Custom Search

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why there is an ID controversy: UCAL students forced to attend anti-ID lecture?

Apparently, at the University of California, San Diego, incoming frosh must attend a lecture against intelligent design theory. UCSD was apparently the original home of student ID clubs (IDEA clubs) and 40% of incoming students do not buy into Darwinism. A former student IDEA-er now works on the ID side for a living.

I have repeatedly asked the Discovery Institute (ID central) how much they are paying these people to promote ID by launching publicly funded campaigns against it. But the Discos are slippery folk and I don't expect an answer any time soon. When I get the scoop, I will post it, in case an enterprising Darwinist would like to undercut the going price (it's a jungle out there, ya know ...) by offering an even more bone-headed approach.

Labels: , ,

Peer review: My recent piece sure garnered plenty of comments

The piece I put up the day before yesterday on peer review has garnered a lot of comment. The riff piece at Evolution News and Views probably did too.

Clearly, I was on to something.

There have been some thoughtful reactions, some establishment huffing, and some bizarre reactions. These stand out:

- many people treated the problem as one I had invented, when in reality it only came to my attention because I had lots of stories in an inbox slot featuring high-level dissatisfaction and broadly based new systems . I let a number of stories on peer review get away before I realized that this was definitely slow-cycle news - perfect for a backgrounder.

- some assumed that I had written the piece to highlight the ID guys' troubles, but their troubles are really only a small piece of a bigger problem, and rated only a mention in the article. What I said was "- given the woeful state of peer review - papers that support or undermine ID hypotheses would probably be neither better nor worse recommended if they were never peer reviewed, just published, amid cheers and catcalls."

(Don't forget that, just as ID guys' papers may be unfairly held back, Darwinists' papers may be unfairly advanced, with glaring errors for the ID guys to pick apart. Both outcomes undermine the quality of the system as a SYSTEM.)

- Many people had a hard time grasping a fact that seems simple to me: There is no conflict between the inevitable limitations of a system and the fact/possibility that it is not working. Indeed, that is the precise circumstance that drives the demand for a new system. When I am told that the peer reviewers cannot possibly examine the data in detail due to time constraints, I agree that that is true. But in fields where data rules, I am hardly surprised that new systems are sought where eager grad students may be more than willing to spend the time in order to make their name.

My own view is that the system will become more open and dynamic whether anyone likes it or not because that is simply how things go these days.
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.

Labels: ,

Note re service disruption

When I changed the template (as regular readers will notice), I did not think to save the file of links. Apologies for loss of links. I will rebuild the links as soon as possible. If I used to link to YOUR blog and the link has vanished, post the link in a comment to me, so I can add it. I still think the new template looks nicer. - d.

Random mutation generator: Fun at work

While we are on the subject of the thinkquote below, the meaning of randomness, here is a random mutation generator. See how long it takes to mutate your name into something unpronounceable. For my name, the first try stopped the clock in three mutations, the second in one. (Now get back to work.)

Labels: , ,

Thinkquote of the day: On randomness and Darwinian evolution

The Discovery Institute's John G. West has an interesting opinion piece on conservatives who promote Darwinism as an explicitly conservative cause, in which he addresses the curious avoidance of the meaning of "randomness" as in "natural selection acting on random mutations":
For example, physicist Stephen Barr has argued in First Things that neo-Darwinism, properly understood, need not require a process that is “unguided” or “unplanned.” “The word ‘random’ as used in science does not mean uncaused, unplanned, or inexplicable; it means uncorrelated,” he writes.

The problem is not that Barr is wrong about the appropriate meaning of “random” but that mainstream Darwinists do not accept his point and never have. Darwinism from the start has been defined as an undirected process. That is its core, and that is why Darwin himself emphasized that “no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief that variations ... were intentionally and specially guided.”

In the Darwinian view, biological structures such as the vertebrate eye, or the wings of butterflies, or the bacterial flagellum, “must have” developed through the interplay of chance (random mutations, according to modern Darwinists) and necessity (natural selection or “survival of the fittest”). The same holds true for the higher animals, including human beings. In the words of Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

Barr may be correct that a more modest Darwinism that does not insist on evolution’s being undirected would be harmless, but then it also no longer would be Darwinism. Conservatives cannot resolve the problems with Darwinian evolution merely by offering their own idiosyncratic definition of the term.

Yes indeed. A curious psychological force seems to be at work now, where some pundits who do not know what to do about intelligent design theory attempt to rejigger Darwinism from the outside, to make it a little nearer to their hearts' desire.

Of course the major Darwinists could espouse what Barr is suggesting, but they don't believe what he believes, and never have. But you know, everything old is new again. When I was younger, I used to hear these same issues around communism. In 1966, well-meaning socialists would assure me that there was a brand of communism that did not mean the invasion of Czechoslovakia. All I could ever think of to say in response was - yeah, really.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

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.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My backgrounder on proposed new directions in peer review

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy att he University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being granted tenure at Baylor after a long struggle - even after helping in a small way to destroy the Baylor Bears' ancient glory - in the opinion of a hyper sportswriter.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudeby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Who links to me?