Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

To define:

NDE (Neo-Darwinian Evolution) = OOL & evolution without prescriptive goals, both being nothing more in essence than functions of material forces & interactions.

ID (Intelligent Design) = Deliberate OOL & evolution with prescriptive goals

(I included OOL because if OOL contains purposefully written code that provides guidelines for evolutionary processes towards goals, then evolutionary processes are not neo-Darwinian as they utilize oracle information).

I’m not an evolutionary biologist, nor am I a mathematician. Therefore, when I argue about NDE and ID, the only cases I attempt to make are logical ones based on principles involved because – frankly – I lack the educational, application & research expertise to legitimately parse, understand and criticize most papers published in those fields. I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.

Further, even if they had some related expertise that makes them qualified, to some degree, to successfully parse such papers, as has been brought up in this forum repeatedly is the lack of confidence in the peer-review process as a safeguard against bad science or bad math, or even fraudulent and sloppy science. A brief search on google or bing for scientific fraud and peer review process will find all sorts of studies about a growing epidemic of bad citations – citations that reference recalled, recanted, fraudulent or disproven research.

So, for the majority of us who are not conducting active research in evolutionary biology, nor are mathematicians or information theorists, what are we really saying if we assert that “evolution has been proven by countless papers”, or “ID is necessary to the formation of DNA”? When one of us claims that Dembski’s work has been “disproven”, or that Douglas Axe has proven something about functional protein probabilities, what does it mean when we (those whom I am referring to in this post) have no personal capacity to legitimately reach that conclusion via our own personal understanding of the math or the research fields/data involved?

All we can be doing is rhetorical characterizing and cheerleading. We argue as if we understand the research or the math, but in fact (for many of us) we don’t, and even if we did, unless we are doing that research, we cannot have that much confidence in the peer-review process. All we can do (outside of arguments using logic and principle) is quote abstracts and conclusions or other people we believe to be qualified (and honest) experts about data and research we don’t really understand and which may or may not be valid.  This is really nothing more than just cherry-picking convenient abstracts and conclusions and assuming the peer-review process worked for that particular paper.

Therefore, the NDE/ID argument for most people has nothing to do with (and, in fact, cannot have anything to do with) valid and informed interpretations of biological data or an understanding of the math involved in information theory as it is applied to evolutionary processes – even if they believe that to be the case. Logically, if we admit we are not really personally capable of qualitatively examining and reaching valid conclusions of research that we would somehow vet as valid research, we must admit all we are really doing is choosing to believe something, and then erecting post hoc arguments in an attempt to characterize our choice of belief as something derived from a legitimate, sound understanding of the facts (biological & mathematical) involved.

This means that for most of us, the NDE/ID argument is really a proxy argument that belies the real argument, or the reason we have chosen NDE or ID to believe in the first place. IMO, that “reason” is a disagreement of ontological worldviews, and I think that the two general worldviews that are in conflict which are fighting a proxy battle through the NDE/ID debate are:

1) Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose;

2) Humans are not deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose.

Now, I don’t claim those general worldviews cover every foundational motive or position in the NDE/ID debate. But, I think it is logically clear that most of us must be presenting what can only be rhetorical cheerleading in an attempt to construct post hoc rationalizations for our choice of belief (combined with attempts to make the other “side” feel bad about their position via various character smearing, motive-mongering, name-calling, belittling their referenced papers and experts, and other such invective, and so we must have chosen our belief for some other reason, and IMO the two categories above represent the two basic (and pretty much necessary) consequences of NDE/ID beliefs.

So, to simplify: for whatever psychological reasons, people either want or need to believe that humans are deliberately generated beings that exist for a purpose, or they wish or need to believe the contrary, which leads them to an emotional/intuitive acceptance of ID or NDE, which they then attempt to rationalize post hoc by offering statements structured to make it appear (1) as if they have a valid, legitimate understanding of things they really do not; (2) that they have real science on their side; (3) that experts agree with them (when, really, they are just cheerleading convenient experts), and (4) that it is stupid, ignorant, or wicked to not accept their side as true.

523 thoughts on “Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

  1. So your argument boils down to “Since I don’t understand the science involved, that means nobody else must understand it either”.

    Good luck getting mileage out of that one.

