Monday, January 23, 2006

Round Two with Krauze

Last Thursday, Krauze, of the pro-ID blog Telic Thoughts, posted this essay in which he argued that big scientific ideas require time to come to fruition. He illustrated this idea with the early days of evolutionary theory, pointing out that it was more than sixty years after Darwin published the Origin that the neo-Darwinian synthesis was developed. This was intended as a rebuttal to those who criticize ID for not producing any peer-reviewed research. ID has only been around for a decade, you see.

I replied here. I made four main points in reply.

The first was that, unlike ID, evolution had a solid foundation in empirical fact. A biologist of the late nineteenth century could be confident that the search for a mechanism of evolution was leading somewhere, because the fact of common descent had been adequately established by Darwin. ID, by contrast, has only proposed arguments that are completely false. Consequently, there is no reason to believe an ID research program wull ever get anywhere.

My second point was to correct Karuze's history. In his initial post he said that no theory of evolution had been proposed prior to the syntheiss of the thirties and forties. I pointed out that that was not correct.

My third point was that ID has not evolved at all in the decade or so that it has been around. This was in response to Krauze's contention that ID was developing in a manner similar to how evolution developed in its early days.

Finally, my fourth point was that people on my side would be perfectly happy to give ID proponents all the time they want. The trouble is, the leading ID proponents do not act like people who simply want time to develop their ideas. Instead, they run around claiming that they already have the goods, that they have made discoveries that should place them right along Galileo and Newton, and that they have revolutionized science.

Krauze replied here. Since he seems to have missed every important point, I thought I'd take another stab at it.

Krauze begins by stating that the title of my blog entry, “Is ID Just a Matter of Time?” overstated his point. He was not suggesting that ID was just a matter of time, rather his point was simply that new sciences take time to develop. He writes:

I think there are some subtle clues that point to intelligent design, but when dealing with natural history, there’s always a possibility that a closer look reveals another picture. If it turns out that there’s nothing to intelligent design, all the time in the world won’t make a difference. The point in my post was much more subtle: Sciences don’t spring up fully formed, as Athena from Zeus’ forehead. Critics should keep this in mind when demanding to see intelligent design turned into a research program.

Of course, there's no controversy that new branches of science take time to come to fruition. But the demand that ID advocates produce some significant reasearch in defense of their claims is merely a response to the conduct of its leading proponents. People like William Dembski and Michael Behe claim to already have the goods. I think it's perfectly reasonable for people on my side to point out that, actually, they don't.

We will consider this further below. But let's turn now to Krauze's bullet point replies (to my bullet-point criticisms):

Rosenhouse claims that intelligent design rests entirely on the pillars of irreducible complexity and complex specified information: “Nothing the ID folks build upon such a foundation will ever produce anything but poisonous fruit.” I don’t presume to have Rosenhouse’s gift to see into the future, so let’s instead look at the past. As I said in the comments, we have yet to see a work comparable to Darwin’s Origin of the Species on intelligent design. How was the state of evolution prior to the publication of Darwin’s great work? As Mike explained, the road was paved by Robert Chambers’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Michael Ruse describes it as “the Big Mac of popular science”, in that it was “very tasty, very filling, very accessible, and (in the opinion of the authorities) of very dubious value to one’s health. Vestiges was the archetype of pseudoscience.” (P. 48) The archetype of pseudoscience. Yet on this foundation a prosperous research program was eventually built.

I note that Krauze does not dispute my contention that arguments based on irreducible complexity or complex specified information are hopelessly flawed. Instead he points to Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and identifies it as the rotten foundation that nonetheless led to fruitful research in evolution.

Sadly, that's ridiculous. Chambers' work has some historical significance today, but it was rightly dismissed by the scientists of the time, including Darwin. It did not form the foundation of any important scientific research. Modern evolutionary theory begins with Darwin, and his work was a solid foundation indeed for a new science.

Krauze claims that ID has not yet produced its own Origin. I certainly agree, but I'm surprised that an ID supporter would make that claim. I was under the impression that Dembski's The Design Inference and No Free Lunch, and Behe's Darwin's Black Box were supposed to be precisely those seminal works. In fact, in this paragraph Krauze seems to be saying that the combined works of ID proponents to date is at the level of Chambers' work. And since he is happy to describe Chambers' work as the archetype of pseudoscience...

In reply to my point that there were a great many proposed theories for evolution's mechanism prior to the synthesis, Karuaze writes:

Rosenhouse claims that it’s “manifestly untrue … that there were no proposed theories of evolution prior to the synthesis”, citing Lamarckism and mutationism (the proposition that evolution was driven solely by mutations, with no input from natural selection). Here’s the definition of a “theory” from the National Academy of Science, embraced by ID critics at Dover:

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

Although I agree that there were some observations that were seen as providing support for Lamarckism and mutationism, I disagree that either of those were “well-substantiated”. In fact, they would seem to fit better under NAS’ definition of a hypothesis (“A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested”).

