Anti-intelligent design petition

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There is an anti-intelligent design petition going wild in academic science circles -- I got e-mailed two copies of links to it within a couple of minutes. The text of the statement is actually fairly interesting:

We, as scientists trained in fields that utilize evolutionary theory, do not consider Intelligent Design to be a fact-based science appropriate for teaching in public schools because it is theistic in nature, not empirical, and therefore does not pass the rigors of scientific hypothesis testing and theory development. As such, we petition that Intelligent Design not be presented in public schools as a viable science within the scientific curriculum.

There are three things I think are interesting about this. First, it refers to intelligent design as being "theistic in nature, not empirical," as if the two must necessarily be mutually exclusive. Now, granted, many people believe that empirical science can have nothing to say about God, but it seems rather difficult to empirically prove that statement, so such a statement is going beyond "empirical" science.

Second, it makes an interesting thought experiment to ask, "What if there were a great deal of empirical evidence that intelligent design might be right?" According to this statement, it looks as if it should necessarily still be excluded from being taught in schools, since, according to the statement, it is theistic in nature, not empirical. I guess this also means any empirical evidence that might ever exist in favor of intelligent design actually isn't empirical. Let me put that another way: Whoever wrote the statement has defined "theistic" and "empirical" as two mutually exclusive categories. Anything that concerns God isn't empirical, and anything empirical must not have anything to do with God. Note that this statement is unproven.

Finally, I find it interesting that the statement is designed (see the site above) as a response to the Discovery Institute's collection of signatures on a statement reading the following:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

Why is it interesting? Well, the Discovery Institute doesn't even suggest teaching Intelligent Design in schools. See, for example, this question and answer in their FAQ's:

3. Should public schools require the teaching of intelligent design?

No. Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute recommends that states and school districts focus on teaching students more about evolutionary theory, including telling them about some of the theory's problems that have been discussed in peer-reviewed science journals. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned. We believe this is a common-sense approach that will benefit students, teachers, and parents.

Well, make of it what you will. Some 5,000+ scientists have already signed the anti-Intelligent Design petition as I write this. It seems to me at least a little troubling that so many scientists are willing to state that theistic statements are inherently not empirical. I would have a lot less of a problem with the statement if the phrase in question read, "because it is not empirical, and therefore does not pass the rigors of scientific hypothesis testing." But to add, "it is theistic, not empirical" means that their objection isn't chiefly whether it's empirical or not, but that it's theistic. And that is alarming.

I'll be interested in your comments.

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Parableman points to an anti-intelligent design petition circulating among academic scientists. The text of the petition reads: We, as scientists trained in fields that utilize evolutionary theory, do not consider Intelligent Design to be a fact-based ... Read More

Last night Dr. Michael Behe came to give a lecture here on the campus of the University of Minnesota. A friend of mine and I went. It was in one of the large lecture halls in the physics building, and was standing room only. Read More


I hope they realize that the implication of what they've said is that you can't critique intelligent design in schools. After all, critiques of intelligent design are about theism and thus aren't empirical. So critiques of intelligent design aren't science.

In philosophy, logical positivism has been dead for years. I guess it hasn't quite left the sciences.

...their objection isn't chiefly whether it's empirical or not, but that it's theistic. And that is alarming.

Here is a historical summary of a type of scholarship that is split in fact/value, physical/metaphysical, etc. and so will come down in favor of the crass and crude as an answer:

The scholars whom we shall quote in such impressive numbers, like those others who were instrumental in any other part of the German pre-war and war efforts, were to a large extent people of long and high standing, university professors and academy members, some of them world famous, authors with familiar names and guest lecturers abroad...
If the products of their research work, even apart from their rude tone, strike us as unconvincing and hollow, this weakness is due not to inferior training but to the mendacity inherent in any scholarship that overlooks or openly repudiates all moral and spiritual values and, by standing order, knows exactly its ultimate conclusions well in advance.
(Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People
By Max Weinreich
(New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :7) (Emphasis added)

The philosopher Alan Bloom has noted that the ideas of German philosophers are now the guiding force in American universities.

