Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brayton on Uncommon Descent

Meanwhile, Ed Brayton has an important post up about how William Dembski's new blog czar (that's his own attribution), who blogs under the name DaveScot, seems to be doing his utmost to humiliate Dembski at every turn. It seems that DaveScot posted an entry in which he threw a tantrum directed at people who deny the common descent of all species. He wrote:

I will remind everyone again - please frame your arguments around science. If the ID movement doesn't get the issue framed around science it's going down and I do not like losing. The plain conclusion of scientific evidence supports descent with modification from a common ancestor. You are certainly welcome to have other opinions based on faith in something other than science but I'd ask that you go to a religious website with them if you must talk about it.

You certainly don't have to agree here with descent with modification from a common ancestor but I'm going to start clamping down on anyone positively arguing against it. It's simply counter-productive to our goals and reinforces the idea that ID is religion because nothing but religion argues against descent with modification from a common ancestor. What we are fighting is the idea that the modification was unguided. ID can fight that without ever leaving the battleground of plain scientific conclusions. If we try to argue against anything else we're are (sic) going to lose. Plain and simple. No buts about it. There's only one gaping vulnerability in the commonly accepted evolutionary narrative we can exploit successfully and that's the bit about it being unplanned.

This post quickly disappeared, without a trace, no doubt after numerous ID folks pointed out that virtually all of the prominent ID advocates reject common descent. Happily, several other bloggers managed to saved it before it vanished. Of course, bloggers with more integrity than DaveScot would have posted an update explaianing why the post was removed, or perhaps apologizing for their ill-considered remarks.

Brayton writes:

The creationist blog Creation Bits quickly said that DaveScot is “destroying Dembski's blog”. Josh Bozeman, aka jboze, a Dembski sycophant, put up a post at his blog saying that DaveScot had “actually lost his mind.” After less than 24 hours of the commenters venting their spleens at the Blog Czar, he did what what any good little Orwellian would do - he deleted the post. Gone, disappeared into thin air as though it never existed. Bozeman's blog post disappeared too. Thankfully, Jack Krebs had saved the whole thread and you can see it here.

I'm guessing Papa Dembski had a few stern words for the Czar and pulled in the reins a bit. But for crying out loud, how long can he allow this to go on? This guy is absolutely embarrassing him. It's become so ridiculous that you just can't not watch. To use Bill Hicks' analogy, it's like a loose tooth, you can't not touch it.

Meanwhile, Josh Rosenau offers some further thoughts.

Actually, there's potentially a deeper point here. The history of American creationism comprises a series of retreats in the face of legal defeats. It used to be that it was illegal to teach theories that contradicted the Bible, but that strategy was found unconstitutional. Then there was scientific creationism, which argued that things like a young-Earth, spontaneous creation of all “kinds” of organisms, and a world-wide global flood, were simply sound conclusions drawn from scientific evidence. As such, it should be taught as science alongside evolution. That didn't work either. Then came ID, which watered down the scientific creationist view and narrowed its focus solely to the explanatory sufficiency of natural selection. We now have a court decision saying that startegy is pure sham, and ID is no improvement, either legally or scientifically, over old-school creationism.

Could this be the new startegy? Are the ID folks gearing up to accept common descent, and then argue that God had some role in directing evolution? If they are, they are treading perilously close to theistic evolution, previously identified as the hated enemy of ID.


At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's only one gaping vulnerability in the commonly accepted evolutionary narrative we can exploit successfully and that's the bit about it being unplanned.

I must have missed that part of that "narrative," because I don't ever recall reading any proposed mechanisms of evolution stating that it must have been "unplanned". In fact, the proposed mechanisms I studied were silent on the matter ; and for a very simple reason: Science does not explore what it cannot test/verify.

Knowing if there was an "intention" behind evolutionay mechanisms is left as an exercise for philosophers and theologians. And, even then, anyone who arrives at a conclusion will be resting their conclusion on faith.

BUt, for the sake of an argument, let us suppose that ID could show that the evolutionary mechanism of descent could not have happened with out an intentional act (who the actor(s) is/are, is presumably not important if IDers are to be believed).

How would such knowledge change the way science conducts its business? Would it change the way scince attempts to understand the mechanisms throughout nature? Does it give us insight to help us in the process of observing and devising explanations for things we observe?

If not, what is the point of it all?

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Jason, as a Christian (theistic evolutionist, evolutionary creationist - whatever), I think I can answer your question...

It'll be a cold day in hell when Christians who object to evolutionary theory accept common descent. A really cold day...

That's the entire point. In their minds, common descent is a direct affront on the story of creation in Genesis.

I personally think that when Christians accept common descent, we'll have much much less hostility between Christianity and science.

I can't imagine why someone would accept common descent and then need ID to feel good about their faith. I guess I've been surprised before at how irrational and emotionally driven some of us can be, but as long as people have problems with evolutionary theory, they'll be aimed solely at common descent.

And fatwah's from DaveScot won't be enough to change people's minds.


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