Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A polite response to an impolite Darwinist about why we should uncritically accept Darwinism

Well we've got a little debate going on here on Intelligent Design. I'm going to bring some of the comments out on the main blog so we can talk about some of the more important aspects of this debate in the broad daylight, and to show the lack of logic that seems to plague the proponents of Darwinism.

Let's first talk about one comment from "Motheral," who, like so many people who post on Internet boards, uses a pseudonym to hide his identity. I have said numerous times before that this habit of anonymity is the technological "Ring of Gyges" that allows the person to be as rude and insulting as he wants to be without ever having to personally face anyone.

Not only is this really bad form, but I've always wondered why you would even want to pad your rhetoric with invective if your arguments are good? Isn't a crushing logical conclusion at least as personally satisfying as hurling an epithet? In his last post he compares me to the former Iraqi Information Minister. C'mon. This is like using a pitchfork in battle because you have had all your real weapons taken away.

Motheral needs to lose the attitude and address the argument.

I said that Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars was assuming what he was trying to prove when he said that bias is okay in a program covering the debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design because Darwinism is correct. Motheral disagrees. Fine. Here is his reponse:
Ed is not "assuming" anything. He's observing that evolution has been proven to be THE useful and workable scientific explanation for the observed diversity of life on Earth; and that ID/creationism has simply never been able to cut it as "science." The scientific debate here is completely one-sided, because creationism has never brought anything to the table. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate for a TV show to recognize this fact by giving the most weight to the winning arguments. The "bias" you're going on about comes from this reality, not from PBS.
Now here is Ed's argument:
  • Darwinism is correct.
  • Bias is okay when it is shown in favor of a correct position.
  • Therefore, bias in favor of Darwinism is okay.
If you put that in the larger context of the debate about whether Darwinism is correct, how can you say that he isn't assuming what he is trying to prove? Check out the first premise. Then, in Motheral's response, he argues that Ed is not assuming what he is trying to prove because he is correct!

Huh?

Ed isn't assuming what he is trying to prove because Ed is correct? Talk about turning the fallacy of principio principi into an art form!

If the debate is about whether Darwinism is correct, then obviously assuming Darwinism is correct is assuming what you are trying to prove. And simply reasserting the major premise in a circular argument is no refutation of the fact that it is circular.

Here we have a debate between two competing theories of how we got here, and one side wants the rest of us to assume, at the outset of the debate, that it is correct. Then they want the rest of us not to notice when they do it. And if we do notice, then they'll call us nasty names. Finally, despite all this, they demand that we recognize how rational and intelligent they are.

Now I'm confident that the Darwinists can do better than this, and that they can do it without personal insults and hyperbole.

C'mon Motheral, let's see if you can do it.

15 comments:

motheral said...

You still have yet to provide a single instance of unfair treatment of the ID-evolution "controversy" by the PBS show, like a specific fact or incident that the show ignored or misrepresented, despite repeated requests from more than one respondent that you do so.

Also, your latest post doesn't even TRY to refute any of the substantive comments I made previously. And you continue to blatantly misrepresent the substance of what Ed had said, despite the corrective information offered here (which, again, you did not address or refute). Your entire post, in fact, does nothing but repeat the exact same assertions that have already been debunked, both here and countless times elsewhere. And that's why I compared you to the Iraqi Information Minister, doggedly denying the presence of US forces while US tanks move in plain sight behind him. The comparison was perfectly appropriate, and I see no need to apologize for it.

Now all you can do is ignore all the facts and arguments you can't handle, and fall back on lectures about manners -- as if your distortions and groundless accusations represent superior manners on your part.

Since you have refused to engage with the REAL arguments we have made, I will conclude that the argument is over. Buh-bye and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

"Here we have a debate between two competing theories of how we got here, and one side wants the rest of us to assume, at the outset of the debate, that it is correct. Then they want the rest of us not to notice when they do it. And if we do notice, then they'll call us nasty names. Finally, despite all this, they demand that we recognize how rational and intelligent they are."

Please tell me how ID is a theory? What does it predict? How is it testable? Most importantly, what facts explain ID?

