Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dean on Lynn

Discovery Institute blogger Seth Copper is a busy fellow. He hasn't the time to develop his own bad arguments in response to Barry Lynn's excellent op-ed from the Houston Chronicle today. So he relies instead on blogger Darrick Dean to do the heavy lifting for him. You can find Dean's thoughts on the subject here. Let's consider some excerpts:


The Rev. Barry W. Lynn is executive director of the far left, anti-religion, anti-constitution – yet patriotic sounding – Americans United for the Separation of Church of State. This isn’t the place to discuss the fact that “Separation of Church of State” isn’t in the Constitution, but this is the place to discuss Lynn’s recent factless editorial attacking intelligent design.


As soon as someone whips out the canard about “Separation of Church and State” not being in the Constitution, I know I'm not dealing with a serious person. Sure, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” isn't in the Constitution, but the idea is certainly there. After all, if the Founders had wanted church and state to mix, why does the foundational document of the state, the Constitution, make no mention of the church?

Dean is just being silly, SOP for ID proponents, when he asserts that Lynn's op-ed is factless. Here are a few facts I noticed just from a cursory reading:


  • Intelligent design claims that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power. Its advocates don't often name the higher power, but they've offered no serious option other than God.

  • Phillip Johnson, a former law professor who pioneered intelligent design, told a conservative religious audience a few years ago that his goal is to use intelligent design to spread doubts about evolution and then introduce people to “the truth” of the Bible and “the question of sin.” Ultimately, Johnson said, he wants people to be &;ldquo;introduced to Jesus.”

  • In public universities across the land, evolution is taught in science classes without controversy.

  • Conservative religious activists have been unable to ban the teaching of evolution outright or give “equal time” to creationism in public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court slammed the door on those gambits in 1968 and 1987 decisions.


Is Dean disputing any of these points?

I could go on, of course. Lynn's piece is long on opinion, certainly, but that's not so unreasonable considering, you know, that it was an op-ed.


Lynn’s article is virtually a verbatim regurgitation of the naturalist evangelism talking points. I’m getting tired of addressing the same points over and over. Don’t these people think for themselves? Can’t they find some new material?


When ignorant malcontents like Dean and Cooper stop parroting the same tired ID lies, then people like Lynn will move on to more interesting fare. If Dean is really getting tired of addressing these points, then I invite him to take a break from the activity.


He makes the usual irrational claim that because ID points to a designer it is religion, and God-forbid we even acknowledge in the classroom that religion exists. If science points to a designer, then that is where it leads. It’s still science, albeit science that has implications for religion (hasn’t science always had an impact on religious beliefs?). Lynn and his fellow naturalist evangelists like to redefine science to find the conclusions that best fit their personal beliefs. This isn’t science, this is the realm of cold fusion and UFOs.


You will search Lynn's editorial in vain for anything close to the claim Dean is putting into his mouth here. Here is what Lynn actually said:


Phillip Johnson, a former law professor who pioneered intelligent design, told a conservative religious audience a few years ago that his goal is to use intelligent design to spread doubts about evolution and then introduce people to “the truth” of the Bible and “the question of sin.” Ultimately, Johnson said, he wants people to be “introduced to Jesus.”

If the end result of what you are doing is aimed at religious conversion, then it's evangelism, not science. It belongs in a house of worship, not a public school.


It is clear from the provided quote that Johnson, at least, has little interest in uisng ID to learn interesting new facts about nature. For him it is a tool to use in evangelistic outreach. The same point is made in countless other ID publications. If Dean wants to claim that Johnson is not representative of ID folks on this point, he is free to do so. But Lynn's statement is exactly right. That is why Dean had to distort it totally before responding.

As for Lynn's personal beliefs, I really shouldn't have to point out that Lynn is a practicing Christian. He is quite open about his theism.

And where, exactly, did Lynn redefine science? Lynn simply understands that science is what you do when you're interested in learning about the workings of nature. Evangelism is what you do when you're interested in persuading someone to accept your religion. Those are clearly different things, and it is obvious from Johnson's quote above (and countless others Lynn might have chosen to illustrate the same point) that Johnson is more interested in evangelism.