Some parellels:

Our whole cultural life for decades has been more or less under the influence of biological thinking, as it was begun particularly around the middle of the last century, by the teachings of Darwin...
(Ib. :33)

Since it is weak, opposing views must be censored somehow and so on. E.g., Darwin's Dangerous Idea Daniel Dennett views religious believers who dissuade their children from believing Darwinian evolution as such a threat to the social order that they need to be caged in zoos or quarantined (both metaphors are his).
(Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing
Edited by William Dembski, Introduction)

A similar sentiment:

When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side...I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already...What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.' And on May 1, 1937, he declared, "This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing." It was not an idle boast; that was precisely what was happening.
(The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
By William L. Shirer. (Simon and Schuster) 1990 :249)

An American university professor who uses the metaphors of violence argues in favor of censorship, even in editorials. Apparently, neither adults nor children ought to be allowed to question mythological narratives of Naturalism according to those who write them.

Hitler certainly was influenced by his misunderstandings of German philosophers, but that doesn't mean their views really do lead to what he did. One or two of them in fact did support him, but I doubt most of them would have considered his appropriation of their statements to have reflected their actual views.

As for the fact/value dichotomy, there's nothing German about it. Hume was Scottish.

As for Dennett, you're taking him way out of context. I've read that section of his book more than once. He most assuredly does not say that people who teach intelligent design and such things should be locked in zoos or quarantined. What he says is that we don't kill off bears because they're dangerous. We find a way for bears to be observed and preserved that keeps them fro harming those who would be easily damaged by them. He suggest something similar for those who teach views he considers dangerous. He doesn't mean that such people should be locked up or quarantined. He means that what they do is immoral, and we need ways to protect kids from their influence. School that teaches evolutionary theory as part of a biology curriculum is his way to do that, and those who seek to undermine that are, to his mind, like those who want to let bears roam the streets of the city.

Whew! Boy, I feel better now. I'm not to be locked away or fitted with an electronic collar for not accepting evolution's wildly improbable claims. It's only that the scientific thought police will be indoctrinating my children away from my beliefs, as they are considered 'dangerous.' May I suggest 'psychotic' to them? So that they may take the necessary next steps in their educational gulag.

I can't figure out why it constitutes thought police, indoctrination, psychotic, or an educational gulag to want our schools to teach our best science. The Discovery Instutite can't see a problem with this, either, as Abednego pointed out.

It's worth keeping Godwin's Law in mind. Hyperbolic comparison with Nazis usually signals that whoever first mentioned them has already lost the argument. The same goes for gulags and thought police. It just shows an ignorance of history if you confuse what's going on here with what happened in Stalinist or Nazi regimes. The elements that are common are radically different in degree, even if they're of the same kind.

Nice smarmy ad hominem, Jeremy. Ignorant huh? Actually, in point of fact, we are winning the argument. The swell surrounding ID was unthinkable a few decades ago. Less people believe in our evolution now, than do. Problems with it are finally being admitted aloud, like Gould's noting that the descent tree is 'unsupportable.'

So to re-post: Whew! Boy, I feel better now. I'm not to be locked away or fitted with an electronic collar for not accepting evolution's wildly improbable claims. It's only that we're to be 'observed' and 'preserved from harming (others).' Given our 'immoral' and 'dangerous' views.

And what's really amazing is that is that you'd shill for as reprehensible as THAT.

Arggggh! Meant to hit Preview. Ahh, you get the point.

An ad hominem argument is when someone says that someone's position or argument must be bad because of some irrelevant character trait of the person. What I said was the reverse. Bringing out Hitler, Nazis, and gulags with something that's clearly nowhere near in that league is obviously manipulative and deceptive rhetoric.

We are not winning the argument. I'm not sure where you're getting the information, but no one who is truly informed about contemporary evolutionary theory is accepting biological ID arguments as anything but wind. People who read nothing but ID are convinced, but very few academics are even treating it as worth the time. They're happy to deride it, but they don't seem to me to be able to make proper enough distinctions to explain what it says without misrepresenting it. I don't call that winning the argument. I call it failing to get the arguments addressed at all.

Gould was criticizing standard evolutionary theory long ago. That was the whole point of punctuated equilibrium. Nothing about that had anything to do with Behe or other ID people.

As you can tell from any careful definition, shilling for something constitutes pretending you are not involved with something and trying to give a testimonial for it as if you were simply a beneficiary. Any reader of this blog should know that I have no loyalty whatsoever toward naturalism or toward those who express nothing but derision toward intelligent design arguments. I've been defending theism with this blog for two years, and I've defended fine-tuning arguments myself while expressing biological ignorance enough not to comment on biological ID arguments. Ninth grade biology is not, to my mind, enough background to evaluate such a complex argument.

