Friday, November 18, 2005

Krauthammer on ID

Periodically I go off on a rant about the anti-science tendencies of the modern Republican party. I do so knowing that in response I can expect some well-meaning commenter to lecture me about how not all conservatives are anti-science and that I shouldn't paint with such a big brush and all that.

In that spirit, allow me to link to this excellent column from Charles Krauthammer. It gets off to a shaky start, talking up the religiosity of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Einstein, however, was not religious in any sense an evangelical Christian would recognize. In fact, he once ridiculed the idea of a personal God as a childish delusion.

But Krauthammer gets it gloriously right later in the column:

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological “theory” whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a “theory” that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, “I think I'll make me a lemur today.” A “theory” that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the “strong force” that holds the atom together?

In order to justify the farce that intelligent design is science, Kansas had to corrupt the very definition of science, dropping the phrase “natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us,” thus unmistakably implying -- by fiat of definition, no less -- that the supernatural is an integral part of science. This is an insult both to religion and science.

It's hard to improve on that.


At 10:42 AM, Blogger LiberPaul said...

I, too paint with too broad a brush at times. I work with several outspoken Republicans, noe of whom buy the ID crap. It makes sense considering we are all chemists..... They are even disturbed by this trend with ID right now and they too hope it will go away.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Krauthammer makes an excellent point about Newtonian physics, Relativity and Chemistry. As I recall, Newton's laws of motion and the Schrodinger Equation make no mention of God. Nor do I see God mentioned anywhere in E=mc**2.

So while IDiots and religious loonies are purging "atheistic dogma" from the Biology classroom, might as well keep right on going and clean up Phycics and Chemistry as well.

After all, if evolution boils down to (atheistic)Chemistry, which in turn ultimately boils down to (atheistic) Physics, then gadzooks! Atheism is woven into the very fabric of Evolution!

Same for (atheistic) Big Bang cosmology, being woven from (atheistic) Relativity and (atheistic) Quantum Mechanics.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Don Singleton said...

See my blog post on this.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

Another thing that's funny about ID folks is that they don't argue about the science in medecine, or mechanics, or computers, or flight, etc., just evolution. Now, what are the chances that ALL of science is correct EXCEPT evolution, which is 100% wrong???

And if they DON'T think that all of that other science is right, then why aren't they fighting to teach alternatives to that stuff, you know, like, so kids can learn to be better thinkers and stuff.

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really hard to believe the poor state of the education system in the USA. Very few students and almost no college graduates seem to know the difference between a "scientific law" and a "proposed theory". Darwin's nonsense has been bantered around for a century and a half and not one factual scientific study has been confirmed that could convert his "theory" into a "law". For those who aren't trained in the sciences a "theory" only converts to a "law" when the tests and experiments always yield the same results. Oddly those who most readily defend Darwin's theory are those whose hubirus convinces them that human intelligence is the best the universe has to offer.

At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would be absolutely happy to accept evolution as fact, not theory, when the fossil record of transitional species proves it true.

show me a species between a man and an ape which cannot be traced back to a hoax, a pig's tooth, disturbingly inaccurate dating methods, etc and i will confidently proclaim evolution as truth.

let's continue to be critical of every side of an arguement, let's do our homework on this one.


At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

To "anonymous": Your definitions of Theory and Law are wrong. Evolution will never become a law no matter what. Evolution *contains* laws though. A law is something that only refers to one statement, but evolution collection of statements. For example, a law is like saying "if you cross the street you get to the other side," whereas Evolution is like saying "here's the fastest way to get to the restaurant." It includes the "law of crossing the street" but is not, in and of itself, a law. Even Creation and ID can never be a law. Get your facts straight about what laws and theories are before you complain about them.

Also, as for transitional animals between modern man and our ape ancestors, there are TONS of transitional samples and plenty of them are virtually complete (or at least significantly more than a mere tooth). Yes, there have been hoaxes, but guess what? It was SCIENCE that proved them to be hoaxes. You see, science WORKS. And guess what else? The science that proved them hoaxes is the same science that proves evolution. Surely you don't think that science is only valid when it proves hoaxes but is completely wrong in all other regards, right?

You claim that when a transitional creature is found and can be verified to your standards you'll say evolution is true. Ha! Nothing will ever be proven to you because no matter what proof their is, you will deny it. Tell me, what will prove it? I know you don't believe in carbon dating or any other age dating (because plenty of that has been done) and I know you won't take visual proof (because there's plenty of that too). What will do it? Please be specific.

By the way, please don't get the word "theory" wrong. In its scientific usage (as opposed to current slang) the word theory does not mean something is unproven or isn't a fact. Think of the word "theory" as meaning "explanation" or "how it works." The word "fact" doesn't explain anything. A theory is made up of facts, of course, so the words are often used in the same sentence, but don't fall for the common (unscientific) belief that a theory is an unproven fact. Let's just say for the moment that you agree that evolution is a "fact." Now let's say someone says "Wow, it's a fact? How does evolution work?" How would you explain what evolution is and how it works? You would explain the theory to them.