Of course Lynn throws out the standard “ID has no mainstream scientific evidence.” This patently unoriginal line is patently false. The ID movement is made up of accomplished “mainstream” scientists. Of course you must realize that “mainstream” in the eyes of naturalists are only those who rationalize science to support naturalism, not scientists who practice logical science.


Since Dean decided to use quotation marks here, we should point out that Lynn did not say that ID has no mainstream scientific evidence, whatever that means. He actually said, accurately, that ID has no mainstream scientific support.

A crackpot idea doesn't gain credibility when a handful of PhD's embrace it. The way you know that ID has no mainstream scientific support is that no one is using “ID theory” to guide research or produce results. Evolution does both of those things, as a quick browse through any university science library will show you.


In reality, those leading the fight against intelligent design are some of academia’s most ardent atheists (and nataualism is their only hope for validation). So let’s not pretend their cause is about science. They want to continue to be able to rationalize science to their personal beliefs. The naturalists want to continue to replace good science with personal philosophy. ID states “Go ahead and discuss evolution. But stop pretending all scientists, including evolutionists, are in agreement.” Naturalists are intolerant of any discussion of competing theories or on debates that exist on their own theory.


I have no idea who Dean is quoting here.

And who, exactly, are these ardent atheists Dean has in mind? I am certainly an atheist, but I hardly think I qualify as a leader of the fight. P. Z. Myers is an atheist, and I've heard that Eugenie Scott is as well. But when I think of the most outspoken critics of ID I think of people like Ken Miller, Howard Van Till, Robert Pennock, Keith Miller, John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, Arthur Peacocke, Denis Lamoureaux and countless others. These are people who underestand that ID is not only lousy science, but lousy theology as well. Once you have God intervening directly in nature to craft a flagellum or fine-tune a blood clotting cascade, you must also lay at God's feet all of the cruelty and ugliness of nature. Any God who directly created the biosphere as we know it would have to be a monster; and certainly not the omnibenevolent God of Christianity.


ID wants the philosophy and rationalization of naturalism left out of the classroom as much as pseudoscientific forms of creationism. Intelligent design differs from past forms of creationism in that it draws from empirical science. It also forms models and makes predictions. The “scientific content” of ID far exceeds that of naturalism.


Far be it from me to defend “past forms of creationism,” but I feel compelled to point out that Dean is, once again, full of it. The “scientific creationism” of Henry Morris, Duane Gish and others was and continues to be based entirely on empirical science. That was kind of the point.

Of course, the Young-Earthers routinely show an embarrassing lack of understanding of the empirical science they cite, and frequently misrepresent the work of real scientists. But in this hardly distinguishes them from ID folks.


For Lynn to claim “evolution is the basis for much of modern biology” is to claim a great absurdity. When a theory fails to explain virtually everything (irreducible complexity, information in DNA, appearance of new phyla, appearance of man…) how can it be the basis for anything? Good luck with that one.


Had enough? Seth Cooper took Lynn to task for not addressing Behe's scientific arguments. Yet he praises Dean, who gives no consideration to the massive scientific literature addressing all four of the issues Dean says evolution fails to explain. As for evolution being the basis for much of modern biology, I don't need to take Lynn's word for it. What scientists do is recorded for me in countless journals and web sites, and I can see for myself that evolution plays a major role in nearly every branch of biology.

As I have said before, ID folks combine maximum ignorance with maximum arrogance. People like Dean are a perfect example of this principle.

2 Comments:

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynn and his fellow naturalist evangelists like to redefine science to find the conclusions that best fit their personal beliefs. This isn’t science, this is the realm of cold fusion and UFOs.Funny, redefining science to allow conclusions that best fit their personal beliefs is exactly what some ID supporters in Kansas are currently proposing.

 
At 3:34 AM, Blogger zhengbin said...

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