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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Recent events in the intelligent design controversy - 3

Still catching up at the end of the year. Sigh.

■ Recently, ID math guy Bill Dembski put up a fairly raucus spoof on Judge Jones in the Dover case depending so heavily for his opinion on the ACLU - and the ACLU in turn on a variety of anti-ID figures. I blog with Dembski, and I must say, I thought the "fart-fest" a bit over the top. But just as I was casting about for a tactful way to frame my objection (which I knew would be unpopular when the young guys were having such a good time), a vast cackle of drag queens and male old ladies bustled in, squealing outrage and swooning. Well, that put me off, because I am a real live uptight Irish Catholic old lady myself, which means that I certainly cannot be seen with them! However, I gather the site has been toned down since, so you might not be able to see/hear exactly what the dq/mol's were squealing about. But it's still pretty raucus. Personally, I think that, when dealing with teenagers, it is important to make them study. They can find their own mischief to get up to, right enough, and better than any I'd be thinking of.

■ I've added the Brit blog Truth in Science to the blogroll at the right, and here note TIS's account of a meeting on intelligent design convened by The Guardian , for example:
In the main podcast, the only representative for intelligent design is Dr Richard Buggs, whereas the anti-ID view is represented by Prof Lewis Wolpert, Dr Eugenie Scott, Prof Simon Conway Morris, and four Guardian journalists. This is hardly a fair discussion of the issue.

But, of course, the Guardianists probably thought they were being fair. They didn't beat Buggs up. They didn't even hold the meeting without him. Like, what does the guy want anyway. Buy the way, I think Truth in Science si the best ID website/blogsite anywhere. The Brits always do that sort of thing best. I want the Frenchies to get involved soon, so we can get better eats, drinks, and entertainment than what we are used to.

■ Richard Kirk, writing in The American Spectator, does not like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion
FAR FROM BEING A SERIOUS philosophical book, this ill-edited and garrulous diatribe contains just about anything that crosses the author's mind -- including numerous quotes from that popular author, atheist, and graduate student, Sam Harris. What one won't find in The God Delusion is serious curiosity about the essential nature of the universe. The billions upon billions of stars and galaxies that Carl Sagan invoked with semi-mystical awe, become, for Dawkins, a mere premise for his theoretical conceit that random interactions could have produced the phenomenon of life on earth.

But you see, that's just the point: The Darwinist asks us to believe something that is mathematically impossible, or else, confident that a mob of independent thinkers out there cannot see what is wrong with that. It's a good bet, actually. Kirk has nice - and well justified - things to say about Alfred North Whitehead.

■ Earlier this month, the ID think tank Discovery Institute was keening that the Dover decision was over 90% copied from the ACLU. A friend wants to know which 546 words are original to Jones. Personally, I was surprised that anyone was surprised by that. In a materialist world, the materialist lawyers will write the decisions. At least the ACLU makes no bones about it. What about the Jee-AY-sus-hollering US politicians who court the votes of non-materialists and then, once admitted to the materialist elite, govern as if the non-mats didn't exist? I think Americans (and Canadians) should be more concerned about that, actually.
Judges apparently don’t like this sort of thing, but I bet they will put up with it if the decisions match a current consensus.

■ A friend asks why the local newspaper, the York Daily Record, flubs the very first line in writing about the above story by claiming that the Discovery Institute "supported" teaching intelligent design in the schools. It did not; it supported only teaching science-based objections to Darwinism, of which readers of this blog will know there are a number of reasonable ones. I think that, when faced with a clash of paradigms as big as "Is the universe bottom up or top down?/Does mind come first or matter?" - which is what the Discovery Institute is presenting, the average journalist will simply attribute to Disco a position it does not hold that is easier to write about. That, I am afraid is the explanation, and it also explains why the blogosphere doubles every two thirds of a year or something.

■ Apparently, ID guy Mike Behe was speaking at Kansas University in Kansas, according to Dave Toplikar's "Biologist speaks for intelligent design," he attempted to clarify what intelligent design's issues with materialism and Darwinism are:
One of the nation's leading proponents of intelligent design told a Kansas University audience Thursday that Darwinism or evolution can explain how, in the absence of predators, a bird might lose its ability to fly and begin to walk on the ground.

But it can’t explain how complex living systems are built — the designs are too complex to have been randomly generated, said Michael Behe, author of "Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution."

Behe’s lecture, titled "The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology," was part of the "Difficult Dialogues" lecture series sponsored by KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities and KU’s Biodiversity Institute. About 100 people attended.

It's encouraging that some are actually trying to get a handle on the real issues, and that a fellow j is attempting to clarify them. These issues are not going away anytime, either. They'll still be thre when the others catch up.

■ A friend tips me toward The Spectator (December 9, 2006), to note Rod Liddle's piece on arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins, "A man who believes in Darwin as fervently as he hates God", beginning
In the downstairs loo of Richard Dawkins’s house in Oxford there’s a framed award from the Royal Society; to remind visitors, or maybe Richard himself, that here lives a man of some purpose, some gravitas and intellectual clout. The Faraday prize is given to those who communicate science with brilliance and verve to the scientifically ignorant, thick general public. Richard has done a lot of that, ever since The Selfish Gene in 1976. It is his job these days; he holds the Simonyi chair in the public understanding of science at Oxford University. His latest wife, the actress Lalla Ward,...
You have to pay to read the article. I dunno. I could live without knowing what's in the upstairs loo. In fact ....

■ Here's an interview at Ignatius Insight with Ben Wiker, one of the authors of A Meaningful World , in which he notes
I think Darwin would have been surprised how much has been done with the idea of natural selection, especially since during his life, scientists knew laughably little about the cell and the biology of reproduction. Yet, at the same time, I think he would be surprised to find out that the very problems that he himself pointed out in his theory in the Origin of Species, still remain unresolved, and in some instances, have only gotten worse.

But, if Charlie was as sharp a cookie as he might be, he would probably also realize that many people now make at least a part of their living - maybe all of it - pushing Darwinism, and reassuring themselves that the problems will all be straightened out in the future.

■ England's Durham University is hosting a Darwinfest with a distinctly defensive feel. Here's Darwinist science philosopher Michael Ruse on the current scene:
Many people – evangelical Christians, Marxist biologists, threatened social scientists, science-ignorant philosophers – think that the days of the theory of evolution through natural selection are numbered if not already over. The theory – call it Darwinism after the author of the Origin of Species – has supposedly run out of steam, if indeed it ever did have the force originally claimed. Supposedly the main mechanism of natural selection is either tautological or inefficient, the theory fails to explain major phenomena like the fossil record, and overall Darwinism is infected with a crude village atheism. There is little wonder that its main supporters today are drawn from the lists of professional God-haters like Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins. This talk takes on all of these people and shows that their doubts and hostility are a combination of ignorance and fear. Darwinism is the jewel in the crown of science.

When I first read that "jewel in the crown of science" schtick, I thought gosh, this has got to be a parody. But apparently not. I guess when people ask legitimate questions, just start yelling bout the crown jewels.

Oh, by the way, some people think they are making a big point by claiming that Darwinists do not use the term "Darwinism" - would those people please note that Ruse and/or his backers said "'Darwinism' is the jewel in the crown of science." (They probably won't, of course. It was a minor point even if it had happened to be correct, but it is all they have until they move on to announcing that ID types also invented the "Marx, Freud, and Darwin" thing. As if.)

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 review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

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

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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