"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More from Darrick

My correspondence with Darrick Dean is becoming more and more surreal. (See his bizarre comments on my posts here and here).

He's now taken to posting about me on his blog. He refers to me as an unnamed "skeptic". Of course, he doesn't provide links to what I actually write myself, or allow me to comment on his posts. Heaven forbid! If he did that, people would realise that he is deliberately misrepresenting what I actually say.

In one post, Scientific Method's Link to Christianity, he writes:

One skeptic recently made the emabarassing claim to me recently that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of the scientific method. Sorry, try studying the history of science. Only with blinders would you not see the influence of Christianity on modern science

The Historic Alliance of Christianity and Science
Christianity and the Origin of Modern Science

Honesty doesn't seem to be Darrick's strong point. What happened, as related in my post Darrick Dean Has A Statement Of Faith, was this...

I asked Darrick how he could claim to be "scientific" when he claimed that the Bible was the "supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses".

He answered (or non-answered) "You are probably unaware that the modern scientific method was derived from biblical pinciples of study and 'testing all things.'"

I replied "According to Wikipedia's article on the Scientific Method, its beginnings can be dated back to at least 1,600 BCE. (The article does not mention the Bible once ;>). I can't find any reference to the Bible being the source of the Scientific Method. Perhaps Darrick can provide me with one. No? I thought not."

Let's be clear about this... Darrick's original claim was that the scientific method came from "biblical principles". His claim now is that I said "that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of the scientific method". That isn't the same thing at all! And as I said, he doesn't link to the previous correspondence or enable me to reply on his blog. Why not? Because if he did, people would realise that he is a lying, weasely toad.

In any event, he's now provided some references (linked above)... But while they point out that the early "modern scientists" were devout Christians (which is hardly controversial) they do nothing to show that the scientific method itself was derived from Biblical principles... Indeed, many of the scientists mentioned in these articles (Copernicus and Galileo especially) were persecuted by Christianity for their beliefs. Newton, Kepler and Pascal were mystics with very odd and unorthodox views of Christianity. None of these men were exactly poster boys for the church in their time...

But then again, neither is Darrick.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Thursday Update

Thanks also to Rich for these great links...

There may be some scientists who do not agree with every part of all of... [standard evolutionary] theories as they now exist, and no scientist believes that we have learned all that there is to learn about any of these theories. But the vast majority of scientists believe that the basic theories are correct...

Laurie Hess Lititz, What Scientists Go Through, Rednova, 24 May 2005

School boards across the nation face increasing pressure to allot instructional time in science classes to "intelligent design." ID’s proponents assert that life on earth and the universe itself were intelligently designed. In some states, teachers face demands to incorporate criticism of evolutionary theory into biology classes. Proliferating in community discussions and in the media are statements declaring evolution and ID as equally meritorious, insisting on fairness, and urging, "Let the students decide."

School board members responding to these pressures are prone to confuse biological fact with religious belief. The situation requires that they obtain sound advice regarding appropriate biological education for our future citizens.

Mynga Futrell, Ph.D., Objectivity, Accuracy and Balance in Teaching About Religion, Religion News, 25 May 2005

I've also updated my Facts For Fundamentalists, and am talking to "bareshiyth" on the Alcaide's Cafe blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Answering Darrick

Darrick Dean has responded to my post to him of 10 May.

His A Response to a Naturalism Evangelist is a spectacular example of Fundamentalist evasion, hand waving and irony-meter-shattering doublethink.

He will not, apparently, allow me to post this response or even a link to it from his blog.

Darrick Dean:
I have rarely seen such disconnected reasoning as in Ptet’s response to my posts.
Given what follows, that is a rather bizarre statement...

Darrick Dean:
He seems to think because of a statement he cut and pasted from ARN doesn’t claim ID theory is empirical, that it can’t be. Really? Claiming there is no other possibility than ID is not invalid simply because ARN doesn’t claim it, it's valid by virtue of the facts. The probability of chance or evolution creating the fine-tuned constants of biochemical complexity or the big bang are zero. Now because Ptet hasn’t bothered to study ID in-depth he obviously hasn’t come across such things, so in his mind they can’t be true because what he has read hasn’t said so. Bizarre. For more on fine-tuning see Creator and the Cosmos and Nature’s Destiny. For more on testable ID see Origins of Life.
Just wait a minute... My claim was not that ID "isn't empirical". It was that Darrick had not established that ID left "no other possibility" than design.

And he hasn't.

Hugh Ross does not claim that the "probability of chance or evolution creating the fine-tuned constants of biochemical complexity or the big bang are zero" and it is ludicrous to claim, as Darrick does, that "there are no presumptions are involved".

At the extreme, Ross claims that these things are so improbable that they could take much longer than the lifetime of the Universe to occur. That is not the same as the odds being zero.

And Ross's calculations are riddled with ridiculous presumptions.

For examples, see the analysis by the anti-evolution Christian Bolton Davidheiser (Ph.D., Zoology) A Statement Concerning The Ministry Of Dr. Hugh Ross on the Bible.Ca website ; and Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations by Dr Ian Musgrave, Senior Lecturer in Experiment & Clinical Pharmacology at Adelaide University.

Ross (like his follower Darrick) subscribes to the belief that "The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses." He specifically excludes even the possibility that the Bible could be wrong. How's that for a presumption...

Michael Denton's work contains similar flaws.

For a very beautiful discussion of the issues involved here from a working biologist, see sweetnes_n_light's The Impossibility of Evolution, where he provides this analogy:
"This man is standing in the middle of an airport, with hundreds of planes flying overhead. He is currently talking to a group of aerospace engineers, some of whom have worked on designing actual spacecraft. And he is telling them, "I get frustrated when you guys cannot see the impossibility of making a flying machine heavier than air".
Darrick is that man.

Remember... Both Darrick and I are arguing from authority here. Neither of us are physicists or biologists.

But I can point to thousands upon thousands of working, credentialed scientists working in physics and Earth and life scientists who have no problem whatsoever with the standard evolutionary understanding of evolution. There are a great many Christians amongst them.

Standard evolutionary theory is taught in the Biology departments of every non-Fundamentalist University the world over. Can Darrick point to one single university biology department (which does not insist that a religious work is the "final authority in all matters") which teaches Intelligent Design? Of course he can't.

As for physics and the Big Bang, just who the hell is Hugh Ross? He's hardly a leader in the field. How can he be an authority of what physicists say?

What about Lee Smolin or Brian Greene or Ed Witten or even Steven Hawking? None of them think that the formation of the Universe is "impossible" without an intelligent designer.

Darrick Dean:
...Dembski claims there is an intelligent cause based on the evidence. This is contrary to evolutionists who are still hoping for science to provide evidence for their predetermined construct of the world. See Design Revolution or Intelligent Design.
Note that Darrick neatly sidesteps the issue that Dembski most definitely does not claim that "there is no other possibility" than intelligent design.

Darrick Dean:
I wrote "Virtually no ID theorists hide their agreement with the age of the universe. Virtually none agree with evolution of species over time. Those whom do things are in the minority." ...

