent design is not that (though it is often linked) but is rather the point that evolution doesn’t happen naturally; that there is something higher guiding it. That fossils were animals but didn’t naturally, through random fluctuations in genes, develop into modern animals. How did the first feather form? That’s a question that evolution doesn’t answer – it just says that Archaeopteryx (sp?) was the threshold between dinosaurs and birds.

    4) “the question here is whether we should be teaching discredited theories as equivalent alternatives to some of the most basic principles of modern science” Intelligent Design isn’t really discredited. The claim that it is unscientific doesn’t discredit it in and of itself. It’s a valid explanation for the “flaws” in evolution, even if those “flaws” may one day get an explanation.

    5) “It might also be prudent to provide a direct counter-argument to the theory; attacking the motives of those that forward a theory is dangerously close to a fallacious attack on character” Interesting that nobody defending ID has attacked any evolutionary scientists (though I am happy to defend to the death my belief that Dawkins is pathetic, even though I have no qualms with others in the same position as him) but that you have attacked the ID supporters as being politically-motivated fundamentalists, using it as an insult. Discuss the theory! And not creationism!

    6) “Equivalently, no one has ever won a Nobel Prize for contributions to our understanding of the Earth’s curvature. That does not mean that the Earth is flat.” As you well know, George, the ancient Greeks knew that the earth was round and it has always been common knowledge. Before the nobel prize was invented, Newton explained that gravity pulled things to the centre of mass and by doing so created the theory behind why the earth is spherical and also why we are pulled towards its centre. There are no holes to be filled on that subject.

    With evolution, however, there are many holes. From its inception to modern day, there have been questions asked. Very quickly people could grasp that a finch may develop a longer beak over generations if it is eating a specific item that requires long beaks… but they find it hard to grasp that we have a common ancestor to the finches in question. How is it that we developed from ape-like creatures?

    *warning: simplification*
    If we took an ape and put it in the long grass instead of trees, it would find that standing upright helps spot predators more than bending low. As a result it will tend to stay upwards. Its spine will grow accustomed to this, and straighten. It will find that its legs grow stronger as a result – and that when it starts to run without using its hands, its legs will grow longer and leaner to enable quicker movement.
    *end of warning: simplification over*

    However, the point is that whilst evolution in that respect, namely that of the best of each species surviving, how is it that we jumped from birds? How did the first feather form and were there generations of half-birds that had weird spiky things? Or did they have down like baby birds often do? More importantly, how would a creature suddenly change the number of chromosomes that it has? We have 46 chromosomes. So do hares. The potato has 48, as does a chimpanzee. Dogs have 78 but cats have 38. A tibetan fox has the same number as an earthworm – 36 – which is much smaller than a goldfish’s 100. A chicken has 10 chromosomes which is less than the square-root of a kingfisher’s 132.

    Why?!

    The question has been there since before the “nobel prize in physiology or medicine” was founded in 1901. We have no answer, still! *That* was what I was saying – that it has been a goal for over a hundred years and we haven’t had an answer. There are many other questions that, likewise, haven’t been answered in that time and are on the top 25 unanswered questions list… http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2003/11/10/science/text/index.html

    How does the brain work? Why do we sleep? How did life begin? Do paranormal phenomena exist? “Is evolution truly random?” is up there too. Each of these has been on the table since before the nobel prize existed and nobody has answered them to the level of satisfaction required to get the prize. That was what I was saying – there are still questions that *need* to be answered before natural evolution can be completely accepted and intelligent design is the only scientifically-viable alternative.

    Creationism is different and I’m still in the evolution boat anyway but I thought I’d defend ID against these attacks :P

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  26. intelligent design explains fossil findings then… they are all ‘lost creatures’ from Noah’s flood… so we all lived together before the biblical flood presumably…

    keep in mind that Prof Steve Fuller does not support intelligent design, he only says that it should be taught in schools,.. if you want to see the real lobby behind this theory, and the kind of arguments they use, read this article…

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=92747

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  27. Some more serious food for thought:

    “4.3 The “Intelligent Design” (ID) Movement”: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/#4.3.

    “7. Intelligent Design” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/creationism/#IntDes

    “8. Is Complexity Irreducible?”: ibid.