In my original blog entry I made a clear distinction between a well-developed theory and a proposed theory. Krauze here argues that instead of “proposed theory” I should have said “hypothesis.” Fine. The fact remains that there were many possible meachanisms of evolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and all could claim a considerable amount of support. And these hypotheses led to clear avenues of research. ID, alas, does not even have a hypothesis. It has nothing at all beyond falacious logic and distortions of modern science. This is what Krauze will have to come to terms with if he wants to draw any comparisons between modern ID and the early days of evolution.

Krauze next writes:

According to Rosenhouse, “The idea that ID has evolved over the years is nonsense. ID is today what it has always been: A political and legal strategy for uniting various schools of creationism under one banner acceptable to all.” We’ll ignore the Wedge-centrism, and get straight to the point. Ruse explains how evolution became a professional science by shedding its metaphysical baggage of progressionism, and the teleological approach has also evolved, shedding its commitment to religious apologetic. Young-earth creationism was wedded to a particular interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis, whereas even agnostics like me can contemplate intelligent design. Furthermore, ID has made the integration of evolution and design possible, something that could never have happened with young-earth creationism.

It is completely false that Young-Earth creationism is wedded to a particular interpretation of Genesis. Not if you take the Young-Earth proponents at their word anyway. They claim that all of their major conclusions (young Earth, sudden and simultaneous creation of all kinds, global flood) are justified by the best available scientific data. They are also happy to announce their faith in the Bible, and to trumpet the consonance of the scientific data with the story in Genesis. But the fact remains that scientific creationism was supposed to be a purely scientific enterprise.

More to the point, it's pure fantasy to say that ID has made the integration of evolution and design possible. To the extent that evolution and design can be integrated, it was theistic evolution that did the integrating, and that integration happened long ago. A theory in which God is constantly intervening to direct the development of life over time is not evolution. It is creationism. The theory in which God set up the initial conidtions of the universe and then allowed them to play out over the course of natural history is theistic evolution. Krauze will have to explain how, exactly, ID has made possible the integration of anything.

As for Ruse, I'd be surprised if he can really back up his claim that it was the shedding of progressionism that led to progress in evolution in the early twentieth century. There are certainly simpler explanations for evolution's sudden leap forward: progress in genetics, the quantitative approach pioneered by Fisher, the fact that all branches of science were becoming larger and more professional in the twentieth century...

Finally, Krauze writes:

Now, it just so happened that I have voiced my disapproval of teaching intelligent design in schools. But it really doesn’t matter, as I fail to see how me performing the tasks on Rosenhouse’s laundry list influences the matter at hand: In my post, I pointed out an aspect of reality. Whether Rosenhouse chooses to acknowledge this aspect or not is entirely up to himself.

Oh, please. Krauze's essay was intended as a cautionary tale about why it is unreasonable for critics of ID to demand too much from ID proponents at this early stage of its development. In that context it was perfectly reasonable for me to point out that the demands coming from people on my side are offered entirely as counters to rival claims made by ID proponents. It is the Behes and Dembskis of the world who claim they have the goods. My side is merely asking them to back that up with something other than their standard gobbledygook.

Krauze's initial post made a trivial point about reality (that big ideas take time), implied a fantasy (that ID has promise as a research program) and backed up the implication with a lot of spurious history (that there is any important parallel between the early days of evolution and modern ID). His reply disputes neither my claim that modern ID arguments are nonsense nor my claim that ID is nothing but a political movement (ignoring an argument is not the same as disputing it). He clearly implied that modern ID is at the level of Chambers' Vestiges, which he describes as a work of pseudoscience. I suspect Behe and Dembski are having a Get Off My Side moment right now.


At 5:01 PM, Blogger PZ Myers said...

Nah. Why should someone like Behe who compares ID to astrology be at all offended at seeing it compared to the pseudoscience of Vestiges? It's all money in the bank to him.

At 3:47 AM, Anonymous Krauze said...

Hi Jason,

Just a clarifying question: When you say that "these hypotheses led to clear avenues of research" what hypotheses do you exactly have in mind, and what research did they result in?

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Jason said...


Darwin made it clear to everyone that the nature of inheritance was of crucial importance. Prior to Darwin, that question had been almost completely ignored. The mere fact that there were so many viable theories of inheritance, each of which could claim some evidential support, was what drove a lot of the research into genetics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Has ID inspired anything similar?

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Nice, Jason. Indeed, whether you're talking ecology or medicine, evolution offers a working paradigm for developing real-world applications and advances in the scientific endeavor.

How can ID possibly offer methodologies for development of flu vaccines, identifying drug targets for cancer and other diseases, endangered species recovery strategies, and countless other modern innovations in biology?