Ideas are not Theories just because you wish them to be. You a falsely elevating ID to the status of "Theory" without a whisp of proof.

To be a Theory, the idea or hypothesis has to earn is chops.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

You keep saying that I have "yet to provide a single instance of unfair treatment of the ID-evolution 'controversy' by the PBS show."

Excuse me, but I have provided it several times, in several posts, on several blogs. So here we go again:

"First, the program had two parallel extended segments explaining each position: one on evolution, the other on ID. The segment on evolution was uninterrupted by any rebuttals from the ID side. In the segment on ID, however, a rebuttal from the evolution side was included on every point about ID.

"Second, in the dramatized course scenes, a number of cross examinations by the anti-ID side were shown, while no cross examinations of the anti-ID side by the pro-ID side were shown."

And every time I say this people defending the show have two mutually exclusive responses:

First, that I have offered no examples of bias in the program (which I just did), and, second, that the examples of bias in the program that I did offer were justified.

Well which is it? How could people say that the examples I offered of bias were justified if I didn't offer any examples of bias? And if I didn't offer any examples of bias, then how can they say that the examples I offered were justified.

I think you all need to do get together and come up with a way of rebutting what I said that doesn't cancel itself out.

Martin Cothran said...

In regard to why I didn't rebut every single individual thing you said in your previous post, that is partly because I haven't gotten around to it yet. But you'll be glad to know there's more coming.

kehrsam said...

It's always encouraging to see Plato show up in a blog post. Glaucon, of course, was putting forward a straw man with the Gyges argument, but the point is taken.

With regard to Ed Brayton, I think he is essentially making the same point I had earlier (this seems much clearer in today's post) that the documentary was attempting to put forward the debate as it played out in the Dover courtroom rather than as part of the general debate between ID and evolution. It would have helped if the producers had announced up front that that was what they intended to show. To someone as intimately connected to the trial as Ed, this is probably an unspoken assumption.

In my opinion, the intent of the show was not to provide a forum for debating the relative merits of the two positions, so there is little sense in blaming them for not doing so. The way the show was marketed was therefore dishonest to some extent, as you rightly point out. This does not necessarily make the documentary itself dishonest, however.

One final cavil is the terms, "Darwinists" and "Darwinism." This post is in part about manners, yet it seems to me that it is poor manners to refer to a group by a term they do not use for themselves. It is the same as when people involved in the abortion debate refer to the other side as "Pro-Death" or "Anti-Choice."

The group in question call themselves, Evolutionists," as it happens, which seems both fair and descriptive. Give it a test drive some time.

Martin Cothran said...

Kehrsam,

It's a fair point you make about the objective of the show: that it was supposed to be about the debate as it played out on the show. And I would satisfied with that if it were not for the fact that the show itself went beyond the trial in a significant sequence in which it went into the arguments for evolution and the arguments for Intelligent design in and of themselves and outside the context of the trial--an in a way that rigged the presentation in favor of evolution.

As soon as it did that, I think it lost the protection of that argument.

In regard to the term 'Darwinist', I really don't mean it as a pejorative, and I wouldn't think that those to whom I (or any one else) apply the label could possibly consider it an epithet given their own reverence for Darwin himself. I use the term to refer to evolutionists who employ a strict version of methodological naturalism and to distinguish them from those who do not. I wouldn't, for example, use the term in reference to a theistic evolutionist.

It's rather a matter of convenience for me, and I know those to whom that label is affixed don't necessarily like it, but I can't think of a better way to make the distinction.

Maybe I'm just being petty, but I guess I would be little more sympathetic about it if those who don't like being called Darwinists weren't also the same people who are always saying that Intelligent Design is the same thing as creationism.

In any case, thanks for the well-stated and cordial post.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

Please tell me how Superstring Theory is a theory? What does it predict? How is it testable? Most importantly, what facts explain Superstring Theory?

Ideas are not Theories just because you wish them to be. Scientists are falsely elevating Superstring Theory to the status of "Theory" without a whisp of proof.

