Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Bush Backs "Intelligent Design"

Bush has said that he wants Intelligent Design, a thinly veiled attempt to promote creationist theory, taught in public schools alongside evolution.

Didn't we go through this years ago? The Christian Conservatives, normally quite happy to censor speech when it's "indecent" or "offensive," cry foul when sensible rationalists try to deny them the right to use taxpayer dollars to promote a particular religious message. It's not about freedom of speech. Nobody is saying to these Christians "hey, you can't teach your kid about creationism in your own home."

America is about freedom of religion--the freedom to believe what you want and discuss it freely. But it is also about freedom from religion--the freedom not to spend your tax dollars to promote someone else's religious agenda, the freedom not to have your kids subjected officially to someone else's religious agenda in a public school.

Science isn't religion. Evolution isn't religion, isn't a "belief" and isn't a "theory" that is on par with Creationism. Evolution is a scientific theory, one that has been subjected to analytical scrutiny and the scientific method, and one which is pretty close to the truth of how life develops on this planet. Therefore, it should be taught as fact in public schools.

Intelligent design is a "theory" in that someone said "hey, I think the world is this way, and that's my theory" and then was done with it. It hasn't been subject to the same kind of analytical scrutiny as evolution--because it can't be. It's not a theory that can be tested because it relies entirely on supposition and conjecture. Therefore, it has no place in the public schools.

I really wish we had paid attention to the Enlightenment a little bit more -- maybe we'd have learned something about the importance of reason and logic in interpreting science and the nature of existence. Maybe we wouldn't be slipping back into a Dark Ages of superstition and theocratic idiocy.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bush backs teaching alternative to evolution in US schools
    During a round-table interview Monday with reporters from several US newspapers, Bush said that ... While governor of Texas, Bush advocated that, alongside evolution, students should learn about "creationism," the literal, biblical account that all living things were created in a seven-day period.
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  3. Nathan DuBois posted, and then mysteriously deleted:

    "Evolution is a religion as well.

    Science is meant to study observable processes. The idea that you can look at those processes and rationally come up with what occurred in the past, is silly. Especially when the natural processes change. Slower, faster, etc.

    Science cannot prove evolution...it is taken on faith. Just like scripture. So both THEORIES need to be taught."

    My response:

    Evolution is not predicated on faith. It is predicated on careful scientific observation.

    Creationism, on the other hand, is entirely predicated on faith. There is no scientific way to measure, test, or otherwise analyze a "God" or "Creator" concept.

    We need to be teaching children how to think critically about the world, not giving them every wild-eyed theory about the origin of the Universe.

    Heck, why not teach the kids that the whole entire Universe was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure? Can you prove me wrong? Hey, it's a theory! Next we'll be teaching kids that the earth is flat and the moon landings were faked.

    I think the crucial mix-up here is in defining the word "theory."

    Evolution is a scientific theory, based on a hypothesis that is tested using the scientific method. It is subject to all kinds of analyses of evidence and historical data that, while they may not prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, certainly make evolution a heck of a lot more likely an explanation for the origin and development of life than anything else we've come up with.

    Creationism is a theory based on assumptions and arguments predicated on a thesis, that the world is too complex to have been randomly generated. That's all well and good as a theory, but there's no way to test it scientifically. Therefore, it does not hold up to the scientific standards that the "theory" of evolution does. It should not be taught in schools.

  4. Do you know how the Declaration of Independence was written? It seems that Thomas Jefferson's youngest son dumped a box of wooden letter blocks on the floor and there it was -- perfectly spelled and punctuated.

    Have you heard about the tornado that ripped through an auto parts store and left behind a perfectly assembled 2001 Pontiac Firebird convertable -- burgundy in color?

    What, you don't believe that?

    Yet you seem to believe that something as infinite and as perfect as the universe -- right down to the smallest sub-atomic particle -- just randomly fell together without intelligent design in some sort of Big Bang.

    I think it is YOU who are trying to foist YOUR religious beliefs on US. Because it takes far more faith to believe what you believe than what President Bush believes.

  5. I appreciate the frank honesty with which you have chosen to respond to this post, The Lone Ranger.

    What you don't know is that I am Jewish, and I too have deeply held religious beliefs. However, I don't see a contradiction between believing strongly in a religious idea and recognizing the supremacy of scientific analysis in explaining the nature and origin of the Universe.

    Is it more of a leap of faith to believe something for which there is ample evidence because of decades of scientific inquiry, or to believe without doubt that the entire world was created by one particular religion's view of a particular deity among the host of deities that have existed throughout history?

  6. Intellegent Design isn't just balderdash rewording of creationism. It's actually a well thought out theory that is, yes, a competing theory to evolution.

    Here is one of the foremost websites on the topic that I've seen.

    The bottom line theory is this: The building blocks of life are DNA, simple as that. If the world began as nothing more than a mere collection of atoms, dust, and some VERY small molecules, what are the odds that DNA could form on its own? Slim to none. Something had to spark the onset of the formation of DNA, and thus spark the formation of life as we know it. This could be God, this could be some underlying force at work in the universe, who knows. That is not the point. The point is that something intelligent designed the life, it was not random. Another example unexplicible to evolution is the Cambrian era. A bevy of living creatures explode into existence all at once, many of which have no apparent evolutionary precursers and some are so divergent from one another that they could not have evolved from the same core creature. Again, intelligent design states that this was not just random, not just evolution at work, but forced occurences by some force at work in the universe.

