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Friday, August 05, 2005

The spin cycle: Charles Krauthammer and circular reasoning

Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth, comments, re Charles Krauthammer’s recent demand that evidence of intelligent design in nature not be considered as science, that he should have checked into his science history a little more.

Krauthammer compares Cardinal Schonborn's rejection of Darwinism to the rejection by a Dutch clergyman of the elliptical orbits of planets, because the clergyman thought that planetary orbits should be circular. In other words, he thinks that the Cardinal is unaware of any evidence against Darwinism and simply dogmatically stating a theology, as that long-ago clergyman did.

Oops. As Pearcey notes below, the idea that orbits must be circular doesn't come from Christianity, but from ancient Greek philosophy.

Krauthammer's take is disappointing. He expresses a strong faith-science dichotomy, and does not seem to realize how much science is not actually a matter of mere observation but has enshrined naturalistic philosophical assumptions.

This is actually funny:

"With your ellipse," Fabricius wrote Kepler, "you abolish the circularity and uniformity of the motions, which appears to me increasingly absurd the more profoundly I think about it."

Krauthammer uses this as an example of Christian thought interfering with science, but it is in fact an example of *secular* philosophy slowing down the progress of science. Ptolemy took the idea of circular orbits from Greek philosophy. It regarded the earth as a place of decay, while the heavens are perfect. And what's the perfect shape? The circle--because it goes on forever--a kind of infinity. Ergo, the planets must move in circular orbits. So this example actually proves the opposite of what Krauthammer wanted to illustrate.

Galileo apparently rejected elliptical orbits as well, by the way, and forthe same reason - and his views were way more influential than that clergyman's. But notice that no one rushes into print with that information. Galileo is way too important a folk legend of secularism to be permitted to have made a mistake based on philosophy, never mind the facts of the case.
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If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Spin Cycle: Why the Washington Post worries about the Catholic Church checking out of Darwinism

In "Darwin's Compost", George Neumayr says it way better than me:

Schonborn’s clarification of the Church’s rejection of any theory that considers chance an adequate cause for complexity in nature frightens the elite, as they know that the Catholic Church is the most formidable foe to the Enlightenment’s search for God-less, purely material explanations for the functioning of the universe (which is, contrary to the opportunistic denials of atheism by evolutionists, what random variation and natural selection amount to).

Dissenters inside the Church and opportunists outside it have been working hard to neutralize the Church on the crucial question of evolution. But they will not get away with this, and Schonborn’s dissent marks the beginning of a serious backlash to the Enlightenment liberalism that has been smuggled into Catholicism as “reform.”

He also points out that Darwinism is not even a purely modern idea: It was rejected by the first great philosopher of science, Aristotle, 2500 years ago. He asks, would American students be allowed to read the passage he quotes from Aristotle?

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If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Limbaugh on Darwinists: “Playing fast and loose with the facts”

Catch David Limbaugh’s defense of the ID theorists, in the wake of Bush's announcement that he thinks that students should learn both sides. Limbaugh notes,

Many of ID's cynical detractors patronizingly frame this entire debate in terms of a struggle between faith and science. Intelligent Design, they say, is but a thinly disguised argument for Biblical creationism and its proponents threaten to obliterate the "wall of separation" between church and state by cleverly sneaking creationism back into the schools inside the Trojan horse of ID.

But that is simply false. ID is fundamentally science-based. The fact that scientific inquiry leads certain scientists toward a conclusion compatible with the Judeo-Christian worldview -- that intelligent causes were behind the creation of the universe and life -- does not disqualify them as scientists any more than the militant secularism of many Darwinists disqualifies them.

What I think Limbaugh may be slow to see is that, for Darwinists, Darwinism is the creation story of the life sciences. ID theorists are attacking the Darwinists’ publicly funded religion, "by law established", as they say about the Anglican Church in Britain. It’s no wonder that, as Limbaugh notes, the ID theorists are persecuted.

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If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Great introduction to intelligent design theory now on line

If you have just started following the intelligent design controversy, I strongly recommend attorney Dan Peterson’s June article in the American Spectator, "The Little Engine That COuld ... Undo Darwinism", now on line.

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Peterson not only explains why credentialled scientists doubt Darwin but why the legacy media and science establishment are in a conniptions about it.

So, many of the news stories refer to intelligent design theory as "creationism" and ignore the science behind it. They imply that ID is just religion in disguise: "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo," as one headline put it. Let's look at the science, then, because the truth about the intelligent design school could not be more different from those stereotypes. The proponents of ID base their arguments on biological and physical data generally accepted in science. They use the same kinds of analytical methods and mathematical tools as other scientists. The ID theorists do not reason from religious premises. Neither do they attempt to prove the truth of Scripture, or of any particular religious views. As a rule, they do not contest that life on Earth is billions of years old, or that evolution has occurred in the sense of "change over time" in biological forms.

What they do contest is that undirected material causes alone can explain life's origin and development. Instead, they argue that design is the best scientific explanation for the stunning complexity of the cellular processes that underlie life, and for the evidence of how life actually developed. That conclusion, if true, certainly has religious implications. But, as will become evident, the reasoning and methods used by the ID proponents are fact-based and scientific.

And why is ID so controversial? Because

Severe difficulties with the Darwinian theory were becoming increasingly obvious by the 1980s, and some scientists began to state openly that design should be considered as an alternative theory. Then in 1991 Phillip Johnson (the Berkeley law professor mentioned above) published a powerful critique of Darwinism entitled Darwin on Trial. In that volume Johnson marshaled the extensive scientific evidence against Darwinism. More importantly, he showed that Darwinism has essentially become a faith in naturalism that is immune to refutation by any set of facts. Arguments or conclusions that are not Darwinian are automatically ruled out of bounds by the scientific establishment. Within the Darwinian fold, wild conjectures, surmises unsupported by facts, and arguments lacking in explanatory power are accepted as legitimate, so long as they permit a "naturalistic" explanation.

This, indeed, was the exact situation I found when researching my book, By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004). Truth, falsehood, and nonsense are all equally defended by an appeal to Darwinism as the very foundation of our understanding of the world, much as astrology was in the High Middle Ages — and with as much value too.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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A mistake in shorthand?

New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller now thinks that her error in substituting “biblical” for “biological” (when reporting the comments of an ID theorist) was caused by a mistake in reading her own shorthand under deadline pressure.

Fair enough; that can certainly happen, but it also suggests a lack of familiarity with the issues. Bumiller went into the interview expecting to hear that Meyer was trying to ram the Bible into public schools and had not picked up on what he was actually saying, that much biological evidence casts doubt on Darwin’s theory, but it can’t be presented. Meyer should know some of the reasons, based on his own experience. In my view, the Times needs to give its reporters more time to familiarise themselves with the issues. That way, when the Times wants to distort the issues, it can do a professional quality job.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
Blog service note: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?

- the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for any updates. UPDATED!: The retraction and Caldwell’s response have now been published in California Wild.

- The op-ed by Catholic Cardinal Schonborn in the New York Times? Note also the Times's story on the subject, some interesting quotes from major Darwinists to compare with the Catholic Church's view, as expressed by the Cardinal, and an example of the kind of problem with Darwinian philosophy that the Cardinal is talking about.

- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.
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