Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Link for Doug Groothuis on "Bible Answer Man"

Here is the Internet audio link if you want to listen to my comments on the new atheism from the Bible Answer Man. Click on the link, "Questions and Answers" for Feb. 05,2008.


Sirfab said...

Dear Dr. Groothuis:

I just listened to your appearance on the Mr. Hanegraaff's radio broadcast.

I was surprised to hear you bring up the issue of the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum. It is relevant to remind you that Behe and Dembski's irreducible complexity argument, particularly as it pertains to the bacterial flagellum, but also to the blod-clotting cascade or the immune system, has been dismantled and disproven, most notably in the Kitzmiller et all v. Dover Board of Education trial (known to most as the Dover trial).

As memorialized in Judge Jones's decision in favor of Kitzmiller, Professor Behe himself "has admitted there are no peer-reviewed articles arguing for the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade and the immune system, or any other purportedly irreducibly complex system... He also acknowledged that there were no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood- clotting cascade and the immune system, were intelligently designed."

When Prof. Dawkins says that ID is a symptom of laziness, he is right to say so both from a scientific and an intellectual point of view. True science does not stop at what is difficult to understand, it does not throw its hands in the air as a sign or surrender, and it does not kneel at the altar of faith to worship an improbable designer. Instead, it keeps working in search of natural explanations, it tests those explanations and builds knowledge on accumulated knowledge. In that sense it is progressive and it is the exact opposite of ID, which is reactionary and lives to preserve a status quo of scientific ignorance.


Paul D. Adams said...

First you say that the irreducible complexity argument has been "disproven" and then you remind us that there are no peer-reviewed articles arguing for it. Does it logically follow, therefore, that irreducible complexity is necessarily false because it has yet to be confirmed by the general scientific community? This is not a rhetorical challenge; I REALLY want to know. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions clearly outlines the history of science as moving forward when new discoveries are found but yet to be affirmed. Help me out here on your rationale.

emmzee said...

According to the upcoming Ben Stein documentary, there are reasons besides the validity of the scientific study itself that ID is not published in mainstream scientific journals ...

David Strunk said...

I too am wondering whether the lack of peer-reviewed articles is more a symptom of rigid and entrenched philosophical naturalism as opposed to an engagement with the actual scientific issues at hand.

Irreducible complexity is a wonderful argument. But I have another favorite that no biology professor at my secular university could provide coherently. How actually did life begin?

Dawkins seems to think the best answer is on the backs of crystals. He doesn't elaborate well. I'm just unconvinced by his lack of argumentation.

Sirfab said...

No Paul:

What we know is this:

a) there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting intelligent design (which, by definition, there could not be because peer-reviewers would be scientists, i.e. people who should be concerned with natural evidence for natural phenomena).

b) every time an IDer proposes intelligent design as an explanation for a supposedly irreducibly complex mechanism, a group of scientists goes on to find a perfectly natural explanation for the supposedly extranaturally-designed mechanism.

Therefore it is logical to conclude that people who try to inject design into the realm of the natural do so because a) they are deluded, or b) they are lazy, or c) they are dishonest because they refuse to do science following scientific standards, and then they cry foul because they cannot get a fair hearing.

Emmzee: money has allowed some groups to spread the lie of holocaust denial, so it is not surprising that money will allow IDers to portray themselves as persecuted victims of the scientific community.

Here's my evolved prediction: there will be no scientific papers on Intelligent Design submitted for peer-review in 2008. However, if this first prediction were proved wrong, I can predict that such papers would not pass muster. As a corollary to these predictions, I can add that the failure of ID to break the peer-review barrier will be portrayed by IDers as further proof of their persecution at the hands of the godless scientific community.

Paul D. Adams said...

Thanks, SirFab, for your thoughtful response.

Question: Are there any uninterpreted, brute facts that scientists as you describe can observe? Put differently, "natural evidence" and "phenomena" is understood and interpreted within a framework/conceptual schema. Finding a "natural explanation" is merely the pot calling the kettle black. It seems to me that a thorough-going stance for integrity is the scientist as you describe admitting their commitment to philosophical naturalism as a worldview. Have I missed something here?

This discussion is really one about competing worldviews or starting points from which we gather, interpret, and assign relevance to the data. We're all looking at the same data; we clearly are not interpreting it the same.

Sirfab said...


To do science you need to formulate hypotheses that are testable, falsifiable, and predictive.

ID fails in all three respects, which is not surprising considering that its core assumption is that, some things being irreducibly complex (until science proves otherwise), design is apparent in nature. Testing claims of irreducible complexity invariably leads to their falsification when science is given enough time to prevail.