    “9. The Explanatory Filter”: ibid.

    The Dictionary of the History of Ideas: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-80

    Science and Creationism: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6024&page=1

    There are lots of interesting snippets of critical thought concerning this topic on these pages, note I say ‘interesting’ I do not claim they are correct.

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  28. “intelligent design explains fossil findings then… they are all ‘lost creatures’ from Noah’s flood… so we all lived together before the biblical flood presumably”

    FOR GOODNESS SAKE LOOK UP WHAT INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS.

    That’s creationism that you’re talking about – and not even all of creationism! Some creationists would argue that the fossils were put there by God to test us or something and weren’t remnants of the flood at all. But still, intelligent design is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

    Grrrraaaaarrr…. it’s what I went on about with George in my last reply!

    Anyway. A couple of good links there, Anonymous, one of which says “the movement involves efforts to construct design arguments taking cognizance of various contemporary scientific developments … which, as most ID advocates see it, both reveal the inadequacy of mainstream (naturalistic Darwinian) explanatory accounts and offer compelling evidence for design in nature at some level”

    That’s what ID is. The last link that you provided is about creationism though, which I reiterate is completely different.

    At its closest, intelligent design is simply the branch of creationism that seeks to find evidence using scientific method. If you’re using that argument then a) it’s science and b) it’s being run by creationists. Both are wrong, really, though there are arguments for each of them… anywho, please just make sure you know the differences between INTELLIGENT DESIGN and CREATIONISM, one of which suggests that there is some sort of designer (and only 16% of the planet believes in no God) whereas the latter suggests that the world was made in 6 days about 7,500 years ago.

    ID is supported by 84% of the planet; creationism is supported by the minority of Christians that think common scientific belief is wrong and by some Jews, muslims etc. as well. Either way, ID is the dominant worldview – that there is some sort of higher intelligence or god – whereas creationism is most definitely not the dominant worldview!

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  29. Addendum: it turns out that the 16% athiest that I quoted isn’t right. It’s actually 16% including athiests, agnostics and all people who believe in a diety but are nonreligious and do not associate with a specific religion.

    So it’s really about 90% of the population of the world that supports intelligent design. Including scientologists, zoroastrians and neo-pagans… though they’re only 0.062% of the world when added together.

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  30. Lies, damn lies and statistics eh Jason? iirc Buddhists don’t believe in ID, rather it is left undefined. And Buddhists count for a rather large percentage. And according to this website, Hinduism prefers evolution (or some form of it) over ID.

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  31. “The last link that you provided is about creationism though, which I reiterate is completely different.”

    As my posts above show, I agree with this: creationism is not equal to ID.

    I thought a link to a discussion of what creationism is, and its relation to science, would be just as useful as a link to a discussion of what ID is.

    It occurred to me that some of the comments are just as confused about what Creationism is, as they are about the difference between ID and Creationism.

    Please give a source for the statistics. I find claims such as:

    “Either way, ID is the dominant worldview – that there is some sort of higher intelligence or god – whereas creationism is most definitely not the dominant worldview!”

    highly dubious without any good basis.

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  32. Before I said:

    “I thought a link to a discussion of what creationism is, and its relation to science, would be just as useful as a link to a discussion of what ID is.”

    But actually, the last link is about Creationism, but also there are a number of direct references to the relationship between ID, Creationism, and Science (qua Evolutionary Biology).

    More than a cursory look at the front page of this link would have shown this. I mean it even has a ‘search’ field.

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  33. It’s not highly dubious in the slightest.

    Here’s an example: http://www.adherents.com/images/rel_pie.gif

    The dominant worldview is that of a monotheism – between Islam and Christianity over 50% of the world is accounted for. The BBC says that Christianity has 2.1 billion followers and that matches, exactly, the figure I had used before.

    http://www.religionfacts.com/ says that the two cover over 3.3 billion people as well.

    There’s a breakdown at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html if you want it.