  2. Thanks, William :) I’ve put a fold in btw, just so as to keep the old threads on the front page.

  3. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “We argue as if we understand the research or the math, but in fact (for many of us) we don’t,”

    I think this shows how the negative side of ID more than any other argument that the ID side could ever make.

    If you don’t understand the research or math, we should go and get the skills we require to make a reasoned argument.

    You have used the inverse of the argument from authority and that is to claim that no one is an authority!

    What can you say about theistic scientists around the world who support the science of evolution despite the expectancy that they should disregard it because of their spiritual world-view?

    I’ve also learned that most ID arguments are bad at the high school level of math and physics.

    The improbability argument takes no graduate degree to take apart as it is based on restarting from scratch any “bit window” in the DNA that we are looking at. This means by choosing large enough windows and disregarding its current state, we can make anything improbable.

    I see the ID side as disregarding basic high school science and that is going to mislead the generations that come after us.

    To say that an entity that follows no rules can be studied is irrational and that is precisely what it should be kept out of science classes.

  4. William, I think you mischaracterise the “debtate”. There is no “debate” – at least not at the level of basic science – between ID proponents and their pro-evolution counterparts. If there was such a debate you can be sure that it would be visible in scientific journals and similar publications. But ID has never chosen to go that route.

    The debate that does exist is a political one led, on one side, by proponents of greater religious involvement in governmental affairs.and, on the other side, those who do not agree with them. The latter group includes many people who sincerely believe that “Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose, to use your phrase. However, they do not agree with the political premises or “scientific” propositions of the pro-ID camp.
    This political debate has little or no direct relevance outside the USA. However, it gives many of us foreigners a fascinating insight into the thinking and tactics of the Religious Right in the USA. Thankfully, we have an entirely different set of problems to deal with in Europe. We remain grateful though for all the entertainment, not to mention the very interesting education in science we get from the many intelligent people who participate in the debate.

  5. I think the operative metaphor here is projection. ID advocates perceive a threat to the religious worldview and assume the other side thinks i those terms.

    I personally never give any thought to whether human life has any purpose, and in 66 years of life, I have never had a discussion of the topic with anyone not on the internet.

    Somewhere between the ages of eleven and sixteen i realized that religious questions were unanswerable and therefore pointless. Any serious discussion of them starts with wrangling over definitions of terms, and if the participants are at all honest, this phase never reaches any conclusions.

  6. A couple of quick points.

    Firstly, you say:

    So, for the majority of us who are not conducting active research in evolutionary biology, nor are mathematicians or information theorists, what are we really saying if we assert that “evolution has been proven by countless papers”, or “ID is necessary to the formation of DNA”? When one of us claims that Dembski’s work has been “disproven”, or that Douglas Axe has proven something about functional protein probabilities, what does it mean when we (those whom I am referring to in this post) have no personal capacity to legitimately reach that conclusion via our own personal understanding of the math or the research fields/data involved?

    In my view, neither of the assertions you give are justifiable, if, by the first, you mean, as your definitions suggest, that the assertion is that it is proven that the processes that created life excluded those with prescriptive goals. No, it isn’t, and it never will be. All that is demonstrated (nothing is “proven” in science, unlike math) is the predictive validity of various hypotheses arising from evolutionary theory. And the second isn’t justifiable either, for reasons that have been given copiously elsewhere :)

    Secondly, you say that you are neither scientist nor mathematician, you just use logic. Well, math is logic, and while we don’t prove things in science we do prove them in math and logic. And many of us are capable of following the logic in the math presented by Dembski and others. In fact, I think you are too, although the equations may need translating into English. So I think we need to distinguish between the scientific evidence (which, as you suggest, no-one person is qualified to evaluate in its entirety, although many people are qualified to evaluate some of it), and the logical reasoning presented by people like Dembski and Abel.

    And we also need to distinguish between expertise in the specific science involved, and expertise in statistics, data-analysis, and scientific methodology. And several people here (and I include myself) have at least a good working understanding of many relevant aspects of all three.