To be a Theory, the idea or hypothesis has to earn its chops.

kehrsam said...

I wouldn't, for example, use the term in reference to a theistic evolutionist.

Well, speaking just for myself as a theistic evolutionist, I would prefer the term "Weak IDist" while reserving "Evolutionist" for those who foreclose all thought of divine intervention.

The problem is this: My version of ID would appear no different from the evidence available to someone attached to methodological naturalism: There literally is no way to draw a distinction between the two based upon any evidence we can hope to find. I happen to believe in a universe created (and maintained) by an infinite, omni-etc God, and others do not. As God created the matter and energy we can observe, it stands to reason that we can draw few, if any, conclusions about Him based upon such evidence.

I am assuming you believe in a stronger form of ID, one in which there exists evidence for God's agency. I sympathize, but it does not appear to me that God works that way.

In His name, Kurt A. Ehrsam

Martin Cothran said...

Kurt,

I suppose my view would be stronger. It seems to me the central insight of ID is that there are specifiable and detectable criteria for determining whether something is the product of design. The proof for this is simply that we, in fact, make determinations of whether something is the product of design all the time, an indication that there are criteria we consider valid and useful.

This seems to me to be not only common sensical, but fairly self-evident.

Now whether what people like William Dembski say--that this determination lies in the realm of science--seems to me a less obvious, but certainly a plausible view. And most of the refutations of it I have seen rely on a view of how science can be demarcated from non-science that is overly simplistic and that doesn't take into account the complexity of the problem of determining what is science and what isn't. There is a big debate about demarcation criteria in the philosophy of science that these people simply ignore. Their rhetoric simply runs roughshod over the complexity of the problem.

It seems to me ID has a similar status to something like superstring theory: a view that is plausible but which no one has yet even proven can be proved.

In any case I guess it is obvious that I find the visceral hostility show by many of the Darwinist ID opponents to be fairly unimpressive.

Joe said...

All the clever and witty quips aside (and they are clever and witty), we all know that the 'debate' (which is only a debate in pop culture and not at all in science, unless pop culture tries to force it's whims into science instruction) has at its core. That ID is not, underlined and bold faced, a SCIENTIFIC THEORY. I am seeing repeated tactics from IDists side stepping this claim by evolutioists and scientists (demarcation point not valid? Huh?). So, IDists, either concede ID is not a scientific theory, or explain, dear God PLEASE explain, how ID is a scientific theory, before you go any further. Because that is a worthy absolute... if ID is not a scientific theory, it is not on par in the least with the robust and rigorous scientific theory of evolution, gravity, relativity, or a myriad of other theories. Might I add that if you avoid this as predicted, you shall be deemed a side-stepper and shall e cast a disappointed look.

Joe
Columbus, Ohio

Martin Cothran said...

Joe,

If you're going to say that something is not a scientific theory, then you're obviously assuming some demarcation criteria for science. I have no qualms in saying that, if ID is science, then it probably should be placed near the border somewhere. But I have yet to see a criterion for what is science that excludes ID and does not exclude something like superstring theory--in other words, that excludes the things ID opponents want to exclude and doesn't exclude the things they don't want to exclude.

I'm not trying to be clever and witty: I just want to know what this magical demarcation criterion I hear so much about from the Darwinists is.

So if you've got it, I'd like to hear it.

motheral said...

First, the program had two parallel extended segments explaining each position: one on evolution, the other on ID. The segment on evolution was uninterrupted by any rebuttals from the ID side. In the segment on ID, however, a rebuttal from the evolution side was included on every point about ID.

What, exactly, were those rebuttals the program missed? If none were offered, then, as I said before, the "bias" comes from the reality of what happened, not from PBS.

...the show itself went beyond the trial in a significant sequence in which it went into the arguments for evolution and the arguments for Intelligent design in and of themselves and outside the context of the trial--an in a way that rigged the presentation in favor of evolution.

Again, please give specific examples. Just because your side didn't win, and/or came off looking like lying idiots, doesn't mean the presentation was "rigged."

Scientists are falsely elevating Superstring Theory to the status of "Theory" without a whisp of proof.