Are there areas where we don't have all of the facts? Sure, but scientists don't claim that their work is done and it's time to go home. They are constantly filling in the missing information. These things take time and effort. A "missing link" does not invalidate evolution, it just means there's more work to be done. Sometimes I can't find what I'm looking for in the supermarket, but that means I look harder, it doesn't mean I give up and consider it a fact that it's not there.

There used to be "gaps" in our knowledge of what lightning is, or how disease is spread, or how to fly, but science plodded on and filled those gaps. Evolution is a work in progress and always will be, because with billions of years worth of info, there will always be new things to learn. Science is all about curiosity, as opposed to Creation or ID, which are about giving up and saying "He did it" and leaving it at that. Every time I get sick and get better with medecine I'm thankful to scientists for not giving up and chalking everything up to God.

At 3:47 AM, Anonymous Osmo said...

In phil of science, laws are considered universal formal descriptions of how some observed aspect of nature will behave. It is not a term given based upon how certain we are. Hence Newton's laws despite the fact we know them to be inaccurate. Theories attempt to explain the behavior of phenomena. A law of gravity might tell us how things will move, such as the rate at which things will fall down, while a theory of gravitation will attempt to account for why things move they way they do. That's why something like evolution or heliocentrism is a theory. It's not because both aren't well established. They are. It's because they both are just explanatory accounts of a large set of observations. The reason we see nested hierarchies of biological traits is because of common descent in the same way the reason we see the motion of the planets in the sky the way we do is because of heliocentrism.

(For a simple description of planetary motion, see Kepler's *Laws*)

In the phil of biology, there is dispute over whether there are any biological laws. But for an example of a good canidate for a biological law, look at Fischer's sex ratio argument.

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, a lot of IDers have problems with other parts of science. Many don't accept Big Bang theory, even though it sits very nicely with a non-literal theism. All YEC IDists don't accept the entire field of geology, as currently practised, let alone a particular theory. Again there is rich irony in this as modern geology was founded by very devout Christians trying to understand (what they saw as) God's works. Others refuse to contemplate certain interpretations of quantum mechanics on theological grounds. The public focus on evolution is, in my opinion, the result of evolution being a widely misunderstood concept in the public mind. It is very easy to put up a straw man evolution and knock it down, whereas the central tenets and the evidence for them of the Big Bang and geology are relatively simple and easy to grasp on a basic level (that's certainly not to say they are easy to understand in full). Possibly there's an added spice given that many people seem to have a visceral reaction to the idea that we are descended from "monkeys", whereas the idea of deep time doesn't provoke such strong gut reactions.

Ginger Yellow

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Anonymous -

You really don't know what the hell you are talking about, do you? Your comments about "theory" vs "law" reveal deep ignorance of the scientific method. I haven't seen a single objection to evolutionary theory that isn't based in ignorance, distortion or downright wrong information. Hopefully the comments from the others have got you thinking about "theory" and "law". Now you need to go and do YOUR homework! Why don't you start with a good freshman level biology textbook?

Regarding your comment about "hubris": since when does evolutionary theory claim that human "intelligence" is the epitome of evolutionary achievement?? It is the IDiots and religious loonies who are guilty of hubris, insisting that humans are the specially created little favorites of God. Hell, we even look like Him (or Her)!! Why, we're so damn special that the thought of sharing common ancestry with all the other creatures is repugnant! If that ain't hubris, if that ain't arrogance, I don't know what is.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Lantern Bearer said...

I found this to be such a moving and unlikely piece, that I was moved to email Karauthammer and extend to him my heartiest "Boy, Howdy". I have no trouble in notions of belief in a higher power or ultimate existence. I do have trouble with those who would wield it as a crugel. I am a very short tempered crugel target. I am very tolerant of expressions of good and compassion extended out of a sense of personal faith. If I never again enter a space filled with poinsettias or lilies, or catch a whiff of incense from a swinging censer , I know that my way in the universe(s) is stardust to stardust.

Lantern Bearer

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before lavishing praise on Dr. Krauthamer, it should be noted that he has recently contributed an article to Commentary Magazine. This publication has published the antievolution crap of David Berlinski and the African Americans are intellectually inferior crap of Charles Murray (of Bell Curve infame). It strikes me that when you get in the pen with the pigs, you stand a good chance of acquiring a coat of mud.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Fred said...

anonymous said:
"Before lavishing praise on Dr. Krauthamer, it should be noted... [etc]"

What matters to me (with regard to praising him) is what his article said, not what some past articles in the magazine have said.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger bmk md said...

Evolution is a "theory" in a very simple minded way, but, ID is not even a theory of how all the creatures and plants got here. There is no design in "intellegent" design. Evolution has a century and a half of pervassive documentation of support in many areas of science and ID has none. Only the bible seems to support ID. If ID is a good scientific theory, where's the proof for it? What is the mechanism for the design? Evolution has a very specific well founded design with DNA choices, amino acid possibilties mixed with limtited random events in gene mixes and mutations.
And natural selection very much has design, not randomness, i.e a cumulative process resulting in gradual or step-wise change based upon a simple, easy to understand process.
Where's the design in ID? where are the mechanisms to teach our children and what are the mechanisms of ID for our children to learn test? Where's the science in ID?

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