    But although science is complicated, and as a result we do need, as you say, where there is controversy, to make something of an ideological decision as to whether, in general, to trust the apparent experts on one side rather than on the other, it is not so complicated, I suggest, that that is all we can do. I hope I’m capable of recognising a bad argument for a position I think is nonetheless supported, and a good argument for a position I think is not. One of the reasons I set up this site was so that we could try to evaluate the arguments, both good and bad, for both “sides”.

    And I am not so pessimistic as to believe that good, reasonably smart, people can’t get their heads round a counter-argument even if it is somewhat out of their own area of expertise. Nor that it is impossible to change one’s mind as a result.

  7. Another quick comment:

    So, to simplify: for whatever psychological reasons, people either want or need to believe that humans are deliberately generated beings that exist for a purpose, or they wish or need to believe the contrary, which leads them to an emotional/intuitive acceptance of ID or NDE, which they then attempt to rationalize post hoc by offering statements structured to make it appear (1) as if they have a valid, legitimate understanding of things they really do not; (2) that they have real science on their side; (3) that experts agree with them (when, really, they are just cheerleading convenient experts), and (4) that it is stupid, ignorant, or wicked to not accept their side as true.

    This may often be the case. However, I think that it is most likely to happen when people don’t, in fact, understand the arguments being made. For instance, I do not think that whether an ID designed us nucleotide by nucleotide, or designed a whole universe in which humans would evolve, or even whether there was no ID at all, makes one whit of difference as to whether our lives have a purpose or not.

    Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose – of conceiving goals and bringing them about. And our lives are valuable because we are creatures capable of valuing them – not only valuing our own, but the lives of others.

    I simply do not see that the idea that we might have been created by processes that had no ulterior purpose entails the conclusion that I have no purpose. I have lots!

  8. So your argument boils down to “Since I don’t understand the science involved, that means nobody else must understand it either”.

    No, that’s not the argument I made. The argument I made is that for those of us not qualified to arbit the data, research, and math, this must actually be an argument about something else.

  9. William J. Murray: No, that’s not the argument I made. The argument I made is that for those of us not qualified to arbit the data, research, and math, this must actually be an argument about something else.

    But do you really think it’s that binary, William? As you point out, logic is a tool we can all use, so we aren’t solely restricted to evaluations that require specific expertise.

    And most educated people have at least some that is relevant, anyway.

  10. Elizabeth: Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose – of conceiving goals and bringing them about. And our lives are valuable because we are creatures capable of valuing them – not only valuing our own, but the lives of others.
    I simply do not see that the idea that we might have been created by processes that had no ulterior purpose entails the conclusion that I have no purpose. I have lots!

    This might be semantics, but in the present case I think semantics are everything.I don’t think you can be a judge or your own “ultimate” purpose (in the sense of why you are here, instead of not being here). In that sense the purpose of an object can only be determined by what creates that object; a designer can create an object for a purpose, whether it is utiliitarian or aesthetic. The ability of that object to perceive its own purpose is irrelevent in that context.

  11. Logically, if we admit we are not really personally capable of qualitatively examining and reaching valid conclusions of research that we would somehow vet as valid research, we must admit all we are really doing is choosing to believe something, and then erecting post hoc arguments in an attempt to characterize our choice of belief as something derived from a legitimate, sound understanding of the facts (biological & mathematical) involved.

    I think this argument fails to appreciate the breadth of evolutionary biology. Not to mention OOL, which you are lumping in here. In evolutionary biology, there are a wide range of fields from the molecular to the mathematical, from developmental to ecological. No one can master them all. And that’s not to mention all the other fields that support various facets of evolutionary theory, like geology.

    While your characterisation above may apply to a large number of people involved in the debate, it would also include everyone directly involved in evolutionary biology research. Everyone has to rely on accepting conclusions second-hand as it were in areas outside their fields. Thus, these commenters are partially informed, rather than uninformed about evolution as a whole.

    So are these partially informed commenters “choosing to believe something” driven by philosophical/theological predispositions as you suggest above? I would instead suggest that a key reason they accept the conclusions of other areas of evolutionary biology is because they agree well with the parts of the science they are more familiar with. I’d go further and suggest that many of the commenters (here at least) on the evolution side of the argument fall into this category of partially informed people who are not arbitrarily choosing a faith-based position.