I'm trying to figure out why I think it's good that Dennett expresses derision for theism. Last I knew I didn't, and I don't remember ever starting to think that. I never said Dennett's attitude is the correct one. I never recommended anything he said. I simply pointed out that Dennett is being misprepresented in an immoral way whenever he is compared to a Nazi or Stalinist. What he's recommending is the teaching of something the Disovery Institute, his major opponent on this issue, is happy to have taught, as long as it's taught in a way that reflects the current state of disagreements in science. I just can't figure out it can be anything like the Stalinist control over the media to insist that a philosophical argument not be taught in science classes, as if people will be sent off to work camps for speaking against government propaganda, as the use of the term 'gulag' suggests. Dennett has suggested no such thing, and it's reprehensible to compare teaching standard science in school with that sort of thing.

It doesn't matter if you think it's not good science. It's what's generally regarded as our best science by our best scientists. I think we would be failing our children if we didn't teach them that this is what our best scientists think, just as I think it would be a failing not to teach our children that our best philosophers are naturalists. Sheltering children from reality is simply not a way to teach them how to engage with ideas you disagree with.

"Theistic in nature AND not empirical" does not preclude counting as science a set of ideas that are "theistic in nature, BUT empirically demonstrated."

The chief problem with ID remains, as it always has, the simple fact that there is no science there. There is no laboratory where any scientist carries on research using intelligent design, or into the nature of intelligent design. In real science areas, at least for undergraduates we repeat the classic experiments of the past to show how they work. For intelligent design, there are no such experiments or observations.

You can't read ordinary statements in English as if they were written in first order logic. Sentences like this in English have the implicature of a contrast. It clearly intends to say that science is empirical as opposed to theistic, and ID is theistic as opposed to empirical. Any ordinary English speaker will hear it that way.

There's no laboratory anywhere on each where any scientist carries on research using punctuated equilibrium or any other theory of descent, just as there's no laboratory anywhere on earth where any scientist carries out research using the Big Bang. Science isn't so narrowly defined as to exclude theory. Logical positivism is dead.

Scientists seem to know this about most things, but when they rule ID arguments out of the game without argument it's a mere parlor trick, not based on any understanding of what science is. It would be different to engage the claims of ID, but that's not what this sort of statement is. This sort of statement is mere rhetoric, with no basis whatsoever in the nature of what science is and the nature of what ID arguments are.

Jeremy and all,
Thanks for all the comments. I had a rather busier weekend than I expected and just got around to checking up on things here. I don't have a whole lot to add to what Jeremy's already said, as I generally agree with him. I especially want to emphasize what he said about ID not winning the argument. The vast majority of criticisms of ID that I read, STILL, fail to address what ID is actually saying -- so either the people who do this don't understand ID, or they deliberately misrepresent it. So I especially agree with Jeremy when he says, "[those critiquing ID] don't seem to me to be able to make proper enough distinctions to explain what it says without misrepresenting it. I don't call that winning the argument. I call it failing to get the arguments addressed at all". I've recently been reading "Debating Design", which has essays on both sides, and hope to soon publish critiques of a couple of essays which really totally miss the point of what ID is saying. And these are published in a BOOK on the subject.

keep the holly roller out of schools.

A "CHANCE Creator"...?
May I ask you vist and click on "Intelligent Design?" - it contains some newly-designed ammo.
Mark Gendala
Melbourne, Australia

Congratulations on yesterday's court decision - a small win in a timeless war against well-meaning ignorance.
Mark Gendala
Melbourne, Australia

Who exactly are you congratulating? The only decision I've heard about stemmed from complete ignorance, claiming that intelligent design is Christianity in disguise. It amazes me that intelligent people can in good conscience produce such nonsense while claiming that they are seeking to combat ignorance. That view is certainly not the one taken on this site.

I should say that I don't agree with the Pennsylvania school board decision that is being declared illegal. I don't see ID as an alternative to evolution, and that's the language they're using. I see it as an explanation for some features that some people don't think evolution has yet explained, but that doesn't say anything about whether the positive claims of evolutionary theory are correct. It just says that further explanation is needed.

Kind Sir,
The intellectual direction of your site has by
now escaped me, which arguably makes two of us.
Be it as it may, by referring to "Christianity" your protestation misses the mark by a mile...
Quote:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, etc..." Any mention of "Christianity"?
Do yourself a favor - think your ideas through before placing them in the public domain.
Season's Greetings,
Mark Gendala, Melbourne, Australia

I haven't seen any argument that the barebones philosophical arguments called Intelligent Design amount to anything religious, and I've argued at length why they need not. You haven't responded to those arguments. Please stop pretending you're intellectually superior when you're obviously unwilling to engage in the details of my argument.