People who say, as Mr. Hanegraaff, does, that "these guys" (Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) are close-minded because they do not admit the supernatural explanations of natural phenomena show a complete misunderstanding of the boundaries of scientific research and belong in the same category as astrologists.

emmzee said...

sirfab: Thank you for dismissing the film out of hand before even viewing it (or likely even viewing the trailer) while at the same time equating those who have produced it with those who deny the holocaust. It demonstrates your attitude towards these issues quite well.

Doug Groothuis said...


When the "Expelled" film comes out, let's see it together along with your wife! Then we'll talk about it.


Sirfab said...

Hello Dr. Groothuis.

I thank you for the invitation and gladly accept it.


Sirfab said...

Emmzee, I am glad to report that you misread me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify the intended meaning of my observation:

If holocaust deniers have found the way to raise enough money for their largely unpopular cause, it is not surprising that IDers will be able to raise tons of money to portray themselves as victims in a cause that is far more popular among mainstream Americans than denial of the holocaust.

That is what I meant and that is what I should have said. If the original phrasing led you to believe that I put Intelligent Design on par with the holocaust, I apologize.

However, for accuracy's sake, I should let you know that while my statement about holocaust deniers and IDers might have been unclear, Ben Stein was actively out tying Darwinism and the holocaust.

In a NY Times article titled "Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin", published on September 27, Stein said that he thinks Darwinism leads to racism and genocide. If Stein had his way, the article reports, the documentary would have been called 'From Darwin to Hitler." I'll accept your apology on behalf of Mr. Stein.

How people like Stein can tie Darwinism, which teaches common descent (if we descend from a common ancestor, the very concept of race and racism vanishes), has always been beyond me. The Origin of The Species, unlike--say--the Old Testament, does not contain any invitations to mass murder or ethnic cleansing, so Stein's position is certainly disconcerting to me.

As for your thanks for dismissing the film without having seen it (nor, I admit, the trailer), you are welcome, and you are right. But I did not express my sentiment about it in total ignorance of the mockumentary's contents. Opinions on it, from sources that I consider more reputable than both Mr. Stein or the Discovery Institute, are readily available, and provide enough ground for a negative initial impression of it. Here is one such opinion. And here is a review by someone who has actually seen the movie and has not signed the non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements that came with the invitation to see the movie.

In any case, a movie with the tag line of "No Intelligence Allowed" shows its attitude towards those who disagree quite well (unintelligent?), before the first image has even hit the retina. Nor did the movie make any effort to represent the views of religious scientists (for example Francis S. Collins, he of the Human Genome Project) who believe that ID is not a legitimate scientific theory
and that the extent of the controversy about the theory of evolution
is largely exaggerated by the Discovery Institute. Scientists like them, according to IDers, are too keen on maintaining their academic funding, and too careful not to upset the establishement, to speak out in favor of ID. In other words, there is no overwhelming majority of Christian scientists who think that ID is junk science (or, better yet, no science at all), just a large number of sheepish scientists (first) and Christians (second), ready to serve godlessness in the name of fame and power.
Perhaps if Mr. Stein had had his way, he would have included them in the movie after all and portrayed them as a bunch of Dr. Mengele's, with a chuckle!


Sirfab said...

Oh dear, something happened to my review link above. Here it is again.

GB said...

Fab's demonstration of Godwin's law at work notwithstanding, I have to agree with his premise, though not his analogy.

Redefining science -- evolutionary biology, anyway -- to include ID is bad. It's akin to redefining Christianity to include those who do not believe in the bodily resurrection. The "irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum" is simply another data point on a continuum that includes "the earth is the center of the universe"; "the earth is 10,000 years old"; and "man and dinosaurs coexisted." Science has proven it or will prove it wrong. I choose not to have my faith tied to such.

In contemplating this discussion, I reviewed Dr. G's article in which he says about ID: "What it disputes about Darwinism is not that natural selection occurs, but that undirected natural causes alone are sufficient to explain all of life." But I don't think even evolutionary biologists -- true Darwinists, though they don't use that term to describe themselves -- claim that Darwin's theory does this. More importantly, I think this misstates what ID does practically. If this is ID's philosophical assertion, what it does actually is *conclude*: therefore, something supernatural caused at least some of life. ID fallaciously argues for creation by attempting to negate Darwin's theory. This is bad logic.

I'm a Christian; I include ID within my worldview. I make room for the possibility that our magnificent Creator sprinkled this multi-billion year old planet with various fully-formed species just 10,000 years ago. Heck, I even make room for the possibility that He breathed this entire universe into existence merely a few thousand years ago, simultaneously creating a fossil record so that secular and non-secular alike would have something to write and argue about while "working out" their respective faiths or lack thereof. But I also make room for the possibility that our Creator's *testable, repeatable, and unquestionably provable* (i.e., scientific) effect on this world ended the moment before the big bang, which includes my fully accepting all the miraculous events that make up Christian faith (while excluding those that make up all other religions, a clause I include for the purpose of making a more complete statement).