  12. SCheesman: This might be semantics, but in the present case I think semantics are everything.I don’t think you can be a judge or your own “ultimate” purpose (in the sense of why you are here, instead of not being here). In that sense the purpose of an object can only be determined by what creates that object; a designer can create an object for a purpose, whether it is utiliitarian or aesthetic. The ability of that object to perceive its own purpose is irrelevent in that context.

    Yes, I agree that the semantics are important, and that was intrinsic to my point. Why would whether or not I was created to serve the ulterior purpose of some other being necessarily affect my sense of my own purpose? As you say, they are different things, and the purpose of the creature may be orthogonal to that of the creator.

  13. There isn’t debate because the NDE doesn’t have any evidence to support it, to debate.

  14. What science is involved with NDE?

    How can we test the claim that any bacterial flagellum evolved via accumulations of random mutations or random endosymbiotic events?

  15. For instance, I do not think that whether an ID designed us nucleotide by nucleotide, or designed a whole universe in which humans would evolve, or even whether there was no ID at all, makes one whit of difference as to whether our lives have a purpose or not.

    Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose – of conceiving goals and bringing them about. And our lives are valuable because we are creatures capable of valuing them – not only valuing our own, but the lives of others.

    I simply do not see that the idea that we might have been created by processes that had no ulterior purpose entails the conclusion that I have no purpose. I have lots!

    Elizabeth,

    I didn’t say a person couldn’t have a purpose unless they were designed; that would be a demonstrably false and absurd assertion. I didn’t say that the only kind of purpose that exists for humans is that which they may have been objectively designed for. I said that the two camps are those that either believe, or do not believe, that humans were generated/designed for a purpose. That humans have their own subjective purposes is irrelevant to the argument.
    Please note that you just demonstrated support for my argument when you said:
    “Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose”.
    Obviously, you fall into camp #2, which coincides with what I have argued would be your proxy position on ID/NDE.

    Additionally, your inclusion about what makes a life “valuable” (which was no part of my argument) appears to me to reference some aspect of whatever psychological structure (by your own admission elsewhere, some sort of ephiphany), since I made no comment about the “value” of lives, and your use of the exclamation mark appears to me to evoke an emotional attachment to this position – all of which gravitates towards the conclusion that you are emotionally/psychologically attached to your ontological premise and – I contend – it is that which is really generating your arguments.

    Also, although I didn’t claim that all designed things have a purpose, I’d like to hear an example of something that is designed but has no purpose.

  16. The suggestion that I am just an instrument created to serve the pleasure of a master is a numbing thought. No wonder Satan is the more interesting character in Milton.

  17. I agree with WJM’s point regarding the tendency for the majority of people to accept and promote a particular position whilst not having a requisite understanding of the thing being argued for. We’re all guilty of it but it makes uncomfortable reading when we apply the principle to ourselves; it’s much easier to believe that our understanding is sufficient than it is to admit we’re engaging in plain ol’ tribalism.

    However the diagnosis that….

    ….for whatever psychological reasons, people either want or need to believe that humans are deliberately generated beings that exist for a purpose, or they wish or need to believe the contrary….

    ….seems a bit too specific to me. It may be true in some cases but as a general statement I’m not so sure.

    For instance the number one factor in determining what religion you’ll be is where you are born. There’s no rationality involved, it’s simply the case that we learn a great deal of our metaphysics from our formative environments. So when we eventually encounter differing worldviews and begin arguing about them we aren’t doing it out of a sense of existential threat; more likely we’re doing it because we are hard-wired to do it….it’s just part of our nature to don the shining armour and defend to the death whatever happens to occupy our minds, be it nonsense or otherwise.

  18. William J. Murray: Elizabeth,

    I didn’t say a person couldn’t have a purpose unless they were designed; that would be a demonstrably false and absurd assertion.I didn’t say that the only kind of purpose that exists for humans is that which they may have been objectively designed for. I said that the two camps are those that either believe, or do not believe, that humans were generated/designed for a purpose. That humans have their own subjective purposes is irrelevant to the argument.

    I appreciate the distinction, but I would say that it is very relevant, given that you are talking about psychological motivation for believing something. Why would someone have an emotional stake in being created for someone else’s purpose?

    I guess it comes back to this pesky word “objective” again. Why should what I was “objectively” designed for matter to me at all?

