8/14/2007

VOX DEI BAIT (Prologue)

Sorry if the title makes anyone cringe. I just couldn't resist.

I'm getting ready to kick off my exchange with Vox Day, who seems sympathetic to some sort of ID creationism. Before you get callouses from rolling your eyes too rapidly, I should say that Vox, who has his own little corner of cyberspace, has an interesting personal history that suggests that he's going to offer something new in this department, if only in flavor.

So, it's a debate of sorts---but I hope to actually learn something from the experience, and so I'm going to just throw some questions out there, initially, and encourage him to do the same. There's no point in belaboring the points where we either agree or (if we disagree) don't feel it matters that much one way or the other. And, even though I joshed about 'baiting' Vox in this post, I'm just naive enough to think that we can really have a meeting of the minds here, as opposed to mere street theatre. Here's hoping!

Anyway, here's my first set of thoughts for discussion: in your opinion, what is the status of evolution by natural selection as an explanatory model ? What sort of explanation is it? What, if anything, does it explain better than other models?

Standard disclaimers: the fact that some fellas are going to debate matters related to some item of science does not imply that there is actually a scientific debate about the matter in question.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you already have created a problem by designating evolution by natural selection an "explanatory model." I guess you are trying to start out slow.

--emerod

DuckMan said...

Scott, you should understand that intelligent design is not creationism. Many ID supporters do not believe that God created the world, although many do. (I admit I am one of the latter.) Some ID advocates are religious agnostics. It is not legitimate to attempt to claim that ID is creationism in different clothing. That is simply not the case.

Zeno said...

DuckMan is arguing the exception rather than the rule. ID was amply demonstrated during the Kitzmiller trial to be creationism in a new guise. The Pandas textbook became an ID book by the simple expedient of replacing occurrences of the word "creationism" with "intelligent design." Even if some ID advocates purport to be agnostics, ID is the lineal descendant of creationism, evolved under the natural selection pressure of multiple defeats in the effort to get the Genesis account into public school science classes.

Mrs Tilton said...

I'm sorry, DuckMan, but that is uttermost bollocks. ID has its origins in a specifically American attempt to circumvent the constitutional ban on religious instruction in state schools. Had states been permitted by the courts to continue teaching creationism, ID would never have arisen (because it would not have been needed). Similarly, if there were no such thing as religion, ID would never have arisen (because it would have no point).

Show me an "atheist IDer" and I will show you a liar (or at least, somebody who has not thought through the glaring contradictions in his thinking). I know IDers are fond of saying, "Well, the Designer doesn't have to be God". But that is a mere play on words. By definition, the Designer is a supernatural being outside of, but determining, the natural world. Whether one call that being God, Yahweh, Allah or J.R. "Bob" Dobbs is irrelevant. (And don't come back with "the Designer could have been space aliens"; for they would then need their own Designer and with that, we're back to a deity.)

ID is worthless as science and blasphemous as theology. It is creationism in different clothing -- a stolen lab coat.

And note, BTW, that I am not an atheist.

Anonymous said...

"Show me an "atheist IDer" and I will show you a liar"

Duckman never said that there were atheist IDers, he said agnostic.

Mrs Tilton said...

Same principle at work, anonymous. An "agnostic IDer" has, whether she admit or not, made a decision about whether there is a deity or not.

Johnny Rev said...

Q: What does evolution by natural selection explain better than other models?

A: Nothing. ID has the ultimate explanation for everything: The Creator (who may or may not be God, he says coyly) wills everything to be just as it is. How in the name of The-Creator-whose-not-necessarily-God are you going to top that? As a matter of fact, I think this works for physics and chemistry, as well any other science, or social science, or any field where one seeks explanations, or for any explanation at all, for that matter.

Oh, you mean scientifically verifiable explanations that are useful, that make verifiable predictions about other phenomena, and aren't lazy cop-outs by people who are really really really sure about how it works but just can't tell you why it's so? Well, that's a different question altogether...