Ptet tries to prove his "contradictions" by two limited quotes. Johnson is an old-earth creationist who has avoided the issue to avoid offending young-earthers. I have taken issue with this elsewhere (Chapter 15 of my book), of course Ptet wouldn’t know that, being it's counter to his claims. In fact I have been very critical of ID’s refusal to directly tackle YECism. They bypass it by assuming it's wrong (which it is). In any case, virtually all of the leading ID theorists are old-earth creationists (including Johnson, Dembski, Behe, etc.) Johnson only respects YECs for their discussions on evolution. Rarely do you see YECs at the forefront of ID. Claim one stands.
The sound you hear is Darrick desperately shifting the goalposts. I fully accept that most of the leading ID Theorists reject a "Young Earth". My point is that they avoid talking about this in public.

He has neatly ignored this section of my post:
"...my original point was that IDers are slippery about what elements of mainstream science they actually believe in. This way they ensure the maximum possible base of support - even if it leads to a lot of confusion amongst ID adherents (and everyone else) about what ID actually says."
The YEC organisation Answers In Genesis has a specific page on its website on this point (AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement). They write
"Many of our supporters have asked us repeatedly for our position on the IDM, so this document is in response to that..."
Why would it be necessary for a YEC organisation to comment on ID if the ID theorists themselves were upfront about rejecting a "Young Earth"? They proceed with some telling statements:
"Since the only thing in their platform which comes close to being a commonly-shared presupposition is a negative (naturalism is wrong), they can provide no coherent philosophical framework on which to base the axioms necessary to interpret evidence relevant to the historical sciences (paleontology, historical geology, etc). So they can never offer a ‘story of the past’, which is one more reason why they must continually limit the debate to one of mechanism - and then only in broad, general terms (designed vs undesigned)..."

"They generally refuse to be drawn on the sequence of events, or the exact history of life on Earth or its duration, apart from saying, in effect, that it ‘doesn’t matter’..."

"Some who are prominent in the IDM appear to be sympathetic to the Bible’s account of Creation. However, if the movement should ever make the strategic inroads it hopes for, then our concern would be that any of its leaders who might later identify themselves with Genesis belief would lay themselves open to charges of having been publicly deceptive..."
The problem is compounded by leading YEC's like Albert Mohler and Jerry Falwell (and a host of happy amateurs like Bonnie Alba) who are all to happy to support ID as a movement without worrying about the age of the earth.

Darrick Dean:
Behe’s acceptance of evolution of species over time is not nearly as radical as evolutionists. Behe, who considers himself a theistic evolutionist, actually sounds more like a champion of limited microevolution than macroevolution. Of course genetics is now showing that many species thought related are not so. ID supporters are only 'slippery' in their beliefs when evolution supporters decide to not to study the details and pick and choose a few out-of-context quotes. Claim 2 stands. See Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design.
There's no argument on the first point... Behe is essentially a theistic evolutionist.

But the second point is hilarious... "genetics is now showing that many species thought related are not so". Huh? Sure, genetics is clarifying the relationships between species - and many superficially similar species are being shown not to be related as was previously thought. But that is science. Scientific understanding changes in the light of new evidence.

The authority Darrick quotes to support his contention on genetics is Thomas Woodward, a " professor at Trinity College of Florida, where he teaches the history of science, communication, and systematic theology." How does that make him an expert on genetics?

The fact is that geneticists overwhelmingly believe that genetics is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that exists for common descent. As the Wikipedia article on Evolution notes:
"Today, the theory of evolution has been strongly confirmed by the science of DNA genetics. For example, every living thing makes use of nucleic acids as its genetic material, and uses the same twenty amino acids as the building blocks for proteins. All organisms use the same genetic code (with some extremely rare and minor deviations) to translate nucleic acid sequences into proteins. Because the selection of these traits is somewhat arbitrary, their universality strongly suggests common ancestry."
Can Darrick point to anything more than three or four exceptions to the thousands of working geneticists who consider their field to be a strong (but certainly not the only) evidence for evolution & common descent? Of course he can't. That's why he just makes up his arguments as he goes along.

Darrick Dean:
Reality isn’t a democracy. The "overwhelming majority" once thought plate tectonics, the big bang model and impact events were wrong. Science isn’t about popularity. If it was, cold fusion would be "true." And considering that mankind appears in the record fully formed and advanced, genetically unrelated to other hominids, what does that say of the "scientists" who claim common descent? Most naturalists can't get their minds around the finds of genetics that have destroyed their theory. Naturalists claim: "But 90-some % of our genes are the same with primates!" If that's what you think, you don't understand genetics.
If wishes were horses, huh? But who is wishing here? I've already demonstrated that Darrick's view of what geneticists believe has no relation to reality.

And "Mankind appears in the record fully formed and advanced". What kind of gibberish is that? What about Sahelanthropus tchadensis? Or Orrorin tugenensis? Or Ardipithecus ramidus? Or Australopithecus anamensis? Or Australopithecus afarensis? Or Kenyanthropus platyops? Or Australopithecus africanus? Or Australopithecus garhi? Or Australopithecus aethiopicus? Or Australopithecus robustus? Or Australopithecus boisei? Or Homo habilis? Or Homo georgicus? Or Homo erectus? Or Homo ergaster? Or Homo antecessor? Or Homo heidelbergensis? Or Homo neanderthalensis? Or Homo floresiensis?

(Thanks to the TO Fossil Hominids FAQ for the list ;>)

The evidence in favour of common descent and evolution is massively greater now that it was a century ago.

Look. The evidence is overwhelming that evolution has occurred. That is why it is a fact. Behe accepts that it did occur. Other IDers do not. The question in evolution is "how did it occur". That's why its also a theory. We know some things. We don't know other things. But that is science. Does the fact that we don't understand Gravity entirely make gravity false? Or does the fact that we don't understand aerodynamics entirely mean that we can't build airplanes?

Darrick's complete and utter denial of reality seems to be nearly complete.

As I've said repeatedly, the main block to his thinking seems to be his total inability to accept that a great many Christians have no problem reconciling their faith with standard evolutionary theory.

He has swallowed hook, line and sinker the old creationist lie that "evolution" equates with atheism...

Darrick Dean:
No, but why is it that the world’s foremost atheists use evolution to support their belief? Without it, there is no atheism. Such an obvious piece of logic. More on the bankruptcy of atheism here.
Bangs head on desk.

Darrick, yet again, completely, dishonestly, and frankly bizarrely ignores the fact many Christians see no conflict between their faith and the standard scientific understanding of evolution. How many? How about organisations representing more than half of the Christians on the entire planet.

As the internationally renowned theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss recently pointed out:
"Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the church's International Theological Commission, which stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."
Yet again it's a case of:
Darrick: All evolutionists are atheists!
PTET: What about the Christian evolutionists?
Darrick: Yes, but all real evolutionists are atheists!
And he accuses me of a logical fallacy...

Here's another. Darrick seems to think that appeals to authority are valid when they are supporting ID, but not when they oppose it...