    A different chart: http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.gif

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Major_religions_distribution.png

    http://www.adherents.com/misc/rel_by_adh_CSM.html

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm

    I could go on. There is no doubt that the vast majority of the world supports intelligent design (and I meant it in the context as being a plausible alternative possibility – therefore including buddhists and agnostics anyway). Hinduism, Chris, as I’m sure you’re aware, believes in brahma as the god of creation. The website you quoted talked about spiritual evolution as an alternative to scientific evolution. A better website for discussion is: http://hinduism.iskcon.com/concepts/112.htm

    I do accept that agnostics, buddhists and many other religious people are accepters of evolution – I’m one of them – but my point remains valid that the vast majority of the planet believes in a God and out of these, a large amount will believe in intelligent design; whether because of evidence, because of assumption or because they of the old “it’s too amazing to be fluke” logic.

    As for creationism. We’ll assume that buddhists, other eastern philosophies, agnostics, athiests and hindus (see above) aren’t believers in a simple creation. Of course anyone that isn’t Christian (or possibly Jewish) will probably disagree with the date and story that is told be “creationists” but for the purposes of creating a maximum number, we’ll go with it.

    1.1 billion Latin Rite Christians. They agree with the Pope so what does the Vatican say about Creation? http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0804713.htm

    100 million baptists, 75 million methodists, 75 million reformed christians, 87 million lutherans, 130 million pentecostals, 40 million other evangelicals, 260 million eastern orthodox churches, 81 million oriental orthodox churches, 77 million anglicans, 13 million mormons, 7 million jehovah’s witnesses. That totals 945 million people who to save me scouring what beliefs they are we will assume are creationists for the sole reason of creating an absolute maximum number. I would fit into this category, most Christians that don’t believe in creationism that I know fit into it, but we’ll include them anyway.

    We might as well also include all Jews, Sikhs etc. They only constitute another 25 million or so. That’s 970 million.

    85% of muslims are sunnis, 15% are shi’ites (935 million, 165 million repectively), apparently. We might as well only consider them. Apparently (I’m going on the internet’s word here) sunnis believe that there is a creator God who invented morality, etc., but that he didn’t make us in his image. That rules out traditional creationism. Apparently 85% of shi’ites are twelvers who believe that muhammad ibn hasan (who was born in 868 and was the twelfth successor to muhammad) is still alive and in hiding… so we’ll assume that shi’ites are all creationists as well. (yes, the logic is flawed. I’m going for a maximum figure for a reason)

    That makes a further 165 million or 1.13 billion total creationists on the planet (the actual number is obviously *significantly* lower. Probably about 100 million, I’d suggest). Let’s look at that as a pie chart.

    My calculations show it should be something like this – http://i44.tinypic.com/68ho2d.jpg – and I think you’ll agree that the yellow is the dominant majority.

    Fingers crossed I provided enough statistics to back my claims that ID is a majority and creationism isn’t! I’m still with the minority (of evolutionists) on this one though :P

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  34. Oh and I know that there are links between creationism, ID and science, etc., but I just wanted to make sure that the boundary was very clear between ID and creationism!

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  35. Ahh the good old creation / ID / science debate!

    Suppose i should just mention that the problem of evil kills the ID argument straight away. Unless the intelligent designer happens to enjoy seeing creatures kill each other, enjoy seeing creatures/people ravaged by disease and enjoys intelligently engineering people not to withstand the environment they are born into.

    Honestly, how can anyone believe this rubbish?

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  36. Source for Statistics JR?

    Surely you can’t think it is ok to provide stats and then not say where they came from?

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  37. Good Jason.

    But what about the source for your earlier statistical claims?

    Where did you get them from?

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  38. I said ‘highly dubious without good basis’, not ‘your claims are highly dubious’. I think you can see you can see the difference.

    Apparently though I cannot spot whether you have replied or not…

    Congratulations on producing a pie chart that looks exactly like a certain lovable video game character called ‘pac-man’:

    http://weblogs.newsday.com/sports/watchdog/blog/385px-Pac_Man_svg.png

    http://i44.tinypic.com/68ho2d.jpg

    This put me in something of a quandary as I really hate disagreeing with pac-man.

    At least part of your argument is ambiguous between:

    Disambiguation 1:

    Monotheists that believe in an absolute creator of the world are either creationists or support intelligent design.

    “ID is supported by 84% of the planet”

    Disambiguation 2:

    Monotheists that believe in an absolute creator of the world are either creationists or would lend support to Intelligent Design.