The answer to that question, of course, is ID explains everything better. Why? Because God wills it so.

Science is so much easier this way.

Art said...

The claim that ID is creationism as established by the Kitzmiller case is shown for what it really is in the Montana Law Review article which discussed it in depth. See "Intelligent Design will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover, by DeWolf, West, and Luskin, Vol. 68, Number 1, Winter 2007.

It is not as Zeno claims, as anyone who has read Demski's book, Intelligent Design, would know.

Stan said...

Johnny Rev, with his dripping sarcasm, implies that "scientifically verifiable" explanations are the coin of evolution. Here are the discernable facts; fossils exist. Some come from deeper strata than others.

All other so called evolutionary "data" is in fact speculated. It is extrapolated from the bare facts and declared to be "truth". There is no paternity test that gives unquestionable, repeatable, undeniable descent information, from one set of bones to another.

Of course Atheists line up behind evolution, it is the unproven dogma of the rebellious. It is all they have and they can't afford to lose it. What they are willing to lose is any claim to intuition, a non-determinant mind, any claim to morality, thanks to Nietzsche. But they can, of course wear their "A" tee shirts and call themselves "Brights", while telling one and all that their ancestors were fish.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

This is all very interesting. Is it possible to be enamored of the ID position and yet not be a creationist? Perhaps. Vox has certainly maintained all along that while he is a believer, that his skepticism where evolution is concerned can be framed in a non-religious way.

I think Vox is sincere when he says this, and I think we already have an understanding that we're not interested in having another dreary exchange where the apple of scripture is weighed against the orange of science.

So,the question of whether all ID is or is not some flavor of creationism is not critical to our debate. Therefore, I'll concede the point that some version of ID might not be creationism. Even so, I have to commend Mrs. Tilton and Zeno: in general, what they are saying about the origins and proponents of the ID movement in this country is true. And, even if you are an 'ID agnostic', your stance lends an air of legitimacy to those creationists who still harbor the dream of redefining not just science, but all of the culture in terms of their religious commitments.

Now, what about the original question that has been thrown out for discussion? What is the status of evolution as an explanatory model---to be more precise, is it a fact, a conjecture, a hypothesis, a theory, wishful thinking....what do you folk think?

Salt said...

is it a fact, a conjecture, a hypothesis, a theory, wishful thinking....what do you folk think?

Unknown, and as such incapable of being portrayed as fact. It's theory, and evidence appears to be supportive where the past is applied. The question, which I find highly dubious, is whether it is predictive of the future.

As Vox mentioned he did, I too once had modeled Stock Market moves based on past data utilizing a very simple computer program a friend had developed. It worked for about 3 days then began to diverge. Luckily my AMPEX shares did what I hoped for in 2 days and I made money. 5 days later I'd have lost my shirt.

The further out one goes the more chaos creeps in, and there are lots of butterflies in China.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Well, my short response is that if evolution is defined as genetic change in a population, it's a fact. And natural selection has been observed to lead to such changes. So it's a fact. What I would say is theoretical is the applicability and power of the relationship between the facts that we have at our disposal. Those of us who are evolutionary biologist, obviously, think this phenomena is widespread and profound.

Anonymous said...

I just think that your choice of the term "explanatory model" is unfortunate.

"Explanatory" is ambiguous. At worst, any statement is explanatory: for example, astrology "explains" human behavior. In a more rigorous sense, an explanation gives a reason for or a cause of a phenomenon. However, evolution by natural selection does not claim to give a reason why any particular organism should be more fit for an environment than other organisms.

Also, I do not think you meant to say that evolution by natural selection is a "model" in the most precise sense. That is, I do not think you would claim that it is an artificial representation of a process that cannot be directly observed; nor would you claim that it is itself a mechanistic simulation of actual processes.

I would expect evolution by natural selection to be considered a description of the observed processes within an ecological system, which may be modeled mathematically.