Darrick Dean:
No, I’m pointing out your blatant logical error. You tout 'authority' to support your view, but pretend no authority exists for the other side. I have said appeals to authority are fundamentally meaningless. It’s quality of scholarship that counts.
That is utterly surreal. Firstly, what does Darrick do but ignore authorities who do not agree with his position? Especially if they are Christian authorities... Secondly, what gives any validity to Darrick's authorities for Intelligent Design? Their "quality of scholarship" certainly hasn't convinced the overwhelming majority of scientists otherwise. And who judges "quality of scholarship? Darrick? Or, perhaps, other scholars in the field?

Darrick is not an expert in physics or biology. Either am I. Our arguments rely almost entirely on authorities.

An appeal to a valid authority is not a logical fallacy. An appeal to an invalid authority is a logical fallacy.

Darrick complains that I "ignore" authorities. How many would that be? 1% of them? 5% of them? Certainly no more than that. How many does that leave him ignoring?

And what "quality of scholarship" is he referring to?

Even ID theorists admit that there is no scholarship to support Intelligent Design as an alternative to standard evolutionary theory.

Plate Tectonics, the Big Bang model and Impact Events are all generally accepted because they have stood the scientific test of time. Cold fusion isn't because it didn't. Evolution has so it did... Except for one small thing - it conflicts with the theology of a small number of unscrupulous theologians who are prepared to lie outright to their flocks (including poor Darrick) in order to protect their "inerrant" view of the Bible.

(There are, of course, non-religious cranks who oppose evolution too... But then there are cranks who do not recognise Plate Tectonics, the Big Bang model and Impact Events).

Darrick Dean:
...ID has always been foremost about practicing good science, which evolutionists refuse to do. Instead they are busy framing the debate as 'science vs. religion.' People aren’t buying it anymore.

Ptet is a classic example of a naturalist evangelist who only studies what confirms his beliefs and holds to the naturalist talking points like they are gospel. Just like the young-earth creationists, naturalists live in isolation: They have already decided they are right and anything contrary can be labeled as religion or heresy. The point of this site has always been to leave these a priori assumptions behind. But the dedicated zealots on both sides probably never will. Their life’s work is at risk.
This from Darrick, who believes that "The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses."

This from Darrick, who cannot provide any evidence to support his claims that ID Theory leaves "no other possibility" than design; or that genetics disproves evolution, or even that "people aren't buying" evolution "any more".

This from Darrick, who in post after post after post, squirms and wriggles and dances and evades and does anything but admit that even one single Christian could ever possibly accept the standard scientific explanation of evolution.

This from Darrick, who won't allow me to post this response or even a link to this response from his blog...

Sorry, but I'm done. My irony meter can't take any more...


Updated for typos ;>

Fruit Trees: Genesis's Nightmare

Darrick Dean writes on his Sciencewatch Blog under the heading Genesis: The Skeptic's Nightmare:

The probability of the writer of Genesis getting science right 1000s of years before scientists figured it out is, well, zero. Yet the writer did get it right. Is Genesis evidence that a designer inspired the Bible? That God is who the Bible says he is? Find out in The Genesis Question.
I'm not sure why he's chosen now to plug a four year old book. In addition, he won't allow comments on his blog entry (or perhaps he just won't allow me to comment).

In any event, the Genesis account in the Bible most definitely does not "get it right" (and the odds of "guessing" the right order are certainly not zero!)

Genesis 1:1-20 says that God created fruit trees two creation days before the first mention of animal life.

Scientific understanding, on the other hand, is that the first plants with roots (ferns) didn't appear until around 350 million years ago - 120 million years after millipedes appeared as the first land animals. (And you think it's been a long time since lunch ;>).

The only way to can reconcile Genesis with scientific understanding is to add words to the Bible which weren't there to begin with.

This is discussed on the Christian American Scientific Affiliation website:
As late as 1835, respected commentators, speaking of Gen. 1:11,12, said, "here we find the earth bearing a great abundance of fruit, probably ripe fruit, before the sun and moon were made." Only with the coming of modern geology was the Church led to believe that Gen. 1:11,12 was saying that fruit trees did not come into existence until after the creation of fish and animals on Day 5. It seems evident that the concordists are reading modern science into the biblical text


It is time for evangelicals to lay aside extra-biblical definitions of biblical inspiration, and agree with Jesus that inspired Scripture can contain concessions. Genesis 1 is a concession. Or, as a modern missionary, aware of the imperative need for divine revelation to be clothed in the terms of the culture to which it comes, has explained: Genesis 1 is a case of divine contextualization.

Paul H. Seely, The First Four Days of Genesis in Concordist Theory and in Biblical Context, From PSCF 49 (June 1997): 85-95.
That doesn't sound like much of a nightmare to me.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

'Intelligent design' theory wasn't ready for prime time

The Smirking Chimp blog put me on to a great piece by Randy Scholfield in the Witchita Eagle of May 06. He watched the Kansas Education Board's hearings on evolution:

Jonathan Wells... star ID witness, is (scratch, scratch) a Moonie who once wrote that it was partly the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's religious dogma that prompted him to pursue a science Ph.D. and set out to "devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

But he echoed the other witnesses in admitting that intelligent design was a "young theory" that wasn't ready for classrooms.

"Most scientists disagree with me," he said flatly of his evolution criticisms.

So why is Kansas listening to him for advice on the state science standards?

Under questioning, ID looked less and less like a theory that was ready for prime time.

The Fossil Non-Problem

Here's another cracker from Darrick Dean:

"Many evolution supporters will claim 'fossils support evolution!' It's obvious these people haven't studied science, only the talking points of their leaders. Because if they had studied the science, they would find evolutionists who admit the fossils haven't born out evolution... [S J] Gould went on to push punctuated equilibrium, which tried to explain away the fossil problem. It didn't work because it lacked a mechanism. Other evolutionists didn't like it because it sounded like divine creation."
Gould answered this nonsense back in 1994 in his classic paper Evolution as Fact and Theory:
"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups."
Gould proposed amendments to the then standard understanding of evolution. Many of these amendments provided a better explanation of the data. Over time, the standard understanding of evolution evolved to include those amendments which stood up to academic scrutiny.

How difficult is that to understand? I guess we'd better ask Darrick. Except he's not allowing comments on that particular post. Funny that.

But it gets better. Michael Behe is one of the few ID leading lights who is a real scientist... Let's see what he had to say about the "Fossil Problem", in a post to the talk.origins newgroup in 1996:
"I didn't intend to "dismiss" the fossil record--how could I "dismiss" it? In fact I mention it mostly to say that it can't tell us whether or not biochemical systems evolved by a Darwinian mechanism. My book concentrates entirely on Darwin's mechanism, and simply takes for granted common descent."
It's a good thing that Darrick has "studied science" and not just "the talking points" of his "leaders". Otherwise he might end up making himself look like an idiot.


Darrick and Incomplete Knowledge

Darrick Dean commented:

"because evolutionary knowledge is not yet compete"

When is it going to be complete? Evolutionists have been saying for 150+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some ID supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." But since you blindly believe the talking points the evolutionist evangelists send you, you don't know that.

