Sunday, October 15, 2006

Darwinism-ID Debate

The debate on Darwinism and Intelligent Design between Michael Shermer and Jonathan Wells can be heard or seen here (although I could not get the video to work).


Fletcher said...

You can right-click on "listen to the Podcast" and download the MP3 audio file of the debate to your computer or MP3 player and hear the debate that way.

Also, I noticed on the main page of this site comments about Dawkin's "The God Delusion".

It says:

The God Delusion, by the Oxford University evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, is based on his controversial BBC documentary, The Root of All Evil? Dawkins presents his view of religion as a cultural virus that, like a computer virus, once downloaded into the software of society corrupts almost all programs it encounters.

I would comment on this ridiculous premise but I'm busy at work and moost of you heavy philosophers out there are smarter than me so I'll defer.

John Stockwell said...

This isn't a debate, it is a book tour.

For commentary on Wells current book

John Stockwell said...

As to the presentation, I would say that the most relevant comment was from Michael Shermer when he pointed out that a real scientific research program, such as that pursued by Lynne Margulis involves actually doing science, successfully defending that work, publication in scholarly media, and THEN popularized presentation, which includes lower level education.

(Compare this to the ID movement which started with popularized publication and a purported "textbook" for lower level education called _Of Pandas and People_, followed by a number of philosophical (rather than scientific) tomes, and only then a decade later, a single scientific paper that might have something to do with the topic. The Discovery institute has blown in excess of $4 million, and may possibly have one scientific paper to show for it. )

Wells comes off as having intellectual gravitas, stating in a very certain tone that "Darwinism is false". Of course "Darwinism" is false---the term is a strawman that may possibly be about evolution, but, then again, it may be about "materialism" or some other philosophy. I guess it depends on which way the wind is blowing.

He also makes the oft heard but growingly indefensible claim to the effect that "ID science is being done," but he doesn't cite to have any specific examples. I wonder how long it will be that ID supporters will stand for being strung along before some goods are delivered?

Wells of course is not a working scientist, having published only 4 scientific papers in his professional career. For example, his attempts at attacking paleontological discussions in Shermer's books were laughable. (His failed attempt to discuss therapod dinosaurs was even flagged by one of the attendees.) So, what the heck makes him an expert in the subject of evolutionary biology?

Of course, this isn't a debate, it is a book signing, so each participant had to appear cordial so that the attendees would buy their respective books.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Stockwell:

Wells defined Darwinism. He gives example of ID research in his new book. One reason why ID is not more published is that the Darwiniam/materialist establishment rejects most of it on principle. Wells documents this kind of thing in his new book as well.

Clint said...

1) It blows my mind that (in this case) Shermer is going on and on about how we don’t need to stop when the science gets tough and posit the God of the Gaps. So, he is saying that we need to “roll up our sleeves and keep doing science.” BUT, he is not starting from a scientific premise. THIS IS IMPORTANT. He assumes materialistic natural philosophy. This is where his science begins. BUT, this is not a scientific theory. This is a philosophical theory. How is this any different from positing a “god of the gaps”? Further, most serious ID scholars are not wanting to posit a “god of the gaps.” They are simply wanting to pose a problem with Darwinism and follow the evidence where it leads. They want to be able to practice this without being called “pseudo-scientists” or “masked creationists.” Most of the time their position is reviewed in popular media it is straw-manned as such (though, we have been guilty of the same),

2) Something I heard William Dembske say at a conference I attended a year or so ago really stuck with me. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FACT THAT ALL EXPERIMENTS NECESSARILY INVOLVE PERSONAL AGENCY? The scientist might be able to recreate, in a controlled environment, microevolution. However, they cannot recreate macroevolution. Most importantly though, experiments cannot occur without personal agency. So, to create the sorts of things they are wanting to argue for, they must “design” the parameters. They must “fix the books so to speak.” No experiments occur, or come about, or coalesce “randomly” or by “unguided processes.” This is a problem.

3) Jonathan Wells pointed out that polls show consistently that about 80-85% of the nation do not believe in a Darwinism that posits that things came about by “unguided processes” or “random mutation.” However, ALL tax payers currently pay for this science to monopolize public education. Further, as Jonathan Wells rightly insisted, the “universities are not the bastions of competing ideas” that we think they are. Rather, they are just as politicized and monopolized, even to the point that any prof that engages in I.D. is ostracized, often times being forced to leave or fired. One example of this is Guillermo Gonzales. There is a professor at the institution where he works that is on a crusade to get him fired. Does this sound like intellectual freedom?

Concerning positive evidence for ID...I think that is where they are trying to go. It has only been 10 years. Perhaps if intellectual freedom was allowed more progresses could be made. Perhpaps the reason that there was so much media attention for ID initially is precisely b/c it is controversial. One does not need to have a full system of science to notice problems and posit theories.

John Stockwell said...

Dr. Groothuis wrote:

Wells defined Darwinism. He gives example of ID research in his new book. One reason why ID is not more published is that the Darwiniam/materialist establishment rejects most of it on principle. Wells documents this kind of thing in his new book as well.