I'm all for ID being taught -- in anthropology, comparative religion, even in qualified branches of science in which conclusions MUST be drawn in the absence of further investigation. But it has no place being taught as the sine qua non of life. The search for the biological origin of life is an ongoing search, and conceding the origin *scientifically* to ID changes the principles upon which this branch of science is based. (Hence my analogy above)

Conversely, academia has improperly elevated Darwin's theory to being this sine qua non, which is equally incorrect. Whether this is the logical result of religious and non-religious staking out extreme positions is debatable, but I certainly think this debating posture has something to do with Darwin's theory becoming an "-ism." I also hold firmly to the position that ID's insistence on forcing it's way into evolutionary biology is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic; it completely misses the point.

Dr. G, have you ever debated a true evolutionary biologist on this subject (and by "true evolutionary biologist," I mean someone like Eugenie Scott, who refuses to adopt "Darwinist" as a moniker)?

David Strunk said...

To all:
I have gotten to see the movie Expelled, but until recently could not discuss it until they waived the document that I signed (claiming that I could not discuss details of the movie).

It is fascinating and at times a little manipulative, and in this way resembles Michael Moore. Yet, the movie does something quite bold: it is basically an assembly of interviews with a bunch of scientists, atheists and ID alike. Dawkins is interviewed as well as other notables. There are several well-made points about the scientific community and their commitment to ideology over empirical data. Too many scientists shout too loud without actually looking at it. They say that it is wrong de facto. This is a worldview commitment, not science.

Sadly, a movie like this has time constraints. I got to talk with Stein a little in a Q and A session. He said they took 37 hours of interviewing down to the 90 minutes the movie has become.

The most intriguing part of the movie is the incoherence and ridiculous nature of the answer, "How did life begin?" Major answers from "the world's best scientists?" Aliens, on the backs of sea crystals, and other lesser known options. Let's just say I'm not convinced by the alien argument.

Sirfab said...

Watching this interview of Ben Stein by Bill O'Reilly is amusing and maddening at the same time. In less then five minutes, the two, combined, make so many false and/or misleading statements that it is hard to keep count.

To begin with, Stein says that Darwinism is a relic of the age of imperialism as if that disqualified the validity of the theory by association or by suggesting that it is an old, tired theory that needs to be supplanted by something new. He goes on to say that it is a great theory but that it does not answer the question of how life began. Of course, evolutionary theory was never intended by Darwin to give an answer to how life began, but as a comprehensive description of the mechanisms by which new species appear on (and old species vanish from) our planet.

Moving on, Stein says that while Intelligent Design may be wrong, it is an attempt to fill the many gaps in Darwin's theory. Of course, the fact that there are currently gaps in evolutionary knowledge no more requires Intelligent Design for help than gaps in our knowledge of astrophysics require the help of astrology. Evolutionary theory is capable of providing solutions to unanswered questions, much has it has done for 150 years. Should it fail or be subverted, it will be at the hands of another scientific theory, not by Intelligent Design.

Next, Bill O'Reilly baits Ben Stein by saying that people like Cristopher Hitchens, Bill Maher and others will accuse Ben Stein of being "a primitive, [...] an intellectual deficient, [having] no right to intrude upon the American secular culture by bringin up that there may be a creator...". While to my knowledge such accusations have yet to be leveled, Stein takes the bait and... switches to an issue of first amendment rights. This is a classical fallacy of ID. The right to propose and speak of Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolutionary theory does not extend to the right to say it in science class, once it has been shown (as it has been) that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, but the latest transformation of a god of the gaps theory, a fundamentally religious theory. As GB suggests in his post, perhaps it can be discussed in an anthropology class, in a philosophy class, or in a theology class, but it certainly does not belong in a science class. In those forums, other theories of the origins of life can be entertained, including those that originate in Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam (and, why not, Pastafarianism, since its adherents will certainly make an incontrovertible demand for equal time).

It is fascinating to hear Ben Stein lecture (Fox) viewers on how societies progress, by free inquiry, in his role for a spokesman of religion (despite to claims to the contrary, the basis of Intelligent Design), which has had a mixed record in promoting free inquiry and in stifling it.

O'Reilly and Stein gang up on scientists and atheists who have been on O'Reilly's show for their inability to give a definitive answer to the origins of life; once again they confuse the issue of the origin of life with evolutionary theory, a stale tactic of opponents of evolution.

The interview concludes with a restatement of the movie's idea that religious scientists are being persecuted. I guess I will have to wait to see specific cases portrayed in the movie before I express my views on the subject, but it is common knowledge that many cases of alleged persecution have been largely exaggerated by their victims.