"Evolution is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief.
How about this?
Our knowledge of how gravity works is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Gravitationalists have been saying for 350+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some gravity supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." "Gravity is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are gravity supporters going to realise the truth that things fall because the invisible dancing pixies want them to be on the ground?
Or this:
Our knowledge of aerodynamics is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Airplane engineers have been saying for 100+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some "powered flight" supporters have proposed "working hypotheses." "Airplanes are possible, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are airplane supporters going to realise that powered flight is simply impossible?
Or this:
Our knowledge of medicine and disease is incomplete... When is it going to be complete? Doctors have been saying for 3000+ years the evidence is just around the corner. The fact is that some doctors have proposed "working hypotheses." "Medicine is true, we just don't know how yet." Good grief. When are doctors going to realise the truth that people get ill because they are possessed by demons?
Gee, this is fun :-)


Monday, May 23, 2005

Evolution, Education, and Critical Thought - Lembke

Just to add that Karl Lembke has written a very nice piece dealing with Bonnie Alba's lack of knowledge of science: Evolution, Education, and Critical Thought.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hello World

I submitted my recent piece on Bonnie Alba to OpinionEditorials.com and, guess what, they've published it.

So, hello to everyone who's visiting because of that.

Brent Rasmussen of the fun Unscrewing The Inscrutable blog has been in touch to say he's also written about Bonnie's recent writings - Science Is A Process, Not A Belief. He also points to this wonderfully surreal bit of hatemail:

"if you won't believe Jesus loves you, he will torture you for eternity! Every minute your site is up there, he gets more pissed off."
Says it all, really...

Have a good weekend, everybody!


Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday Updates

After seeing a tip on Deltoid, I've added Haloscan commenting and trackback to this blog. It seems to be very funky :-)

I've also recently updated my Facts For Fundamentalists and Did Josephus mention Jesus? pages.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and Bonnie Alba

A concerned citizen by the name of Bonnie Alba has been writing regularly of late about evolution and Intelligent Design.

In a column published on 11 May, she claimed:

"the press continues to follow the path of least resistance, supporting the scientists who proclaim that 'Evolution is an established theory.' Yet those scientists provide no answers to the scientists offering ID." [1]
She also claimed that opponents of Intelligent Design theory are "pushing an 'atheist worldview' on our children".

I wrote to her on these two points [2].

Firstly, a great many Christians see no conflict between their faith and evolution as it is understood by science. I pointed to a recent open letter from over 3,500 Christian clergy, which says:
"...We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children..." [3]
(Ms Alba avoided the issue, talking instead of "real Christians").

Secondly, even the main proponents of Intelligent Design admit that their theory currently offers no teachable alternative to evolution. As Paul Nelson, a fellow of the ID-endorsing Discovery Institute, recently stated:
"Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity' - but, as yet, no general theory of biological design." [4]
They certainly believe that standard evolutionary theory is wrong - although the vast majority of earth and life scientists reject their criticisms [5].

I asked Bonnie if, as a Christian, it was right for her to promote ID as a scientific alternative to evolution when she was apparently so uninformed about both topics.

She replied saying that as I was an atheist, I was not qualified to comment on a what a Christian should or should not do. How that justifies her own behaviour, I do not know.

Following our correspondence, Ms Alba has written another article [6]. In it she refers, apparently to me, as calling her a liar.

I did no such thing. I did say that she was bearing false witness. And it is clear from both of her articles that she is doing just that. (I will leave it to others, more qualified, to comment on her errors of science.)

I am not saying that Ms Alba is dishonest for believing in Intelligent Design or for rejecting evolution. She is entitled to her opinions. And I am not saying that she is deliberately setting out to deceive. What I am saying is that Ms Alba makes untrue statements about the opinions of others. And this is wrong.

In her second article Ms Alba refers to the recent hearings on evolution in Kansas, talking of "prominent scientists supporting ID". But the hearings were specifically (or perhaps supposedly) not about Intelligent Design. They were about exposing students to specific criticisms of evolutionary theory [7] - although again the vast majority of scientists consider these criticisms to have been investigated and rejected.

The ID-supporting Discovery Institute says in its FAQ on the hearings that neither it nor the Kansas science standards writing committee "propose teaching Intelligent Design theory" in Kansas [8].

To be fair, Ms Alba is not the only supporter of Intelligent Design who doesn't seem to know what its Theorists actually say. Albert Mohler (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) [9] and Darrick Dean (who runs an ID-supporting blog) [10] have made similar public statements.

Does it matter that these people are wrong?

Of course it does.

If Ms Alba and others can be so wrong about Intelligent Design, which they purport to promote, what chance do they have of accurately commenting on evolution, which they vehemently oppose?

Ms Alba writes "There appears to be a large gap between the scientific community knowledge and the general public". Of course there is, when people such as she who show no interest in actually learning about evolution, or even it seems Intelligent Design, keep pontificating on both subjects.

What is most worrying, in Ms Alba's case at least, is that she does not seem to care that her public statements are demonstrably wrong.

She seems to see anyone who accepts evolution as either being a false Christian or an amoral atheist. She seems to have her own standards of truth (she calls them "God's"), and apparently thinks that she owes no duty of care to anyone who does not share her own beliefs and prejudices. (She told me that the Biblical prohibition against bearing false witness applies only "to neighbors". Make of that what you will). Despite this, she accuses me of moral relativism.

If Ms Alba were to be honest, she'd make it clear that her arguments were aimed solely at those who, like her, refuse to accept even the merest possibility that the Bible might not have been meant as a science manual.

Ms Alba claims to promote "critical thinking".

I'd invite anyone who thinks that this is a good thing (and I certainly do) to compare her claims about what others say with what they actually say.

Whatever Ms Alba thinks, Intelligent Design does not offer a scientific alternative to standard evolutionary theory, as accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists worldwide, Christians included [5].


Update 20-MAY-05: This article appears on OpinionEditorials.com

[1] Intelligent Design - What Do the Naturalists Have Against It? ,
Bonnie Alba, May 11, 2005.

[2] A complete record of my correspondence with Ms Alba is available on my website.

[3] An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science, 2005.

[4] An Interview with Paul Nelson, Touchstone Magazine, July/August 2004

[5] See my Facts For Fundamentalists

[6] The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and the Public, Bonnie Alba, May 18, 2005.

[7] Kansas State Board Of Education, Science Standards 2005 Draft. (Intelligent Design is not mentioned in the Standards once).

[8] Kansas Evolution Debate Frequently Asked Questions, Discovery Institute, April 27, 2005.

[9] See my Open Letter to Albert Mohler, May 17, 2005.

[10] See my Response to Darrick Dean, May 16, 2005.

Thanks to EJ & AW

AlterNet: Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court?

Read it and weep:

Warren Nord enthusiastically recommended that schools should wrap every subject, including biology, in its religious and philosophical context. An incredulous Irigonegaray asked him, "Is it important to have religion taught in economics class?"

Nord: "Yes."

Irigonegaray: "What about math class?"

Nord: "I can make a case for that."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Darrick Dean Has A Statement Of Faith

Darrick Dean said (before closing his thread to further comments)...