    “[but my point remains valid that the vast majority of the planet believes in a God and out of these], a large amount will believe in intelligent design”

    Ignoring for the moment the vagueness of the term ‘world’ or ‘universe’ or whatever else, I thought you appear to use both of these claims.

    The problem occurs when one moves from D2 to D1, that is: the attempt to use D2 to justify D1. Firstly, I do not think that this move is justifiable, because there is a gap between what monotheists would do given a choice between creationism and ID; and what they do ordinarily, or actually, subscribe to.

    The trouble is that usually ‘creationism’ is the umbrella term for belief in an absolute creator and ‘ID’ is not. And what we have been trying to establish is that Creationism is not equal to Intelligent Design.

    Though of course you use ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘intelligent design’, and if these are different, then, we might think that you have equivocated between ID as a doctrine or a position, and ‘id’ as used to refer to a general way of affirming an absolute creator of the world, and yet still denying the, as you say traditional, view of creation as found in the bible, or variations thereof.

    If your claim is about id (as constructed here), then, yes perhaps I’ll agree that this is the dominant worldview. I do not agree however that the dominant worldview is ID. Possibly if this were the case, then, we would be having the discussion “should Evolution be taught as a viable alternative to ID?” and not the other way around.

    All this is of course based on my reading of your post, and I’m open to correction. Ultimately, I am saying that ‘Intelligent Design’ is not always equal to ‘intelligent design’. This is probably as important as the distinction between Creationism and Intelligent Design. Indeed in some cases: this is the distinction.

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  39. 8 Apr ’09 at 9:07 am

    A. Catsambas

    “Suppose i should just mention that the problem of evil kills the ID argument straight away. Unless the intelligent designer happens to enjoy seeing creatures kill each other, enjoy seeing creatures/people ravaged by disease and enjoys intelligently engineering people not to withstand the environment they are born into.”

    Have you been reading what Jason has been writing? Do you know what ID is? ID has never identified the intelligent designer as the Christian God. Sure, many Christians may do so, this does not detract from the fact that ID is merely an alternative scientific approach to evolution. Good and evil have nothing to do with it.

    A.

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  40. Which earlier statistical claims? Say which one and I’ll find it. To be honest, you could just google the figure and see what comes up. A couple were taken on trust from a cited source on wikipedia but I don’t know where the others came from necessarily.

    Though I thought I did cite all previous sources in my last post :-\

    And yes, Anon, you can understand that evil may be a problem – but it depends on what you define as evil. A) there isn’t any clause in intelligent design that says the designer is good, even if the vast majority of ID people say so (i.e. evil could well be part of the intelligent designers plan if you’re talking expressly about the theory). B) “evil” as we call it is often simply selfishness taken to an extreme level.

    I’m sure there are millions of well-written books out there but here goes an attempt at providing a reasonable theory (not one that I believe, I might add). As part of the intelligent design, self-consciousness was added to help the species protect themselves: i.e. the intelligent designer doesn’t have to watch out all the time because humans will see a lion and climb a tree or whatever. Emotions are added to provide extra protection clauses – lust continues the lineage, anger helps defend against the wild, crying shows sadness and sympathy enables protection of those crying etc. etc.

    These also enable the individual to know what they want and gain personal power. When you think about a definition of evil, smoking is really a form of evil because they are putting their own want above the protection of those around them. I can’t think of a definition of evil (that isn’t vague) that wouldn’t include smoking. But the point is that there are many people who do what they want – and it’s from the past, really. If everyone had said “nah, you go on and run – I’ll stay and get eaten” then the human race would have been gone pretty quickly.

    So people go with basic instincts. This would include revenge, where “hitting on your woman” gets returned with violence as a form of self-made justice that escalates up to, potentially, death. Lust could potentially lead to rape and greed (which can be helpful in small doses) could lead to theft or addiction.

    What’s important is that you don’t see the world as being evil but see the world as being either good or neutral. For every rape there are the vast majority of people who feel lust towards someone and don’t try to force it. For every murder there are the vast majority of people who don’t want to take a life and hold back their anger. Etc. If there weren’t (Freud’s) egos to hold our wants in check then we would have destroyed our own species through murder and selfishness etc.