Actually, real scientists have been admitting that superstring theory is new, vague, and still undeveloped. That's why they're not trying to force it into high-school science curricula by political and PR means; nor are they crying about how "unfair" it is that their theory is met with skepticism. There's nothing "false" about how real scientists handle superstring theory.

But I have yet to see a criterion for what is science that excludes ID and does not exclude something like superstring theory...

One criterion is non-reliance on unverifiable supernatural causes as explanations for observed phenomena. Another is the reliance on testable hypotheses. ID fails on both counts, whatever one might say about string theory. There's also the fact that ID "scientists" have been shown to be lying through their teeth for the past few decades, if not longer; but that's another matter.

Martin Cothran said...

I said:

Scientists are falsely elevating Superstring Theory to the status of "Theory" without a whisp of proof.

Motheral said:

Actually, real scientists have been admitting that superstring theory is new, vague, and still undeveloped

My comment of course, was simply taking Anonymous's words, and replacing every instance of "ID" with "Superstring Theory," since the same thing applies to it as applies to ID.

The fact that scientists admit that superstring theory is "new, vague, and still undeveloped" is irrelevant to whether it is science or not. There are and have been plenty of scientific theories that could be characterized as "new, vague and still undeveloped". That has no bearing on whether they still count as science.

You just skirted my argument that any criterion by which ID is excluded from the realm of science can also be used to exclude superstring theory. People may disagree with superstring theory or think that it is still undeveloped, but no one I have heard of says it isn't a scientific theory.

You cite two criterion:
1. Non-reliance on unverifiable supernatural causes as explanations for observed phenomena. This is little better than a statement of methodological naturalism (with the exception of the pejorative term "unverifiable"). It is sort of like saying, okay, "we're going to add to the existing rules of football the new rule that the home team always wins." If the evidence leads to some sort of supernatural designer, then we have to ignore it. Why can't we just go where the evidence leads?

2. The reliance on testable hypotheses. Please tell me what testable hypotheses superstring theory has set forth.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I gave you a specific example of Judgment Day treating ID unfairly and you come back with:

Again, please give specific examples. Just because your side didn't win, and/or came off looking like lying idiots, doesn't mean the presentation was "rigged."

I'm just not getting this. They're in the 3rd post down. I said the presentation of evolution was presented without any opposing viewpoints while ID was. What is there not to understand about this?

In any kind of presentation on a controversy, that would be perceived as rigged. Why don't you just come out and say that you think it is okay to be unfair in a presentation of an issue as long as it favors your side?

motheral said...

The fact that scientists admit that superstring theory is "new, vague, and still undeveloped" is irrelevant to whether it is science or not.

No, it is most certainly not "irrelevant:" the honesty with which scientists handle superstring theory is indeed relevant, especially when compared with the consistent dishonesty that underlies the entire ID movement.

...This is little better than a statement of methodological naturalism (with the exception of the pejorative term "unverifiable"). It is sort of like saying, okay, "we're going to add to the existing rules of football the new rule that the home team always wins."

Ah, the standard rallying-whine of the sore loser: "The fact that I lost proves the game was rigged!" In reality, there are plenty of good reasons for scientists to rely on methodological naturalism -- reasons which millions of devout theists, both in and out of the scientific community, understand and accept wholeheartedly.

(If you found a loved-one murdered, would you accept supernatural agency as an explanation? Or would you get a homicide-detective to use methodological naturalism to find material evidence to support a material explanation and get the perpetrator locked up?)

If the evidence leads to some sort of supernatural designer, then we have to ignore it. Why can't we just go where the evidence leads?

What evidence leads to a "supernatural designer?" And if such evidence existed, why are so many IDers trying to attack science for relying on evidence?

Please tell me what testable hypotheses superstring theory has set forth.

None that I know of. Like I said, it's a new and undeveloped area of inquiry. But then, has any scientist been caught lying about superstring theory?

I said the presentation of evolution was presented without any opposing viewpoints while ID was.

What specific opposing viewpoint did the program fail to present?