"The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses." is based on the fact that the Bible is verifiable as a factual document. As the statment continues: "An honest study of nature -- its physical, biological, and social aspects -- can prove useful in a person's search for truth. Properly understood, God's Word (Scripture) and God's world (nature), as two revelations (one verbal, one physical) from the same God, will never contradict each other."

You are probably unaware that the modern scientific method was derived from biblical pinciples of study and "testing all things."

I'm in a habit of deleteing posts of people who aren't willing to engage in rational and/or adult conversation. Or people who like to play games.


According to Wikipedia's article on the Scientific Method, its beginnings can be dated back to at least 1,600 BCE. (The article does not mention the Bible once ;>). I can't find any reference to the Bible being the source of the Scientific Method. Perhaps Darrick can provide me with one. No? I thought not.

1,600 BCE is several hundred years before the Bible is generally regarded to have been written down.

There's the problem. Those scholars who insist that the Bible was written before that time tend to insist that it is inerrant. That is circular reasoning, is it not?

In any event, it strikes me as rather disingenuous of Darrick to quote Philip Johnson as an inspiration for his blog saying "Science should never fear honest intellectual tools such as precise use of terms, unbiased investigation of evidence..." and in particular a "refusal to accept unjustified extrapolations" when he does just that by insisting that the Bible is "supreme and final authority".

But hey, Darrick's comments on Intelligent Design have shown, he doesn't seem to care much about "facts".

But then why should he? His "properly understood" interpretation of the Bible trumps all other evidence.

I despair.


(Since Darrick closed the thread on his blog that I had originally posted in to further comments, I've copied my response to a different thread).

UPDATE 31-MAY-05: See here for Darrick's response

Jim Kimbriel

On 5/18/05, Jim Kimbriel wrote:
Dear friends,
I perused several of your article that attempt to shed light on orthodox Christian dogma, but I found no light. I found people willing to take dated and less than brilliant thinkers from the Christian camp to task, but no real serious scholars to the mat. Wrestle with J.P Moreland, Scott Rae, Craig Bloomberg, D. A Carson, John Monson and the like. Then your page will reflect not attacking straw men, but interaction with intense thinkers.

Dear Jim

Thanks for writing.

You know, it's very easy to mail someone boldly claiming that they are wrong; and throw a bunch of names at them and then run away.

Do you have any specific criticisms of anything I've written, or are there any specific claims by your 'thinkers' that you think I should address? Or, as seems more likely, are you just full of crap? (Joke;>)

Kind regards


Jim replied:
Dear PTET,
I am in the middle of another project, but as time and energies allow, I
will return with specifics. I appreciate you quick response.
Yours again,

We'll see if this guy writes again. As an aside, it's amusing to see Jim imply that JP Holding, Albert Mohler and Bonnie Alba, among others, are "less than brilliant thinkers" :-)

The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and the Public

Bonnie Alba is at it again...

There are three reasons the people of Kansas should not be ashamed or embarrassed at the results of the Evolution and Intelligent Design hearings.

One: it was the Darwinists who refused to appear yet attacked the ID proponents (outside the hearings). The media were only too happy to accommodate the distortions of the issues.

Two: it was the (ACLU) civil rights lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, who made a mockery out of the whole procedural hearings. He brought forth no witnesses to show why ID should not be taught nor why the 'controversy should not be taught.' Not a scientist, he went on a 2-hour tirade against the ID proponents which ended the hearings on a raw and blustery note.

Three: Very few media reports were on the mark with the real reasons for the hearings. Many lacked depth in explaining the ID proponents’ position and the fact that prominent scientists supporting ID and calling for “teach the controversy” came from all over the country and other countries.

Bonnie Alba, The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and the Public, OpionEditorials.com, 18 May 2005
But, of course, the hearings specifically were not seeking to support ID. More to come...

Your Christian President

RobotWisdom put me on to this Christian "Anti-Bush" website:

"How much longer will Christians excuse President Bush's blatantly anti-Christian policies and personal behavior? Is the 'R' which represents his political persuasion reason enough for Christians to cast a blind eye? The fact of the matter is that Bush's policies are virtually identical to that of his predecessor, and yet Bush is showered with praise while Clinton is demonized. Therefore, one may deduce that it is not Bush's neo-conservative agenda nor exemplary leadership, but solely his public profession of faith which has gained him the admiration of the Christian masses..."

"The country I know and love has been subverted to an agenda of Christian dogma, misdirection, hateful rhetoric, and intolerance. The United States I know and love stands for right, not might, it has a conscience having been founded in integrity, honor, and respect. The United States I know and love doesn't need to hide prisoners and obstruct inquiries into its actions; rather, it is confident that, in the light of day, its actions may withstand the most detailed scrutiny from all sides..."

"In all honesty, none of our recent presidential administrations have lived up to this standard. But Bush is in office now, and he has taken us to a new low (as has each of the previous few presidents). This site is dedicated to the honest revelation of President Bush's religious beliefs and political policies. This is NOT necessarily a Bush-bashing site; it merely presents Bush's true record, and if you still approve of what Bush is doing, then it may be considered a pro-Bush site. Nevertheless, I have created this website because I believe that most people will be shocked and horrified to discover the truth about the Bush record - from gun rights to issues of soveriegnty to abortion..."

This site itself seems to be a mix of intolerance ("why does Bush talk to Muslims") and conspiracy ("Was Saddam really captured") which doesn't bode well.

Either way, my dealings with Fundamentalists such as Darkstar218, Darrick Dean and Bonnie Alba show that adverse facts have very little impact on some Fundamentalists... And why would they? Fundamentalists know they are right anyway - no matter what.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

An Open Letter to Albert Mohler

Dear Dr Mohler

I hope you don't mind me mailing, but I read your recent fascinating article on Richard Dawkins in the Christian Post, and this led me to your blog.

There, in an entry entitled "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design in Kansas", you say this:

"The fact is that the Darwinist club is running scared. Their failure to show up in Kansas is evidence of a massive failure of nerve... Scholars with the Discovery Institute testified on behalf of Intelligent Design. We'll watch this closely."
If I may make a jokey aside, you may need to watch this closer than you have been.

Scholars from the Discovery Institute most certainly did not testify "on behalf of Intelligent Design". They testified as to alleged problems with the theory of evolution.

I'm sure that you will be as surprised I was to read the recent frank admission from Paul Nelson, a fellow of the Discovery Institute, in Touchstone Magazine July/August 2004:
"Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity' - but, as yet, no general theory of biological design."
Dr Nelson clearly believes that the design of the Universe is obvious - but he is honest enough to admit that "Intelligent Design" is not (yet?) an alternative to standard evolutionary theory.

Further, a recent Open Letter to the Kansas State Board of Education from the Discovery Institute regarding the current controversy does not mention Intelligent Design - as regards teaching or otherwise - once!

As you know, the scientists themselves who boycotted the hearings claim they did so because there is no real scientific controversy over evolution. They claim this supposed "controversy" is politically (or religiously) rather than scientifically motivated.

You are of course entirely entitled to disagree... But given your very measured article on Richard Dawkins, I have no doubt that you will also wish to accurately represent what "Intelligent Design" - and the current debate in Kansas - does and does not say.