    Please note that you just demonstrated support for my argument when you said:
    “Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose”.
    Obviously, you fall into camp #2, which coincides with what I have argued would be your proxy position on ID/NDE.

    Yes, I think it is unlikely that the universe was designed by an entity with us in mind,but why must that be a “proxy” position? What do suppose it is a proxy for?

    Additionally, your inclusion about what makes a life “valuable” (which was no part of my argument) appears to me to reference some aspect of whatever psychological structure (by your own admission elsewhere, some sort of ephiphany), since I made no comment about the “value” of lives, and your use of the exclamation mark appears to me to evoke an emotional attachment to this position – all of which gravitates towards the conclusion that you are emotionally/psychologically attached to your ontological premise and – I contend – it is that which is really generating your arguments.

    Well, no, the reverse, I’d say. I’m saying that because my life has a purpose and value to me, whether or not I serve the purpose of some other being, I don’t have an emotional vested interest in whether i serve the purpose of some other being. In fact, I think it is very sad if people feel they have to adopt a pro-ID position, because the only alternative is a deeply depressing ontological nihilism. Clearly it isn’t. ID may imply a creator god, but alternative view neither implies one nor implies there isn’t one. The two positions aren’t symmetrical.

    Also, although I didn’t claim that all designed things have a purpose, I’d like to hear an example of something that is designed but has no purpose.

    A doodle? The act of creation may have a purpose, but the artefact itself serves none.

  19. William J. Murray: No, that’s not the argument I made. The argument I made is that for those of us not qualified to arbit the data, research, and math, this must actually be an argument about something else.

    But then you followed that up by claiming that most if not all of pro-science people who post on C/E sites are as scientifically ignorant as you, and therefore support the scientific consensus for other than scientific reasons.

    I’d really like to see you back that up with some hard data.

  20. WJM, what is the purpose of a banana? Of a squid? Of a thermophile bacteria? Of syphilis?

  21. petrushka: The suggestion that I am just an instrument created to serve the pleasure of a master is a numbing thought. No wonder Satan is the more interesting character in Milton.

    If something were created only to “serve the pleasure of a master”, then their would be little need to imbue it with the ability to feel anything at all. As we ourselves have demonstrated, it is quite possible to create things to serve our own pleasure that do not at the same time possess any conciousness, let alone the ability to perceive beauty, wonder, and love. These gifts seem to be “interesting” to me.

  22. I suppose what I’m trying to say, William, is that although that I accept that many of the positions we hold are fundamentally learned, rather than argued, and that how skeptical we are of an argument may have as much to do with whether its conclusions are or are not congruent with what we believe to be the case, I don’t think it is the case that we are completely bound by this.

    However, I do think that fear of the implications of an argument can be a powerful disincentive to understanding it! That is why I have been making the point (repeatedly, and perhaps tangentially in this thread) that even if it were the case that accepting a Darwinian or other naturalistic account of life were to imply that we were not created by an intentional designer (and I don’t think it does imply that), there would be nothing particularly frightening about that implication- it would not render our lives loveless, joyless or meaningless. Nor would it render us amoral :)

  23. The suggestion that I am just an instrument created to serve the pleasure of a master is a numbing thought. No wonder Satan is the more interesting character in Milton.

    Note how comments such as this support the argument I’m making, demonstrating psychological and emotional predisposition. How could one accept any argument regardless of how good or well-evidenced that humans are designed for a purpose if one finds the very idea “mind-numbing”?

  24. William J. Murray: Note how comments such as this support the argument I’m making, demonstrating psychological and emotional predisposition. How could one accept any argument regardless of how good or well-evidenced that humans are designed for a purpose if one finds the very idea “mind-numbing”?

    I’d be perfectly happy to accept that humans are designed for a purpose if someone could provide scientific positive evidence such a thing was true.

    Do you have any such scientific positive evidence?

  25. I don’t think it is the case that we are completely bound by this.

    I didn’t argue that we are “completely bound by this”.

    That is why I have been making the point (repeatedly, and perhaps tangentially in this thread) that even if it were the case that accepting a Darwinian or other naturalistic account of life were to imply that we were not created by an intentional designer (and I don’t think it does imply that), there would be nothing particularly frightening about that implication- it would not render our lives loveless, joyless or meaningless. Nor would it render us amoral

    Who said any of the implications were “frightening”, or that one camp would have their lives rendered “loveless, joyless or meaningless” or “amoral”?