    Not here to defend a theory, just here to get the facts straight on a theory that I tend to know a bit about and that most brush off as "Neo-Creationism." It's a working theory that, frankly, is more readily believed by a larger chunk of the population than evolution is.

  7. Another point many don't realize about ID, it doesn't reject microevolution, it just offers skepticism into macroevolution.

    And I quote

    ...Some biological structures may have resulted from a combination of both design and evolution. Most intelligent design proponents accept microevolution but question if macroevolutionary changes are possible. Intelligent design theory questions if evolution can produce irreducibly complex structures. Thus, intelligent design holds that evolution is not capable of producing all aspects of life.

  8. Thanks for that thoughtful response, matty.

    Here's the fundamental problem with all of that, though. It all boils down to a hypothesis that cannot be tested.

    For instance, you argue that DNA is too complex to have originated on its own. However, you don't have any kind of evidence or incontrovertible logical argument that proves conclusively that DNA didn't originate through a series of complex natural phenomena.

    Your argument falls apart after "DNA is too complex therefore it must have been designed" because you're missing key components to back it up. What you need is something more definitive, ie. "DNA is too complex because _______ therefore it must have been designed because _______."

    Even then it's still a theory, and not one that can stand up to the kind of scientific scrutiny that evolution can. How do you know that DNA didn't come about through a complex series of natural phenomena? How do you know that the Cambrian period was the work of an "intelligent designer?" If you can't answer those questions, then your theory doesn't hold up.

    That's why ID will never be a theory on par with evolution--because it cannot be tested, proven (or disproven) in the same way that evolution can be tested and proven. With ID, you always end with the same question: "how do you know?" And you can't answer it. With evolution, we can point to a wealth of scientific knowledge to back up our arguments.

  9. Partly. Evolution, like many other theories, points to the examples that prove the case ignoring in some situations that which diverge from it (ex. Cambrian era).

    I have worked with DNA for a few years now in a molecular biology setting. Deoxyribonucleic acids are complex molecules whose building blocks can not be formed simply by small reactions of individual pieces. To regulate and form DNA, you need complex protein machienery to create it.

    The test of this would be to put all the elemental building blocks of DNA into a massively heated environment and try to see if it can eventually form naturally with no intervention. It can't. They have made amino acids in such a setting, but not DNA or even close more complexity of proteins required to form DNA. I know, this can not explicitly prove it, as it was not done over the course of dozens of years, but it makes you think.

    Probability is more in favor of a non-random creation than randomness.

    The problem with ID is that it hasn't been scientifically tested. Why? Because, to be frank, scientists don't like new theories that compete with those that they've written textbooks about. I would love to see heavily tested experimentation, even theoretical testing, that could see more in depth the ramifications and possibilities of ID, but that has yet to happen. No institution has been willing to do such research only the occaisional research that says, "Well, maybe evolution can't explain everything." With the President's support, hoepfully ID will get a better chance of being researched because any idea, no matter how crazy, may bring you closer to the truth.

    Hell, Darwin originally believed that the more you used an item on your body, the larger it became and had scientific evidence to prove it :P

  10. Ok, I think I see one place where we're using words a little too loosely. You use the word "random" as though I'm arguing that DNA was just kind of "thrown together" by natural forces.

    The universe isn't "random" in the sense that things just kind of happen without any rhyme or reason. The universe operates on certain principles and laws that science is just now beginning to begin to understand. DNA evolved through a complex series of reactions and steps that followed from natural laws. I haven't read your DNA creation study so I can't comment on it. And I'll be honest, I'm not that familiar with the Cambrian era so I can't comment on that intelligently either.

    Look, even if probability suggests one thing, if scientific evidence suggests the other, then the other must be more true. Evidence trumps probability every time. And there is a heck of a lot more evidence of evolution and the Big Bang theory and everything else that forms the basis of modern scientific understanding of natural law than there is evidence of a "designer."

    I appreciate the intelligent debate, matty -- and I appreciate the link on your blog, too. We may disagree on the issues, but I think you'll find that we share a similar kind of passion and knowledge about our particular side of an issue. Feel free to start an argument with me on any topic you find in this blog. :-)

  11. No problem. We do disagree, but frankly it takes all of us to actually bring the American people what they want in the end, a democratic republic where that have a say in things AND moderation is supported over extremism.

  12. Lone Ranger, the truth is that your comparison is essentially erroneous. Your comparison suggests that evolution is the product of merely random chance. Chance certainly plays a large part in evolution, but this argument completely ignores the fundamental role of natural selection, and selection is the very opposite of chance. Chance, in the form of mutations, provides genetic variation, which is the raw material that natural selection has to work with. From there, natural selection sorts out certain variations. Those variations which give greater reproductive success to their possessors (and chance ensures that such beneficial mutations will be inevitable) are retained, and less successful variations are weeded out. When the environment changes, or when organisms move to a different environment, different variations are selected, leading eventually to different species. Harmful mutations usually die out quickly, so they don't interfere with the process of beneficial mutations accumulating. Your comparison does not stand up to close scrutiny, because it is based on attacking a strawman argument.