On this point, I thought you might be interested in the recent Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science, signed by over 3,500 Christians (including at least one Southern Baptist!) who say:
"...We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.... We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge..."
I hope this information is of interest to you, and would like to thank you for taking the time to read this far.

(In closing, I would be obliged if you could let me know whether you would have any objection to me posting your reply, if any, on my own blog).

Very kind regards


Faith-based reality or reality-based faith?

Browsing Albert Mohler's Blog, I came across this great quote:

"The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith..."

"American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings. Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural. The fascination with the ''end times,'' the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement -- all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats."

Church Meets State, Mark Lilla, New York Times, May 15, 2005
Dr Mohler does not approve: "Well, if those on the evangelical left have their way, he won't have to wait long."

Well, if we're all lucky...

The Devil's Chaplain: Richard Dawkins on Christianity

The Christian Post has a fascinating article on Richard Dawkins by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He writes:

"According to Dawkins' radical secular worldview, real science and real religion can have nothing to do with each other. Any argument to the contrary, he counters, is either a form of disguised belief in God or corrupted science. 'If God is a synonym for the deepest principles of physics, what word is left for a hypothetical being who answers prayers; intervenes to save cancer patients or help evolution over difficult jumps; forgives sins or dies for them? If we are allowed to re-label scientific awe as a religious impulse, the case goes through on the nod. You have redefined science as religion, so it's hardly surprising if they turn out to 'converge.'' New Age scientists pushing their proposed reconciliations of evolution and Christian belief are described by Dawkins as engaged in 'a cloying love-feast of bogus convergence.'" (emphasis added)
Of course, Dawkins does not speak for all atheists, just as the Pope & Ken Ham do not speak for all Christians!

It would be interesting to know whether Mohler accepts certain parts of Dawkins' criticisms of science, religion & new-age-ness...

ID for faithful, evolution for scientists

Panda's Thumb put me on to this article by a microbiologist, which has some interesting comments on ID (emphasis added):

ID proponents claim that some traits are too complex, 'irreducibly complex,' to have emerged by the processes of random mutation and natural selection.

For example, the flagellum is an appendage some bacteria have sticking out that allows them to swim. It is sort of like a microscopic rotating paddle. Flagella are composed of around 30 protein subunits from different genes that work together like a machine to create motion.

If we delete just one of the genes for a subunit, the whole thing can stop working. This is how they determine it is 'irreducible.'

Since the parts don't work separately, ID proponents say, for Darwinian evolution have created the system, there would have to have been numerous mutations all at one time, because natural selection wouldn't select an incomplete system that doesn't yet work. But, since the system has so many parts, it simply couldn't have evolved from mutation all at once.

Do you understand that so far? No, I didn't think so. Unless you have some background in genetics, the concepts of evolution are pretty technical. The ID proponents are relying on the general public to not understand, because that is the only way people will believe them.

The scientific community, composed of the actual experts who understand the vagaries of evolution like bootstrap values and homologous recombination, was so incredulous about this matter that it boycotted the Kansas hearings. They concluded, probably correctly, that a school board biased or dumb enough to give intelligent design a hearing would not really listen to their expert refutations of ID's gobbledygook logic.

Nevertheless, it is important for scientists to try to convey the severe deficiencies in ID to the public. This is a democracy...

ID for faithful, evolution for scientists, Sanjai Tripathi, Oregon State Daily Barometer Online, 12 May 2005
The trouble is that many ID supporters (such as Darrick Dean and Bonnie Alba) don't seem to know or even care what "Intelligent Design" says and what it doesn't. All that matters to them is that evolution is somehow "wrong".

Monday, May 16, 2005

The religious right: An anti-American terrorist movement

The SecWeb newswire put me on to a gem of an article:

"Christian fundamentalism in 'cafeteria style' has chosen which parts of Jesus' teachings it chooses to honor and which not. Preference is always given to the 'I am' passages such as those in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, ' I am the door; the bread of life; the way, the truth, and the life; the light of the world; the living water,' and so on, supposedly claiming to be God and commanding his listeners to accept him as the only way to live forever with God in heaven and escape eternity in hell. Little attention is given to the Sermon on the Mount and the many passages where Jesus condemns the wealthy and the religious leaders of his time for their callous, hypocritical, mean-spirited absence of compassion. In fact, theologians who pay much attention to Jesus' teachings on compassion are viewed as bleeding hearts, unorthodox, and not really Christian. For this reason, Pat Robertson stated on his 700 Club Program, January 14, 1991: 'You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don' have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.' ..."

"...Pat Robertson believes that only Christian people should interpret and benefit from the Constitution. Again, on his 700 Club, December 30, 1981, he stated that "The Constitution of the United States is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society." Never mind that most of the founding fathers did not consider themselves Christian and clearly, adamantly, and unequivocally defended the right of everyone in America to believe—or not believe, as he/she chooses."

Carolyn Baker, The religious right: An anti-American terrorist movement, The Online Journal, May 13, 2005

Does Darrick Dean endorse a Statement Of Faith?

Dear Darrick

I have responded to a number of your posts before - but you seem to have gotten into the habit of simply deleting posts you don't like. Given that you run a blog supposedly promoting scientific enquiry, this seems to me to be a rather strange thing for you to do.

I will place a copy of this post on my own blog just in case.

I have a quick question.

Do you still endorse the Reasons to Believe Statement Of Faith? You certainly used to.

I only ask because you quote Phillip Johnson on the front page of your blog saying "Science should never fear honest intellectual tools such as precise use of terms, unbiased investigation of evidence and refusal to accept unjustified extrapolations."

I'd like to understand how you can promote "unbiased investigation" if you still believe that (as the Reason Statement of Faith says) "The Bible is... supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses."

However, for now a yes or no answer will do!



Another response to Darrick Dean

Back in February, I responded to a post On Darrick Dean's Science Watch blog regarding Intelligent Design. As is his want, Darrick responded and then closed the thread to further comments.

I've decided to take the opportunity of answering his response here...

PTET: [If science points to a designer, then that's where it leads. Except that ID doesn't.]

Darrick Dean: It does, you just ignore the evidence.
Does it? Darrick doesn't say how. And, as demonstrated in this post, Darrick doesn't seem to know what ID actually says...
PTET: [All it does is claim that life or certain life mechanisms are supposedly "too complex" to have evolved "naturally". ]

Darrick Dean: If you can’t tell the difference between design and chance, how do you operate in society?
This is a false dilemma. Many things in the world are not "designed" and (like evolution) do not occur solely through "chance". An example is the way languages change over time.

In normal day to day experience, we use of previous experience of what we know has been designed to infer design. ID posits that where we do not have a full explanation of how something occurs "naturally" we must assume that it could not have occurred naturally. That is ridiculous.
PTET: [The vast majority of earth & life scientists, including professional biologists, don't agree. ]

Darrick Dean: Isn’t that the opinion poll/population fallacy?
That's Special Pleading on Darrick's part. What does he use to support ID? The opinions of a group of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. He argues from authority. All I wish to do is point out that the vast majority of authorities reject ID as science.
PTET: [The IDists can't point to any *positive* evidence in favour of ID]

Darrick Dean: Actually they do, you just refuse to look at it.
Actually they don't - but then Darrick, for all he runs a blog on the subject, doesn't seem to know what ID actually says.
PTET: [You repeat the oft-told lie that evolution is necessarily related to atheism.]

