The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Live Blog of CFI Chicago’s “Dangerous Nonsense” Entry #3

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 24, 2010

Speaker #3: We’re back from lunch!  Our speaker is Dr. Ron Pine, explorer, retired biology professor, and debunker of “Intelligent Design”…

He’s from Lawrence, Kansas, and he’s here talking about evolution & creationism (and the newest version of creationism – “intelligent design”).  One argument by creationists often used is to “teach the controversy”.  In ID, there are basically no new arguments – the roots of ID are actually older than Flood Geology, Biblically based Young Earth Creationism.  Thus, these ID arguments have been thoroughly refuted for a long time, yet the argument is back with new terminology.  Essentially, the ID argument boils down to claiming that “we have proved the existence of God using science!”

That’s a pretty enormous claim, especially considering that there is no science in modern ID – it’s just a bunch of essays written by the proponents.  They use all the standard creationist arguments against evolution which have been debunked for many years.

William Paley’s Watchmaker Argument: from the modern ID movement, it is clear that their version of the Intelligent Designer is their view of the Christian god.

Irreducible Complexity & Specified Complexity – IC is complexity which can not be broken down any simpler.  SC speaks to specific functions (i.e., DNA, etc)

Law of Conservation of Information: basically, it is impossible for natural processes to come up with SC – wtf?!

The entire ID argument boils in large part down to an argument from incredulity – “I cannot conceive that God didn’t do it, therefore evolution is wrong & God did it!”  When presented with explanations via evolution for what we observe, they essentially deny the evidence & rationalize it away.

Another ID argument is known as god-of-the-gaps… in the past, in the absence of natural explanations for various phenomena (earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, etc) the explanation of “God did (does) it!” comes to the front.  However, as we learn more and more about the natural world, the god-of-the-gaps gets smaller and smaller, which is one reason why intelligent theologians do not like this line of argumentation.

The Center for Science & Culture via the Discovery Institute pushes ID through their Wedge Strategy, internal memos which explicitly state that they are attempting to push a Christian theocracy on U.S. society.  They believe that this “wedge” will lead to a replacement of evolution in science by ID, and this will better society as a whole – note that they say specifically that they aren’t interested in science, rather they are interested in pushing their ideology.  Questions such as Young Earth Creationism vs. Old Earth Creationism are said to be answered after evolution is replaced.

At least in YEC, there is some kind of model to be tested, making it at least a legitimate pseudoscience, whereas the modern ID movement is not even wrong, it’s not even a pseudoscience, because it doesn’t even have a model which can be tested in the first place!

ID proponents claim they have a theory, yet they don’t – no model to test – just a bunch of articles.  They take advantage of the public’s misunderstanding of the word “theory”, which they imply is “just a guess.”  Sadly, many high school texts don’t help with the manner in which scientific terminology is mangled (e.g., hypothesis is more than “a prediction”).  This includes mixing up various terms such as scientific law, theory, etc.

There is no ID “theory” – it is simply an assertion.  And scientists shouldn’t even use such language in reference to ID, because it gives them more credit than they deserve. …

Five Models of the Earth in the Past Compatible with ID:

Blood clotting in humans or bacterial flagellum as examples of IC.  Only humans have that blood clotting process, and only bacteria have that particular flagella, so this would suggest, in the creationist view, that each (humans & bacteria) would have to be separately created.  Thus, there are many, many separate acts of creation.

1. Maybe there was a single, original created kind of living thing which was miraculously created.  It had every single IC structure within it to begin with, and as the present day fluora & fauna were developed from this original organism there were various bits lost to form what we see today.

2. Maybe the original, miraculously created critter (OMCC) had all of the genetic material for past & present organisms within it.  So there was selective loss of genetic material over time to yield all the organisms we see today.  A problem with this is exactly how is any of this material preserved without beign degraded – answer: miraculous maintenance.

This model actually predicts fossilized transitional forms, which puts it at odds with many other versions of creationism.

3. OMCC is hanging out, and God tinkers miraculously with all the critter’s IC parts/genetics.  So the organisms can develop, but it requires constant maintenance (miraculous tinkering) on the part of God.  So things like vestigial structures had to be added in.  This, too, predicts fossils.

4. There were separate miraculous creations at the species level.  It could be a gradual or punctuated version of creationism.  They would be created and stuck into the ecosystem, but unfortunately this process seems to have stopped – probably because the best creation, humans, has been reached.  These folks say the fossil record should be taken at face value, by which they mean that if a fossil is discovered to have appeared suddenly it literally means that “poof!” it appeared suddenly (no transitional forms).  So, you’re walking around in the Mesozoic, and all of the sudden “Poof!” there’s a whole herd of brontosauruses appears! 🙂

The same argument would have to go for sudden disappearances of organisms – no gradual extinctions.  It all happens at once – “poof!”

5. The Standard Bible-Science Creationism: this is a model the modern ID people have ever repudiated this view, because they want to have a “big tent” in order to further their ideological agenda (very different from in modern science where different camps argue all the time).  All species are created separately & miraculously all at the same time in the past.

Thus, when it boils down to it, what you really get at the fundamental level here is nothing more than explanation by miracles.  So everything that happens is an act of God – welcome to the pre-Enlightenment world.

Actual science has made a (unintentional) political mistake in this battle with creationism.  That is, science has actual content, models & theories which make it easy to attack, and the ID people avoid that trap by not having any content at all!  Thus, there is a double standard: science can be criticized, and ID cannot.  This is the political problem that YEC have… they proposed content and got pwned because it is so obviously wrong.  This makes a problem for creationists because the ID people are not willing to repudiate YEC despite it’s obvious falseness – so since they don’t distance themselves from YEC, critique ID by critiquing YEC…

*Take the fossil record, it contains huge gaps that argue against YEC – were all these gaps also created at the same time?

*Also, according to the Bible, flowering plants came into existence before the Sun!

*How would you get all the animals onto the Ark?  There are at least 800 genera of dinosaurs alone!  YEC responses are ludicrous: maybe they’re all babies or in eggs, maybe they were all plant eaters (???), there were various “created kinds” from which modern critters descended.

*By YEC calculation, the Flood was 4300 years ago, which is within recorded archeological time!  And no intermediates between “created kinds” and modern creatures have been found, at all.

So when creationists have a model, it is clear they suck.  So in order for ID to gain any kind of scientific credibility, they have to propose a model that is at least better than YEC.

Based on the evidence, it seems that God actually wants us to see evolution in the universe.  Is God deceiving us?  Is our faith being tested?  Or is it Satan trying to use this false evidence as a way of trying to steer us away from the true path?

Final word: this is a big movement, so pay attention to who you vote for on your local school boards, etc.

Now time for some magical/mentalist entertainment… 🙂

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