    So you can potentially see how “animal instincts” are useful but potentially harmful – and how a logical mind, with other “animal instincts” (the first set including defence by violence, lust etc. and the latter set including empathy and fear of revenge), is able to hold most of those instincts in check. The fact that those “evil” deeds exist is actually a pretty good argument for both evolution and intelligent design. If a creature doesn’t have those selfish instincts it will die and whether through survival of the fittest or through a designer all creatures should have some level of it. Creationism could be argued against by this point – humankind doesn’t really need those instincts when it has a high enough intelligence to think around murder etc. – but I’m sure creationists would attribute it to Satan and the fact that there was The Fall in the garden of Eden.

    But there are billions of theories regarding why evil exists. I’m sure most theologists have come up with their own – I bet that Plato, Constantine, Thomas Aquinas and various middle ages bishops have their own, at least so why not read about it? The existance of “evil” is only really one of morality, which could mean that simply arguing about it is supporting ID – but either way it is by no means proof that evolution has triumphed as a theory over intelligent design!

    As I said, there will need to be some massive leaps in our understanding of evolution before intelligent design can be even remotely discounted as a viable alternative. That or a *better* alternative to evolution must be found somehow.

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  41. why is it instantly assumed that intellegent design is the default posiltion for Christians? it isn’t, and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Darwin was a theist (albeit lapsed – he still pointed towards a creater in the origin of species). i am a Christian. I also agree with the theory of evolution. it is only quacks like Dawkins state that evolution and God are incompatable (if you want to see a good little thing on this watch the recent BBC programme ‘did Darwin kill God’). sience explains how things work, nothing more, nothing less. science does not contradict God, and it cannot. God and science are in two seperate intellectual fields. any person who tries to explain morality with science is putting science where it does not belong.

    a good little quote
    ‘John Henry Newman who said in 1868, “the theory of Darwin, true or not, is not necessarily atheistic; on the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of divine providence and skill.”’

    (http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=18503)

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  42. Assuming that was a reply to me, I would like to point out that I, myself, am an evolutionist and a Christian. I would point out also, though, that intelligent design is simply that <>

    And I would argue most vehemantly that it is the default position for Christians. I wouldn’t argue that it’s the only position or the most popular but I would suggest that most Christian institutions would as a whole argue that the world was designed by God, whether by guiding evolution, putting into motion the big bang or whether through a more recent creation.

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  43. On the subject of the link you gave (which was the same story as the link I previously gave), I would point out that the man in question has made a number of mistakes in the past and that he also doesn’t really know what he’s saying on this point:

    “it is not best described by … fundamental, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis… Rather, he stresses, God acts as a parent toward the universe, nurturing, encouraging and working with it.”

    That’s INTELLIGENT DESIGN STILL. I don’t know what his idea is but nurturing the world towards the design you have for it is still design! He’s still arguing against God creating the world in 6 days, against God being the replacement for natural science within evolution (i.e. against God being the person who evolves life as opposed to God guiding the process) and as much as he makes valid points on this subject (though some of his science (during his career) has been twisted a little to suit his own conclusions) he still gets intelligent design confused!

    Intelligent design as an alternative to evolution is about how God created each type of life; maybe out of dust, maybe by simply reshaping genes. That would explain why the number of chromosomes differs so randomly etc.

    But the evolution that science has essentially proven can, to Christians, still be a form of intelligent design. If it is believed that the earth was chosen by God, there is a strand of intelligent design there. If it is believed that humankind are made in his image, there is a strand of intelligent design there. I suppose if you believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God then you also believe in a form of historical intelligent design, though that’s not really about evolution.

    But it’s still important to separate the creationism that is frowned on by all but fundamentalist Christians and the intelligent design that is most definitely the “default” value of Christian belief – and it’s also important to note that intelligent design isn’t mutually exclusive to the scientific evidence that has so far been gathered!

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  44. Attempts to establish an idea of the ‘specified complexity’ needed for intelligent design are surrounded by complex mathematics. Despite this, the idea seems to be essentially a modern version of the old idea of the “God-of-the-gaps”. That is to say, lack of a satisfactory scientific explanation of some phenomena (a ‘gap’ in scientific knowledge) is claimed by some to be evidence of an intelligent designer – God.