Darrick Dean: Atheism requires naturalism to be correct. Deal with it.
But not all people who believe in evolution are Atheists. Moreover, atheism predates evolutionary theory by thousands of years. Finally, atheism like science does not preclude the supernatural - it just expects there to be some way of verifying what that supernatural is. Remember - ID theory explicitly states that it can tell nothing about the nature of a designer. It is therefore useless as science.
PTET: [Most Christian Scientists and more importantly most Christian biologists accept that evolution occurred as mainstream science states.]

Darrick Dean: Says the teacher union/NSF talking points?
Says these Christians themselves. Darrick's continued avoidance of this point is simply dishonest.
PTET: [ that science is "biased" because it only looks for "natural" causes & effects.]

Darrick Dean: Funny, I never said that. Whose page are you reading?
Erm, the pages where Darrick bemoans, time after time, that scientists ignore ID? In any event, I note Darrick's position: science is not biased against non-natural causes & effects. (What he means by that exactly, I do not know).
PTET: [Can you name *one* scientific or technological advance *ever* the entire history of the world that was *not* based on "natural" causes or effects?Of course you can't.]

Darrick Dean: Yes I can: Origin of man. Genetics proves it. And naturalists discovered it. But you wouldn’t know that?
What utter gibberish. The vast majority of scientists accept evolution as understood my mainstream science. They do not support ID. But as ever, Darrick prefers the authority of the tiny minority of scientists who share his philosophical & theological prejudices...


UPDATE 26-MAY-05: Read about Darrick's response to this post.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Correspondence with Bonnie Alba

Dear Bonnie

Thank you for your mail.

I'm very sorry that you feel the way you do. I shall add you to my
list of religious fundamentalists that are unable to provide any
rational basis for their beliefs and actions. Fair enough?

You apparently think is moral for Christians to lie to non-Christians.

You think it is moral to promote the teaching of 'Intelligent Design'
in public schools when a Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the
primary promoter of ID Theory, admits that 'Intelligent Design' offers
no alternative theory of biological design to that of standard

You think it is moral to equate evolution with atheism, when over
3,000 Christian Pastors - along organisations representing more than
half the worlds Jews and Christians - state that there is no conflict
between the theory of evolution and their religious beliefs.

You pray that I will 'find the truth of' my 'own individual quest',
and implore me 'please do not stop at the walls of the box.'

By that I can only assume that you wish my beliefs not be bound by
logic and reason.

Then how can you justify your beliefs over those of Islamic
Fundamentalist suicide bombers? You do not say.

I did not call you a 'liar', Bonnie. I said that you were bearing false witness.

In the hundreds of words that you have written to me, you have made no
attempt whatsoever to defend the statements you made in your article
entitled 'Intelligent Design - What Do the Naturalists Have Against

Instead you have questioned repeatedly my actual *right* to have opinions.

When I sought to defend my arguments, you retreat to patronising
platitudes about prayer and your family.

Recently, a fundamentalist Christian - who contacted me uninvited -
said this: "One thing is for sure, within 100 yrs. you and I will both
know who was right."

I don't think that is necessarily so.

But I do fervently believe that if God does exist, I will be able to
stand before him on the day of judgement and say that I acted morally
and rationally and with good will to all mankind... And that I did not
bear false witness against my neighbours or anyone else.

Clearly you will not be able to say that.

You will continue to write articles that are at odds with reality. You
will continue to bear false witness. And you will continue to offer
"prayers" for those who seek, with the best of intentions, to correct
your errors.

Pity me all your like, Bonnie... But save your prayers for yourself.
Whether God exists or not, I think you will need them.

Kind regards


You can see the complete record of my correspondence with Bonnie here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Open letter to Bonnie Alba

Dear Ms Alba

I read with interest your editorial piece entitled Intelligent Design - What Do the Naturalists Have Against It?.

Your conclusion says: "When a science teacher announces that we are
all accidents, "nature is all there is," then this is philosophy and
not "empirical science." Instead of following the evidence where it
leads, the scientific community is enclosing itself in a box of its
own making. Science teachers will have a difficult time as more
Americans educate themselves and their children about Darwinism and
the naturalist worldview."

Surely you recognise that science does not say "nature is all that
there is". But if we can't measure, replicate or empirically examine
something beyond nature, then what use is science? The questions move
to philosophy or theology - hardly the realms of the science

Your article (please forgive me) seems to show a rather shockingly
poor knowledge of evolutionary theory on your part. You also don't
seem to recognise that a great many Christians worldwide accept that
evolutionary science is quite compatible with their belief in God, as
the links on this webpage demonstrate.

More worrying, you don't seem to be aware that even the proponents of
Intelligent Design are quite upfront that they themselves do not yet
have a "scientific" alternative to standard evolutionary theory.

As Paul Nelson, a fellow of the ID-endorsing Discovery Institute,
wrote in Touchstone Magazine in 2004 (quoted here):

"Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a
full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory
right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to
know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag
of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible
complexity' and 'specified complexity' - but, as yet, no general
theory of biological design."

Do you really think it is right for you to promote Intelligent Design
as an alternative to standard evolutionary theory, when ID theorists
themselves admit that they do not yet have an alternative?

And do you not think that the Christian thing to do would be for you
to attempt to learn more about what *scientists* have to say about the
evidence for evolutionary theory, rather than relying on information
from clearly mis-informed third parties?

After all, "Intelligent Design" is not taught as science in any
non-Fundamentalist University. Is it not odd, therefore, that people
propose it should be taught in public schools?

Very kind regards


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Response to Darrick Dean

Dear Darrick

A while ago, I responded to a post about Intelligent Design on your R2's Sciencewatch blog. I've recently found an answer to my post. The thread in question is now closed for further comments; but I'd like to respond anyway. It seems to me that you have some very strange ideas about ID Theory and what it says. Please do prove me wrong if you can.

When I've written to you before, you've either ignored my answers or simply deleted my posts. I very much hope that you'll take the time, however, to answer me this time.

Darrick Dean: Let me relieve you of your fantasy land:

Given what follows, this is a rather bizarre statement...

PTET: [If there is a process which we cannot
explain, the only reasonable position to take
is that we cannot explain it. Instead, ID presumes
that the explanation must be an "intelligent cause".]

Darrick Dean: No ID shows an intelligence is the
cause through science. It shows empirically why
there is no other possibility. If you actually
read about it, you’d know there are no
presumptions are involved.

That is not even wrong.

This is from the Intelligent Design movement's FAQ on the ARN website:

"Specified complexity is displayed by any
object or event that has an extremely low
probability of occurring by chance, and
matches a discernable pattern. According
to contemporary design theory, the
presence of highly specified complexity
is an indicator of an intelligent cause."