I have read the above posted comments. Intelligent Design presupposes that the long standing record of human life, based on written record, has as it's beginning, such statements that intellectual life was endowed with a thought process which was granted by the mind of the very force of creativity which predated all creation. Let us assume that science must prove the origins of man for any logical assumption to be taught to our children. That very science with created tools of investigation will invariably put the origins of species at billions of years. This is truth. Science may place the intelligence of man 6,000 years ago complimentary to the written record. I put forth that this extra special fire and tool weilding "begining" of modern man is accurate. What I do not entertain is the notion that before God breathed his spirit life into man there was only the animal kingdom. We know that carbon dating supports a low intellect creature that drew upon cave walls, kept the fires burning, and spoke a language that was guttural and yet understood by such beings. From these ancient earth beings with grapefruit sized brains, sprung from darkened earth, created perhaps by the fallen angels in 'their' image(we don't know) came a hominoid of hominoids who one day went to sleep in the most lush valley garden. This intellingent design being who held power over a realm of energy created by eternal mind, said to self, "I began with water over earth. All cells have divided and multiplied from the water. Now creatures of every size have come forth according to the design intended and lo one stands, as I have forseen. Let this creature in all fullness of it's evolution, sleep in my special garden. I will breathe the very knowledge of life devine that this first man might have a relationship with the mind of a father who loves his creation. God "formed" man over billions of years of the very protein rich dust of the earth, breathed in understanding, and man became a "living" soul. To say that science and spirit do not co-exist is the same as a child saying to it's parents, "I see not, I will not". It doesn't matter. You will all be spanked and sent to bed without supper. My thoughts, not yours. Shall we ever know such things while we are seeking with out an understanding of duality, set in our offenses. It does not matter. I worship that which provides, in spite of my disobedience. Evolution is truth. Creation is truth. The difference lies in that man was chosen above all creation and our destiny is "know ye not, that we shall judge angels?"

ID doesn't presuppose what you say in your first sentence. That's its conclusion, not its premise.

Why does science need to prove something for it to be taught to our children? I'd like you to try to prove with science that it's wrong to kill people for the fun of it.

As to the questions about evolution and common descent, those are both irrelevant to the ID question and beyond my area of expertise, so I won't comment on those issues. I'm not sure the 6-day creationists (which I again reiterate is a completely separate issue) all believe in a 6000-year-old creation. Those issues can be separated. But both timetable issues are completely irrelevant to ID. That's utterly clear by now.

Thanx, Jeremy. I wrestle with my thoughts on how creation and science compliment each other. When I begin all reasoning about science and it's data, I first believe that the mind of IntelligentDesign breathed into a chosen creation, the abilty to reason, and that(He)desires a relationship. What happened before, and what is recorded since, is not relevent except for being able to consider the likelyhood of timelines. I think the big questions in the minds of people steeped in both scientific fact and religion, is one, how do the two compliment each other, and two, to what extent can we prove either one. I once read parts of I.Asimov's 'WorldsInChaos' where he compells the reader to look at evolution as a fact of the creative process of God(IntelligentDesign). I thank you for helping center our thoughts on what is relevent to this discussion. I sometimes begin with the conclusion of a matter so as to understand the premise. Keep the corrections flowing. I for one am here to learn.

The Big Bang disproves Naturalism (that nature is all there is, was and ever will be as Sagan said).

1. The Universe is expanding and running down
2. It must have had a beginning
3. You can't get something from nothing
4. The cause must exceed the effect
The cause of the universe must be greater and exist before the universe (nature)

The fine tuning of the laws of nature make the cause look smart!

It's unscientific to say there is nothing beyond nature.

Should we stop teaching the Big Bang because it has Theistic or religious implications? Same applies to teh empirical parts of Intelligent Design.

If Hitler and the Columbine killers knew this they might not have done what they did. Science cannot guarantee that they would not be standing in front of the Cause of the Universe explaining themselves.

It is pushing the philosophic BELIEF of Naturalism if you claim science proves there is no God or to say there are only "natural" explanations for everything. Educators should not be pushing philosophy in the guise of science.

Where did God come from?

The universe is running down, it must have had a beginning - it needs a cause, God is not running down = He does not need a cause (something had to always be there, you can't have an infinite regress).

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