    Intelligent Design:

    “The idea was developed by a group of American creationists who reformulated their argument in the creation-evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings that prohibit the teaching of creationism as science.[4][5][6] Intelligent design’s leading proponents, all of whom are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank,[7][8] believe the designer to be the God of Christianity.[9][10]

    Advocates of intelligent design argue that it is a scientific theory,[11] and seek to fundamentally redefine science to accept supernatural explanations.[12] The consensus in the scientific community is that intelligent design is not science.[13][14][15][16].

    With the Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture serving a central role in planning and funding, the “intelligent design movement” grew increasingly visible in the late 1990s and early 2000s, culminating in the 2005 Dover trial which challenged the intended use of intelligent design in public school science classes.[7]

    U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents”, and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[23]”

    4: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005)., Context pg. 32 ff, citing Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578)

    5: “ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer.” “This argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley” (the teleological argument) “The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s ‘official position’ does not acknowledge that the designer is God.” Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005)., Ruling, p. 24.

    6: Forrest, Barbara (May 2007). “Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals.” Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy. http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/intelligent-design.pdf. Retrieved on 2007-08-06.

    7: “Q. Has the Discovery Institute been a leader in the intelligent design movement? A. Yes, the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Q. And are almost all of the individuals who are involved with the intelligent design movement associated with the Discovery Institute? A. All of the leaders are, yes.” Barbara Forrest, 2005, testifying in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. “Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Trial transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1.”. TalkOrigins Archive. 2005. http://www.toarchive.org/faqs/dover/day6pm.html. Retrieved on 2007-07-19.

    8: “Science and Policy: Intelligent Design and Peer Review”. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2007. http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/03_Areas/evolution/issues/peerreview.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-07-19.

    9: “the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity”. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005)., Ruling p. 26.

    10: William A. Dembski, when asked in an interview whether his research concluded that God is the Intelligent Designer, stated “I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God”. Devon Williams (December 14, 2007). “CitizenLink: Friday Five: William A. Dembski”. Focus on the Family. http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000006139.cfm. Retrieved on 2007-12-15.

    11: Top Questions about intelligent design”. Discovery Institute. http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php. Retrieved on 2007-05-13.

    12: Stephen C. Meyer and Paul A. Nelson (May 1, 1996). “CSC – Getting Rid of the Unfair Rules, A book review, Origins & Design”]. http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=1685. Retrieved on 2007-05-20.

    13: 1) List of scientific societies rejecting intelligent design. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_societies_rejecting_intelligent_design
    2) Kitzmiller v. Dover page 83. 3) The Discovery Institute’s A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism petition begun in 2001 has been signed by “over 700 scientists” as of August 20, 2006. A four day A Scientific Support for Darwinism petition gained 7733 signatories from scientists opposing ID. The AAAS, the largest association of scientists in the U.S., has 120,000 members, and firmly rejects ID. More than 70,000 Australian scientists and educators condemn teaching of intelligent design in school science classesList of statements from scientific professional organizations on the status intelligent design and other forms of creationism. According to The New York Times “There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth”. Dean, Cordelia (September 27, 2007). “Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin”. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/science/27expelled.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin. Retrieved on 2007-09-28.

    14: “Teachernet, Document bank”. Creationism teaching guidance. UK Department for Children, Schools and Families. September 18, 2007. http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=11890. Retrieved on 2007-10-01. “The intelligent design movement claims there are aspects of the natural world that are so intricate and fit for purpose that they cannot have evolved but must have been created by an ‘intelligent designer’. Furthermore they assert that this claim is scientifically testable and should therefore be taught in science lessons. Intelligent design lies wholly outside of science. Sometimes examples are quoted that are said to require an ‘intelligent designer’. However, many of these have subsequently been shown to have a scientific explanation, for example, the immune system and blood clotting mechanisms.

    15: Nature Methods Editorial (2007). “An intelligently designed response”. Nat. Methods 4 (12): 983. doi:10.1038/nmeth1207-983.

    16: Mark Greener (2007). “Taking on creationism. Which arguments and evidence counter pseudoscience?”. EMBO Reports 8 (12): 1107–1109. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7401131.