There is nothing there to say that "empirically... there is no other possibility" than intelligent design. The noted ID theorist William Dembski says:

"Now it can happen that we may not know enough
to determine all the relevant chance hypotheses.
Alternatively, we might think we know the relevant
chance hypotheses, but later discover that we
missed a crucial one. In the one case a design
inference could not even get going; in the other,
it would be mistaken. But these are the risks of
empirical inquiry, which of its nature is fallible.
Worse by far is to impose as an a priori requirement
that all gaps in our knowledge must ultimately
be filled by non-intelligent causes."

(Dembski "No Free Lunch, 2002, p123, quoted at TO)

Of course, as TalkOrigins's "Index to Creationist Claims" points out, science makes no such "requirement" about non-intelligent causes - and Dembski himself seems to have an a priori requirement that ultimately everything must have an intelligent (as opposed to as-yet-unexplainable) cause.

If you don't agree, Darrick, I think its reasonable for me to expect you to quote something from the ID movement to suggest that "there is no other possibility" than Intelligent Design...

PTET: [Indeed, the philosophical biases of ID
create the entirely ludicrous situation that
ID-theorists go to great lengths to avoid talking
about the aspects of mainstream science which
they *do* secretly agree with - such as the
extreme age of the universe, and the evolution
of species over time]

Darrick Dean: This is a dead give away you don’t
know what you’re talking about. Virtually no ID
theorists hide their agreement with the age of
the universe. Virtually none agree with evolution
of species over time. Those whom do things
are in the minority.

There are two claims here: (a) that IDer's are pretty much united in accepting an "ancient" universe; and (b) that they are pretty much united in rejecting common descent. Again, these claims are contradicted by ID's leading lights.

ARN author Phillip Johnson (quoted approvingly on the front page of your blog) wrote in 2004 that the "age of the earth" is most definitely not settled amongst ID as a movement:

"I have consistently said that I take no position
on the age of the earth, and that I regard the
issue as not ripe for debate yet. I have also
rejected all suggestions that I should denounce
the YECs and instead have said that I regard
high-quality YECs like Andrew Snelling as
respected allies."
(Quoted at Panda's Thumb)

I am quite happy to accept that Johnson rejects the idea of common descent!

On the other hand The leading ID Biologist Michael Behe seems to accept an "old earth" and the evolution of species over time in his central work Darwin's Black Box:

"For the record, I have no reason to doubt that
the universe is the billions of years old that
physicists say it is. I find the idea of common
descent (that all organisms share a common
ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no
particular reason to doubt it. I greatly
respect the work of my colleagues who
study the development and behavior of
organisms within an evolutionary framework,
and I think that evolutionary biologists
have contributed enormously to our
understanding of the world. Although
Darwin's mechanism--natural selection
working on variation--might explain many
things, however, I do not believe it
explains molecular life."

(Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, p. 5, quoted here)

This line is followed in an statement made in an article from the Kansas City Star in April 2002, reprinted on the Discovery Institute website:

"Calvert, a lawyer from Lake Quivira, thinks
a third possibility exists to explain life and
its diversity: "intelligent design," the theory
that everything in the universe was designed,
not the result of natural processes. Intelligent
design adherents don't disagree with evolutionists
over the age of the Earth or many other tenets
of evolution, such as natural selection."

Of course my original point was that IDers are slippery about what elements of mainstream science they actually believe in. This way they ensure the maximum possible base of support - even if it leads to a lot of confusion amongst ID adherents (and everyone else) about what ID actually says.

Reading the ARN FAQ, you'd never know that Behe supported much of "common descent" in Darwin's Black Box:

"...the scientific literature shows that the rock
record, far from supporting neo-Darwinism, has always
been something neo-Darwinists have had to explain away.
What the evidence shows is not gradual change, but
sudden appearance and stability: Most fossils species
appear all at once, fully formed, and exhibit no
directional change throughout their stay in the rocks"

That is, of course, wholly wrong about the fossil record... And Behe may have changed his position on Common Descent since Darwin's Black Box. Who knows... He never says for sure. It seems to me, however, that ID supporters don't really care... All that matters is that "evolution is wrong".

PTET: [You ignore that the vast majority of
*Christian* scientists - and in particular
biologists - hold no truck with ID. Their
numbers vastly outweigh the number of ID-theorists.]

Darrick Dean: Says who? Your talking points
from the teacher's union?

Erm, no... It's reasonable conclusion from these facts:

  • We know that the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that mankind evolved from less advanced forms of life...
  • Organisations
    representing more than
    of the world's Christians and Jews accept the scientific view of evolution...
  • Over three thousand Christian clergy have signed up to a recent statement supporting evolution as understood by mainstream science...
  • Project Steve demonstrates that evolution has vastly more support amongst scientists than creationism and ID
Further, evolution as understood by mainstream science is taught in every non-religious University in the world - and a great many religious Universities too. Which Universities teach ID as science?

I think your problem, Darrick, is that you've swallowed hook, line and sinker the old creationist lie that "evolution" equates with atheism.

PTET: [You ignore that evolution - as it is understood
to have occurred by mainstream science - has a vastly
greater & broader level of support than ID.]

Darrick Dean: So did Nazism, did that make it right?

My statement was in answer to the following quote from an ID supporter: "The leaders and most promoters of ID are well-credentialed scientists of different religious and philosophical backgrounds."

Are you saying, Darrick, that appeals to authority are valid when they are supporting ID, but not when they oppose it?

Or are you just arguing for the sake of it?

To say that ID supporters have a wider religious and philosophical range than non-ID supporters is more than wrong. It's dishonest.

PTET: [You - again - dishonestly equate
evolution with atheism.]

Darrick Dean: Ah, no. Most of the most ardent
evolutionists are atheists. Nice try.

This argument goes something like this:
Darrick: All evolutionists are atheists!
PTET: What about the Christian evolutionists?
Darrick: Yes, but all real evolutionists are atheists!
Shall I warm the bagpipes up?

This seems to be a major block to your thinking. You equate evolution with "materialistic science". Since your arguments are refuted by the support of Christians for evolution as understood by mainstream science, it seems to me that you have no choice but to ignore them.

PTET: [However, ID claims to be able to see
design in biological functions which we have
not got the first clue how to build ourselves.
ID is seeing patterns in the clouds. Do they
exist? They might - but there are any number
of other possible explanations.]

Darrick Dean: There is a difference between natural
patterns and designed features. For a technical
discussion of the difference, see Dembski’s book,
Intelligent Design.

A technical discussion, huh? Well, I've already quoted Dembski saying that there is a risk of "false positives" in detecting design. How does he propose we tell the difference? By making presumptions. Which contradicts your earlier remarks on the subject.

As Dembski wrote in 1999 (quoted here): "...if things end up in the net that are not designed, the criterion will be useless..."

PTET: [In you conclusion you state: "Evolution
has become so infected with naturalistic
presuppositions and unreasonable science,
it has failed to meet any of these goals." Says who? ]

Darrick Dean: Says the science. Nice try. If you
want to ignore science and logic, don’t bother
wasting my time.

Well, Darrick, I have to say that I don't see any science and very little logic in your writings as quoted above... But if you disagree, I very much hope that you take the time to explain why.

Kind regards