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Monday, January 03, 2011

Ego tripology: "Science patriots" a step ahead of the bailiff this time

In "Science Warriors' Ego Trips" (Chronicle of Higher Ed, April 25, 2010) Carlin Romano, who teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on ID opponent Massimo Pigliucci’s Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk:
In an even greater disservice, Pigliucci repeatedly suggests that intelligent-design thinkers must want "supernatural explanations reintroduced into science," when that's not logically required. He writes, "ID is not a scientific theory at all because there is no empirical observation that can possibly contradict it. Anything we observe in nature could, in principle, be attributed to an unspecified intelligent designer who works in mysterious ways." But earlier in the book, he correctly argues against Karl Popper that susceptibility to falsification cannot be the sole criterion of science, because science also confirms. It is, in principle, possible that an empirical observation could confirm intelligent design—i.e., that magic moment when the ultimate UFO lands with representatives of the intergalactic society that planted early life here, and we accept their evidence that they did it. The point is not that this is remotely likely. It's that the possibility is not irrational, just as provocative science fiction is not irrational.

[ ... ]

A sensible person can side with scientists on what's true, but not with Pigliucci on what's rational and possible. Pigliucci occasionally recognizes that. Late in his book, he concedes that "nonscientific claims may be true and still not qualify as science." But if that's so, and we care about truth, why exalt science to the degree he does? If there's really a heaven, and science can't (yet?) detect it, so much the worse for science.

[ ... ]

Long live Skeptical Inquirer! But can we deep-six the egomania and unearned arrogance of the science patriots? As Descartes, that immortal hero of scientists and skeptics everywhere, pointed out, true skepticism, like true charity, begins at home.
Well said, Romano.

First. In my experience, the "science patriots" are not really patriots or skeptics either (types one can always use). They are minor politicians barking the party line, in season or out.

It's out of season now. More and more people see full bore Darwinism for what it is, and either the Darwinists address the problem or someone else will. May as well be us.

Five years ago: Examples of regulatory gene change producing body change termed “scarce”

From Science Daily (Nov. 14, 2006), we learned: Geneticists succeeded in getting fruit flies with two rows of bristles on the thorax to become flies with four rows of bristles on the thorax, by tweaking some control genes.

Then we read,
These results show that slight changes in the control regions of genes lead to slight changes in the organism, and accumulation of such small differences may result in the creation of a new species. While this is widely accepted by evolutionary biologists, actual examples directly linking small changes in regulatory parts of genes to morphological differences have been scarce.
Especially if no one is around to do the tweaking under laboratory controls.

It’s a good thing the bristles probably don’t matter much. The big news was when researchers altered useful fruit fly halteres and produced a useless second set of wings (photo) , and also produced legs where antennae should be. That’s not evolution or intelligent design, it’s a kludge.

The money shot would have been to produce flies that could carry off the whole fruit bowl instead of just flitting around your mouth while you are eating a peach.

Little admissions add up. The information deficit between what Darwinism needs to prove its case and what actually happens has only grown in the subsequent five years.

Note: The fruit fly image was taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim in Dar es Salaam and is offered here under the Gnu Free Documentation License.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


He said it: Michael Behe on the endless moving of goalposts

[O]ne needs to relax Darwin's criterion from this: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." to something like this:

If a complex organ exists which seems very unlikely to have been produced by numerous, successive, slight modifications, and if no experiments have shown that it or comparable structures can be so produced, then maybe we are barking up the wrong tree. So, LET'S BREAK SOME RULES!

Of course people will differ on the point at which they decide to break rules. But at least with the realistic criterion there could be evidence against the unfalsifiable. At least then people like Doolittle and Miller would run a risk when they cite an experiment that shows the opposite of what they had thought. At least then science would have a way to escape from the rut of unfalsifiability and think new thoughts.

(Michael Behe, "Answering Scientific Criticisms of Intelligent Design," Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, Vol 9:146-147 (Ignatius Press, 2000))
Therein lies the key to much Darwinism today. Because Darwin must be right, any observation or information that can be gerrymandered to support his successors’ views trumps good evidence that Darwinism was not at work. And then the contrary evidence disappears down the memory hole. When the peacock’s tail did not turn out to support sexual selection, the fact disappeared from view so completely (along with the fact that natural selection does not explain the Monarch-Viceroy mimicry complex) that it is common to see them cited both by ardent Darwin believers as unqualified examples of Darwinism at work.


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