Indeed, Wells did "define Darwinism", which has nothing particular to do with evolution, biology or science as it is practiced.

It is a mere copout to claim that ID is not published because it is kept out of journals. A more serious problem is discussed in this New York Times article:

(I have had to split this so it would fit on the page, so you will have to paste the lines together with no spaces to get the link to work.)

Basically the article relates the story of how the Templeton Foundation, which
funds research that promotes the
cooperation of science and religion,
asked for proposals for ID related research, and never received even proposals!

Indeed, where is list of "rejected papers" that could be put up on the Discovery Institute web site for public perusal?
From the claims of Wells and others, IDers are in a hubbub of scientific activity and bristling with papers they have not been able to publish in the mainstream journals. They could put up a collection of those papers with the reviewers' commentary to demonstrate how they are being persecuted.

The Discover Institute could publish a big expose of the incompetence of the mainstream scientific community in these misguided rejections. That would make better copy than the sort of stuff we are currently seeing out of them.

Of course, that won't happen, because the scientific community does not have to reject a papers that are never written or submitted.

Douglas Groothuis said...

ID people have created their own on-line journals for the papers that have been rejected or never would be accepted! Check Dembski's web page.

Ed Darrell said...

The false claim that the science establishment somehow frustrates the publication of creationist papers was first tried in federal court in 1981. Because the issue is rather central to whether the current flavor of creationism is science, Judge William Overton allowed that a few papers written by creationists but rejected by the journals should be inserted into the trial transcript.

Alas for creationists, their bluff called, they could produce not a single piece of research, let alone research that had been written up and submitted anywhere for publication.

The issue was alive again in the Dover, Pennsylvania trial, with almost exactly the same results.

If there were any ID research, why do you suppose the ID advocates refused to bring it forth to save the idea, in the Pennsylvania trial? There is no rational answer that does not make ID advocates out to be mad; the more practical result would be simply that there is no such research.

The "journals" which have sprung up to publish ID research generally are one-issue affairs, failing to attract any submissions. In the one case where a formerly scholarly journal has been subverted, there has yet to be published any original research that would lend any support to ID.

So the question becomes more poignant, Dr. Groothuis: If there are, in fact, journals dedicated to getting ID research published, how can we possibly explain the utter lack of such publications?

Douglas Groothuis said...


What do you make of this?

Volume 4.2, November 2005

ISSN: 1555-5089

Past Issues

Volume 4.1, July 2005

Volume 3.1, November 2004

Philosophy of Mind Issue,
Volume 2.3, October 2003

Double Issue, Volumes 2.1 and 2.2
January - June 2003

Volume 1.4, October - December 2002

Double Issue, Volumes 1.2 and 1.3
April - September 2002

Volume 1.1, January - March 2002

Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design (PCID) is a quarterly, cross-disciplinary, online journal that investigates complex systems apart from external programmatic constraints like materialism, naturalism, or reductionism. PCID focuses especially on the theoretical development, empirical application, and philosophical implications of information- and design-theoretic concepts for complex systems. PCID welcomes survey articles, research articles, technical communications, tutorials, commentaries, book and software reviews, educational overviews, and controversial theories. The aim of PCID is to advance the science of complexity by assessing the degree to which teleology is relevant (or irrelevant) to the origin, development, and operation of complex systems.

Articles accepted to the journal must first be submitted to the ISCID archive. To be accepted into the archive, articles need to meet basic scholarly standards and be relevant to the study of complex systems. Once on the archive, articles passed on by at least one ISCID fellow will be accepted for publication. The journal will be published in electronic form only (there will be no print version).


PCID features several flexible advertising options including sponsorship and CPM. Click here for more details.

William A. Dembski, General Editor
Jed Macosko, Associate Editor
Bruce Gordon, Associate Editor
James Barham, Book Review Editor
John Bracht, Managing Editor
Micah Sparacio, Webmaster


The editorial advisory board peer-reviews articles submitted to the society's journal and comprises the society fellows.

Tim said...

Ed's comment about "creationist" papers in the Arkansas trial is apparently intended to have something to do with the current discussion about ID. Insofar as it does, I think it's an unfortunate move on his part. Behe has had his work rejected by good journals, not because the reviewers found anything scientifically wrong with it but because it did not "advance the dominant paradigm." I've seen some of the letters.

That is shameful.

Jeff Downs said...

For those interested...Michael Shermer is scheduled to be on The Narrow Mind this Friday, 9-10am PST. Phone lines will be open. See link for details.

John Stockwell said...

I think that the format of the
ISCID site at

is good. If they can operate in an open, and hopefully more scientific mode, then they have a chance of actually doing something.

There are a few items that will really point to science actually being done by the ID group.

These include
1) Compatability of proposed theories with
the body of scientific knowledge
2) grounding of theory in
Scientific disciplines, even the most radical and revolutionary, operate beginning with the current theories/observational structure as a point of departure. A new science addresses some problem, and provides an actual remedy of the problem.