    17: “Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences”. National Academy of Sciences. 1999. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309064066&page=25.

    23: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005)., Conclusion of Ruling.

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  45. anon2:

    “That is to say, lack of a satisfactory scientific explanation of some phenomena (a ‘gap’ in scientific knowledge) is claimed by some to be evidence of an intelligent designer – God.”

    “Intelligent design lies wholly outside of science. Sometimes examples are quoted that are said to require an ‘intelligent designer’. However, many of these have subsequently been shown to have a scientific explanation, for example, the immune system and blood clotting mechanisms.” (14)

    These are two different strands of ID. The first subscribes to the doctrine of a lack of satisfactory scientific knowledge; which holds that there is an explanatory gap, as you correctly say. Or possibly:

    Phenomena + Scientific Explanation != World.
    Phenomena + intelligent designer = World

    And more importantly, it is possible, without contradiction or offence to the principles of science, for a SCIENTIST to believe:

    Phenomena + Scientific Explanation + intelligent designer = World.

    The second relies on the requirement of an intelligent designer to explain phenomena; this is not to say that it is just the science that produces a gap, but it also rules out any explanation other than an intelligent designer. It ‘requires’ an intelligent designer.

    World if and only if (iff) intelligent designer

    or

    Phenomena iff intelligent designer

    Although these might look like part of the same claim, this is not necessarily the case. That is, an ID proponent may hold both of these claims, but not all must do.

    In the second example (14): that some claims of the ID movement have been countered does not mean that ID is false. It provides evidence that ID might be/or is false. It does not ‘refute’ this however; it may even be impossible to provide a successful refutation.

    So, “Science does not fully explain the phenomena” and “The world is only explained by an intelligent designer” are two different claims. It is important to make this distinction because otherwise we risk running together different versions of ID.

    Prof. Fuller’s point is generally that the claims given in the Dover trials are not a fully accurate reflection of the most competitive strands of ID. If some of the foremost proponents of a theory are saying this; it is wise to listen to this and then respond. There may be some features of ID that are similar to Creationism, but ID is not Creationism. If you just say ‘ID is just Creationism, and Creationism is wrong’ then you are attacking Creationism and only obliquely attacking ID.

    In short you appeared to give a general counter to ID, and yet only provided one formulation of the argument, and of the position. This was even though some of the references you gave suggested that there are many different, even if only subtly so, versions of ID. To attack one may not be to attack all.

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  46. 21 Apr ’09 at 3:06 am

    Simon Whitten

    Jason, by seperating ID from Creationism you seem to have equated it with theism. This seems incompatable with your suggestion that it’s a serious scientific theory.

    In addition, appeals to the majority are rediculous.

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  47. Intelligent design would usually be considered as a theistic theory. However the conclusions that it draws, the science behind it, is not solely theistic. The entire point of ID is that it comes from solid science and its experimentation, data, etc., is as credible as evolution’s. Whether you accept its response or not it up to you.

    It is similar to those who believe in alien landings. There’s science behind plotting up UFO reports with regions, looking for reasons that they would be hotspots other than aliens, etc. There’s not science behind believing every report. But there’s no way to prove that they’re ALL not aliens and there’s no way to prove that they are aliens either. The science is in the data collection and interpretation and intelligent design’s science is as adequate as any.

    Oh and ” “Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals.” ” is again putting ID inside creationism, which is plain silly.

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  48. ID is not science.

    It is gap theory at its best.

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  49. ‘Gap theory’ as in it jumps on the gaps within science and uses God as the only alternative.

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  50. 18 May ’09 at 11:28 pm

    Challenge you...

    ID has as much scientific bases then an evolutionist theory. Many of you are going to jump all over this, but save your comments till after u at least glimpse through this other article. There is much more scientific evidence which supports a designed world then you can even imagine. To say that evolution cannot coincide with IDT is also very naive. The IDT does not state that the world is not changing…. where people reach this conclusion baffles me. Yes of course this would put limitations on the theory that we all evolved from a single cell… however the evidence for us coming from a single cell organism does not appear to be very convincing or existent to me.