--emerod

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

I understand what you're saying, but many of my readers are likely unclear as to how a hypothesis might differ from a theory in science, for example. They are likely to speak in terms of 'facts' or 'proofs' and I think being open-ended will encourage them to make the kind of statements that can then be contrasted with the way science is actually done.

truth machine said...

SUCKER

Hong Hu Shi said...

a specifically American attempt to circumvent the constitutional ban on religious instruction in state schools

Just for the record, this is incorrect. There is no constitutional ban on religious instruction in state schools. There is what amounts to a "restraining order" preventing forced religious instruction in state schools and another, more insidious one that seeks to prevent Christian instruction in state schools. Of course, the former doesn't present forced Islamic instruction in state schools in California.

Good day.

Anonymous said...

There is no paternity test that gives unquestionable, repeatable, undeniable descent information, from one set of bones to another.

What you are saying is that if you can't find your great-great-great grandparents' graves, then you didn't have any great-great-great grandparents.

With molecular phylogenetics we don't even need the bones to demonstrate evolution. It's not that there is evidence for evolution, it's that there is a metric buttload of evidence for evolution from lots of different fields.

There is no evidence for ID or other forms of Creationism at all.

-Graculus

Salt said...

With molecular phylogenetics we don't even need the bones to demonstrate evolution. It's not that there is evidence for evolution, it's that there is a metric buttload of evidence for evolution from lots of different fields.

-Graculus

August 16, 2007 7:29 AM


Evolution is a process.

There is no evidence for ID or other forms of Creationism at all.

ID or (and especially) Creationism involves First Cause which evolution avoids at all costs.

Even if evolution is correct, it does not falsify ID or Creationism.

Mrs Tilton said...

Hong Shu Shi,

I'm terribly sorry, but you are a babbling idiot who understands nothing of US constitutional law.

The grain of truth in your droolings is that nothing in the constitution would prevent state schools from teaching about religions in, say, a sociological sense. (And not even the most devout secularist would have a problem with that!) But teaching the creation myth of a particular religion as objective truth in a science classroom is flat-out forbidden. The US courts bitch-slap it down every time it rears its ugly head (most recently in Kitzmiller, where the judge was a Christian, and a Republican appointee to boot).

Now, go and learn something about what "law" means. Until you've managed that, I'll let Scott deal with you; he is both a better Christian and a better scientist than I will ever manage to be.

Mrs Tilton said...

Oh, and by the way, Scott: you are much too kindhearted. There is no way that ID is anything other than (tarted-up) creationism. (I'm sure you've read Forrest & Gross, not to mention the "wedge" document"!)

Hong Hu Shi said...

I'm terribly sorry, but you are a babbling idiot who understands nothing of US constitutional law.

The grain of truth in your droolings is that nothing in the constitution would prevent state schools from teaching about religions in, say, a sociological sense. (And not even the most devout secularist would have a problem with that!) But teaching the creation myth of a particular religion as objective truth in a science classroom is flat-out forbidden. The US courts bitch-slap it down every time it rears its ugly head (most recently in Kitzmiller, where the judge was a Christian, and a Republican appointee to boot).

Now, go and learn something about what "law" means. Until you've managed that, I'll let Scott deal with you; he is both a better Christian and a better scientist than I will ever manage to be.


I beg your pardon, you ill-mannered prostitute of questionable parentage. I corrected a factually-errant message. If my politesse leads you to describe me as a babbling idiot, it's probably because you're still under the effects of your syphilitic madness, no doubt made worse by rather extreme moments of your archnophilia, if you know what I mean.

In short, may I kindly request that you learn some manners, you ridiculous bitch.

Mrs Tilton said...

Oh, do calm down, Hu Shi.

"Correcting a factually errant message" is precisely what you haven't done. You are manifestly ignorant of US constitutional law. There's no shame in ignorance, unless it be wilful. If the US constitution interests you (and it should), just go and learn something about it.

But as long as you go on maintaining that religion isn't taught in US state schools because of a "restraining order", you are babbling.