8/10/2009

GRID OF DEI-SPUTATION


My old sparring partner Vox Dei
has issued another challenge to PZ Myers, based upon this post of PZ's responding to an article by Sam Harris. Harris uses a graphic, and I have to say that I agree with PZ's assessment: this is not a great metric for the evo-creo wars. Like Ken Miller, I would probably be in PZ's 'blue box' most of the time on the issue of evolution, and whenever I find myself in the 'green box', I wouldn't have much company. The 'red box' of the deluded is much more highly-populated, I'm afraid, and if we included the devious it would be even worse:
Now, Vox has previously tried to debate PZ on the subject of atheism, but he has been dismissed as an outlier. Vox thus writes:

Well, my dear Dr. Myers, since you were previously afraid of a radio debate with me on the evidence for the existence of gods, perhaps you'll be more willing to engage in a written debate on the scientific evidence for evolution. After all, if the issue is so comprehensively settled in evolution's favor, it should be no trouble whatsoever to make your case to everyone's satisfaction, however initially dubious they may have been. And since you have now asserted that there are no Worthy Opponents, you no longer have any need to hide behind your stated belief in my supposed crackpottery."

Here's my reply, based upon my past correspondence with Vox, which I am cross-posting at both Pharyngula and Vox Popoli:

Actually, I would consider you to be a worthy opponent, Vox---just not on the question of whether evolution occurs, or whether it is (deservedly) the dominant model within biology, because in our previous exchange, you pretty much conceded those points. You don't raise YEC arguments, because you know they are risible. Nor do I see you pushing 'fine-tuning' arguments, because you know they do not bear directly on questions like Earth's antiquity, how best to interpret the fossil record, or whether natural selection leads to increased diversity. Frankly, based on my memory of our exchange, you are on the edge of PZ's 'blue box'.

Your main beef with TENS is its status as a scientific theory. You don't deny that it's been a useful model, you just express skepticism of how seriously it should be regarded due to its predictive power, which is low compared to some of the models in the physical sciences. You've suggested that TENS will eventually be replaced by some other scientific model that makes better predictions.

Fair enough, but in the meantime you've been smart enough not to say anything about what that model will be! So, your argument basically amounts to something like this: "Evolution, meh. It's the best thing we've got, right now. I hope something better comes along, someday."

I just can't imagine partisans on either side of this debate getting that worked up over that argument. You could generalize that sort of reasoning to a lot of things in biology and the social sciences, not just evolution. What amuses me is that many of your commentators here seem convinced that you are defending views that you have never espoused!

3 comments:

R. Moore said...

Science does not "debate" as Vox Dei describes it. This clearly makes it a waste of time to engage in a "scientific debate" with Vox Dei -- he presumes the right to re-definition as a requirement for the discussion.

I read Vox Dei's book on line, and I read the discussions that ensued. Vox Dei lost badly and retreated to the position that anyone so thoroughly challenged must be right. That pretty much end attempts at reason right there.

Many found some of Vox Dei's novel. The only novelty I found is was the return of Aristotle as a methodology for describing the natural world. Most today are unfamiliar with this, as its inadequacy is so apparent it is not longer considered worth mentioning in a college education.

qbsmd said...

The article is here, and is by Sean Carroll, not Sam Harris.

HHS said...

Scott, I never did this before, but I wanted to thank you for the interesting exchange of ideas you had with Vox on the TENS matter. It provided some interesting stuff.

R. Moore, I have no idea what "discussions" you were reading, but my guess is you hadn't taken your medicine when you read them. Chapter 4.