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Ed Darrell said...

1. Big ideas take time? Einstein, in five papers written over a couple of years, all published in 1905, proposed five big ideas, including special relativity and the idea that gravity could "bend" light. During an eclipse of the Sun in 1919 scientists verified Einstein's hypothesis on gravity -- 14 years from publication to confirmation.

ID was first proposed in 1989 so far as we know, and the "research needs" were set out at a conference at SMU in 1991. 1989 was 17 years ago. 1991 was 15 years ago. By the timescale of big ideas like Einstein's, ID is not just dormant, but inert. (Yes, there's a joke there about inert gas . . .)

2. What does science look like when it's developing?

James Gleick's Chaos details how real scientists get into a new science. First they have experimental results that urge other great questions. Perhaps they have experimental results that cannot be explained by current theory. In any case, what comes first is observation and data collection. That's how Darwin laid over poor William Paley, by the way -- Paley, as Aristotle before him, sat in a room and pondered. Darwin went out in the world and looked.

Also, when great, science-shaking ideas come to the fore, as physicist Jeremy Bernstein pointed out some years ago in a New Yorker article explaining how editors can tell crank science from real science, the proposers generally do not paranoically claim that other scientists don't know what they're talking about, or are in conspiracies of philosophy or conduct against the new results. Instead they explain how good scientists can be misled by data that seem corroborate incorrect theory, again, as Einstein did in his five papers in 1905. Einstein didn't assail the theology of Newton (though, God knows, it is such a ripe target). Einstein didn't even call Newton a fool, or a dupe. Einstein explained that Newtonian physics is fine for things at normal velocities instead of close to the speed of light, and for normal scale, instead of at the sub-atomic level.

Krauze is attempting an apologetic. His difficulty is that science doesn't use apologetics, and all the facts are contrary to his claims.

In case anyone didn't notice, that's exactly the same problem that afflicts ID: Science doesn't use apologetics, and all the facts are contrary to ID claims.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

MikeGene comments over on Telic Thoughts: "If ID was nothing more than a political and legal strategy for uniting various schools of creationism under one banner acceptable to all, I would have nothing to do with it."

I can't conceive of what else ID would be, if not political or legal. Philosophy and religion perhaps.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's important to stay focused on the difference between the scientific process and ID's foregone conclusions. The process by which ID operates is political, not scientific. It seeks to justify a preconceived conclusion (the Abrahamic God created the various species) by manipulating and "creatively interpreting" evidence, instead of following the evidence where it leads.

Scientific evidence could lead to conclusions about a god-like entity, but that process would make the conclusion scientific, not religious or pseudo-scientific. So ID can never result in the creation of scientific knowledge because it is not rooted in the scientific process; but science could (conceivably) identify a creator.

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, ID is well over 100 years ago. I believe the watchmaker argument was formulated in the 1800s sometime. "Modern" ID has not changed since then.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Doppelganger said...

"Mike Gene" has been saying things like:

"If ID was nothing more than a political and legal strategy for uniting various schools of creationism under one banner acceptable to all, I would have nothing to do with it."

for years. He apparently knows about some ID that none of the 'professional' IDists do.

At 2:14 AM, Blogger Ed Darrell said...

In response to a Mike Gene thread at Telic Thoughts, I recently posted the observation that evolution was already applied science by the time genetics got going -- the time that Krauze tries to impose as the point at which evolution became real science. I pointed out that much of Luther Burbank's work was done well prior to 1900 -- his famous Shasta daisy was debuted commercially in 1901, for example, after 17 years of breeding based on Darwinian theory, according to Burbank.

Let's not concede the bizarre premises that Krauze starts from, that Darwin's work was speculation. The first two chapters of Origin of Species offers details of his extensive experimentation and his extensive correspondence and interviews with breeders about what was then in practice in pig breeding, pigeon breeding, and other veins of animal husbandry. Darwinian theory has always had its roots in practical application of the theory, and in observation of what really goes on in the world, rather than in arm-chair, based-on-Aristotlean-misimpression thinking.

I note this here because I expect Mike Gene will attempt to hide my post. If it disappears from that thread, look for it in their Telic Thoughts limbo area.

At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Rosenhouse and the missing research said...

"To Jason Rosenhouse, intelligent design is nothing but a political and legal strategy to disguise creationism. Consequently, it’s not surprising that in his latest reply in our discussion of Michael Ruse’s book he has adopted the tone of a shrill politician, presenting simple answers to complex questions and demonizing those who disagree with him. Thus, the arguments for intelligent design are “completely false”, “hopelessly flawed”, “standard gobbledygook”, the concept contains “nothing at all beyond falacious logic and distortions of modern science”, and what I’m saying is “ridiculous” and “pure fantasy”. At least no one can accuse him of being mealy-mouthed."



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