    You have to remember people these are THEORIES. They are not facts. To ignore one theory with so much scientific support just because it mentions the possibility of a creator is not science at all. Science is about examining all possibilities and reaching a truth. By eliminating the IDT and teaching evolution like its a fact, we are making a mockery to science.
    ANYWAYS… here’s the link to the other article…. if u can read that and still say there is no science biases for IDT you are truly an idiot…
    http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9403/evidence.html

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  51. 19 May ’09 at 4:05 am

    Simon Whitten

    Evolution is a fact and a theory. All you have done is to demonstrate that you have no understanding of scientific terminology, let alone the reality of the evidence in favour of current evolutionary theory as opposed to ID.

    Evolution is an observable fact, Evolutionary theory is the body of research and hypothesis which explain that fact (a theory which is falsifiable yet has resisted an almost unparalled body of research which could have proven it false. It’s a more accurate theory than Gravitation, which we know to be erroneous, yet presumably you would not advocate “intelligent falling theory”. . .).

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  52. “Microevolution” is an observable fact… “Macroevolution” is also observable, through fossils etc., but many points in this theory have not been fully explained or proven: ID will provide an acceptable alternative theory until evolutionists are able to show how these “gaps” take place: i.e. how an extra chromosome suddenly just adds itself to others or detracts, depending on what actually happened in history; etc… I am confident that evolutionists will find a suitable explanation one day but for now there aren’t even any credible theories as to how some major points in evolution occur so it’s worth not ruling ID out, even if you completely rule out creationism etc.

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  53. To all the proponents of ID, please read this: http://www.slate.com/id/2127052/

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  54. “So here’s what ID proponents are offering to teach your kids: They won’t say how ID works. They won’t say how it can be tested, apart from testing Darwinism and inferring that the alternative is ID. They won’t concede it has to be falsifiable. All they’ll say is that Darwinism hasn’t explained some things. But that’s what the first half of the Dover policy says already. So there’s no need for the second half—the part that mentions ID.”

    That’s exactly the problem. It is imperative that evolution is discussed, the current flaws/problems discussed and alternative reasons explored – but it is likewise imperative to do the reverse. And, for whatever reason, many pro-ID or pro-creationism individuals don’t open into full explanations, debates or discussions. It’s a real shame.

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  55. “And, for whatever reason, many pro-ID or pro-creationism individuals don’t open into full explanations, debates or discussions. It’s a real shame.”

    Jason, this reason is explained very well in the article that I have provided above.

    [Quote from Slate:

    The key trial witness for the theory of intelligent design said it “does not propose a mechanism” to explain evolutionary developments that have not been explained by Darwinism. He said the mechanism of such intelligent activity was “intelligent activity.”]

    It is startlingly obvious, Jason, that ID has no explanatory power. Its supporters can of course challenge some aspects of evolution (as scientists should and have done, in order to further improve our understanding of this process), but they then infer an arbitrary conclusion that is never fully explained or substantiated.

    In essence, ID suddenly jumps to an unjustified and untestable conclusion – the existence of an intelligent supernatural being. It discards the laws of nature by simply arguing that (our current understanding of) evolution has some minor holes, thus making a huge logical misstep – even if Darwinism is completely and utterly wrong, why can there not be alternative natural explanations?

    A closer look at history would show you that this is how pseudo-science always works; by using gray-areas of knowledge to infer arbitrary and unsubstantiated conclusions. (For example, I am sure you would not argue that thunderbolts are in any way related to the mood swings of said supernatural being, would you?)

    So yes, every aspect of the evolutionary process that has still not been adequately explained by Darwinism can and needs to be discussed (as it has been the case over the last two centuries, in which our understanding of Darwinism has changed). And as the article clearly stated, science teachers can and should do that in their classrooms.

    But it is also a fact that ID offers no alternative mechanism. It only seeks to use some ever-decreasing gray-areas of knowledge, in order to jump to an unexplained, unsubstantiated and untestable alternative ‘conclusion’.

    In other words, ID doesn’t actually explain anything and it is most certainly not science. Science entails experimentation and observation, not personal opinion or untestable assumptions. For that reason, teaching ID in a science class qualifies as nothing else than theistic indoctrination.

    The pretense of ‘scientific explanation’ may be reassuring to some theists seeking self-justification, but this is not enough to change ID’s unscientific nature.

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