In the case of ID, if it really will be a scientific theory applied to biology, it will be an evolutionary theory or a component to an evolutionary theory, because the general pattern of observations---taxonomy from morphology and genetics, and faunal succession---is common descent oriented---which is to say an evolution oriented pattern.

If ID is supposed to be an information theoretic discipline, then it will have to become compatible with the rest of what is known in information theory, and will have to show the validity of its proposed laws.

For example, the information theoretic claims made by Dembski regarding "complex specified information" and "conservation of CSI" have to be shown to actually be relevant. These items are separate from any discussion of "design" being purely information theoretic claims---claims which so far have not impressed the information theory community.

Sir Fab said...

Has anyone read The Language Of God, by Francis S. Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project who arrived at belief from a life of atheism?

Dr. Collins enumerates various reasons why Creationism and Intelligent Design are more dangerous for faith than for science, with their requirement that people ignore accumulating scientific evidence without proposing scientifically sound alternatives. He attacks the lack of "opportunity for experimental validation [and] of a robust foundation for [the] claim of irreducible complexity." He describes ID as a "God of the gaps" theory, warning people of faith of the "dismal history" of such theories, which "run the risk of simply discrediting faith." He concludes his analysis saying "Intelligent Design fits into this discouraging tradition, and faces the same ultimate demise."

Surely it is only one man's opinion, but doesn't it send shivers throught the spine of ID proponents?

Douglas Groothuis said...


There are no shivers here. I have read all these kinds of arguments before and have read reviews of Collins. ID people have handily addressed all of it. See William Dembski, The Design Revolution.

Collins is, by the way, a Christian who accepts Jesus as Lord. He finds evidence for God at the macro level. What do you think of these arguments?

Sir Fab said...

The way I see it, the fact that Collins accepts Jesus as Lord means in fact that his critique of ID cannot be motivated by a disdain for religion, but by a love for science. His point is precisely that proponents of Intelligent Design do more of a disservice to faith than to science, since they offer ammunition to those who doubt the true motives of some self-anointed Christians.

John Stockwell said...

Douglas Groothuis wrote:


There are no shivers here. I have read all these kinds of arguments before and have read reviews of Collins. ID people have handily addressed all of it. See William Dembski, The Design Revolution.

Collins is, by the way, a Christian who accepts Jesus as Lord. He finds evidence for God at the macro level. What do you think of these arguments?

The standards of philosophy, and "ID people" nowhere approach the standards of scientific evidence.

1) Dembski's information theoretic notions
really have not found a place in the
world of information theory. As the
notion of CSI and the alleged
"conservation law of information" do
impinge on the field of statistical
mechanics as well, being claimed to
be "the 4th law of thermodynamics",
these claims are quite
grandiose. Neither has found a place
in the respective mainstream

2) There is not a *single* application
of Dembski's CSI in science. The
claims regarding CSI that appear in
Dembski's works, such as examples
such as "Mt. Rushmore" and the like
are all "eyeball" estimates, making
these examples anthropomorphic rather
than quantitative determinations.

3) All scientific theories must be
grounded in observational/experimental
results. The only attempt at
"grounding" of ID is an appeal things
that are not well understood in
mainstream science.

Francis Collins is quite polite in his treatment of ID. As a competent scientist, he no doubt has to choke back considerable revulsion when he encounters the subject.

Ed Darrell said...

I make of that journal that it doesn't publish science -- the titles of the articles tend toward philosophy -- and that it's wholly captured by ID advocates. So it makes my point: If it doesn't publish ID papers, what is the excuse? Where is the ID research? Even the on-line journals, refereed by ID-biased partisans, has nothing to show.

Dr. Behe has more than three dozen papers to his credit, in major scientific journals. He has never been rejected in such a submission that anyone has recorded. If someone knows of a Behe paper being rejected, I'd like to see the work first.

Behe did have a journal refuse to publish a letter to the editor he had written -- but to claim a letter to the editor as "research" only again demonstrates the poverty of science in ID. Were ID a scientific proposition, one would think that there would be any number of scientific experiments going on at any time, with a few dozen submissions each year. Instead, we are offered a refused letter to the editor, and an on-line, biased journal that has no research in it.

So the questions remain: Since any serious research could have saved creationism for schools in 1981, and since any serious research in ID creationism could have saved ID for the schools in 2005 -- why are the IDists/creationists/whatever-you-want-to call-themists holding their work from the public? What is so dangerous in ID that it cannot stand the light of day? Or is it something not dangerous that cannot stand the light of day?

This is a function of academic integrity. In a world where evolution produces thousands of research papers annually, how can anyone claim ID is science when it has such an awful record in doing research and getting it published?

Are there research articles done that have been rejected? The courts can't find them when people are under oath and penalty of perjury. Why should we believe the truth changes when these people are not under oath?

And, if there really is any lab anywhere on Earth doing ID research, why is it no one can produce a photograph of the lab? Where is it located? Who runs it? What is the project they are working on this week?