    It is unwarranted diversions into completely irrelevant emotional and psychological characterizations and pleadings such as this (and what appears in other posts already accumulating in this thread) that supports my contention that what we are dealing with here is rooted in emotion and psychology (and ontoogical underpinnings), not facts, math or research.

    No, many of us are just using facts, math, research and even logic, to whatever degree we can, to justify that which we already believe – and believe dearly, if one examines the level of emotional rhetoric involved. We committed to a side in this debate long, long before we had a significant understanding of the arguments and evidence involved.

  26. William J. Murray: Note how comments such as this support the argument I’m making, demonstrating psychological and emotional predisposition. How could one accept any argument regardless of how good or well-evidenced that humans are designed for a purpose if one finds the very idea “mind-numbing”?

    I take that point, William. But your two positions do not have a one-to-one mapping with what you describe as “ID” and “NDE”:

    1) Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose;

    2) Humans are not deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose.

    ID maps on to (1). “NDE” is compatible with both. Now you might argue that someone who found the idea of a god “mind-numbing” would be biased towards “NDE”. But someone who found the idea of being created with an “objective purpose” important for their psychological well-being should be less biased towards “ID”, because both positions are compatible with an intentional creator.

    Or do you think they aren’t?

  27. But then you followed that up by claiming that most if not all of pro-science people who post on C/E sites are as scientifically ignorant as you, and therefore support the scientific consensus for other than scientific reasons.

    No, I didn’t.

  28. William J. Murray

    T: “But then you followed that up by claiming that most if not all of pro-science people who post on C/E sites are as scientifically ignorant as you, and therefore support the scientific consensus for other than scientific reasons.”

    : No, I didn’t.

    Yes, you did. You even reiterated the thought

    WJM: “We committed to a side in this debate long, long before we had a significant understanding of the arguments and evidence involved.”

    Petrushka is right – you are performing a classic example of psychological projection.

  29. William J. Murray: No, that’s not the argument I made. The argument I made is that for those of us not qualified to arbit the data, research, and math, this must actually be an argument about something else.

    The bigger point is that the ID side is the one that questions whether science can explain how life has become the way it is and then in the same breath asserts ignorance about understanding the science in the first place.

    Our children shouldn’t be taught to shy away from a problem because it is not understood “now” since the the whole point of science is to eventually explain things we don’t know “now”.

    The mistakes made on the ID side are very basic ones, not leading edge knowledge in a specific field.

    To say that the “2nd LoT” is a barrier to evolution as claimed by Granville Sewell is wrong at the high school level.

    The same thing can be said for the fine-tuning argument.

    Only one side is backing away from a “scientific shootout”, and that’s ID.

  30. WJM, I’m still very interested in seeing your scientific positive evidence that humans were not only designed, but were designed for a purpose.

    My mind is wide open. Please show me the scientific positive evidence.

  31. William J Murray: “We committed to a side in this debate long, long before we had a significant understanding of the arguments and evidence involved.”

    ID needs a side but science doesn’t.

    ID does not have an argument that isn’t a denial of a scientific argument while evolution stands on its own without any reference to ID.

    As Elizabeth has said, these are not peer-level positions we are comparing.

  32. Thorton said: “But then you followed that up by claiming that most if not all of pro-science people who post on C/E sites are as scientifically ignorant as you, and therefore support the scientific consensus for other than scientific reasons.”

    WJM answered: “No, I didn’t.”

    Yes, you did: “I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.”

  33. I think the very premise of this thread violates the spirit of the rules of engagement for this website. It is basically arguing that scientists are arguing in bad faith when they dismiss ID.

    This is an extension of the meme from UD that evilutionists are motivated primarily by the desire to promote atheism. It’s basically asserting the intellectual equivalence of the two sides.

  34. So, for the majority of us who are not conducting active research in evolutionary biology, nor are mathematicians or information theorists, what are we really saying if we assert that “evolution has been proven by countless papers”, or “ID is necessary to the formation of DNA”?

    In my case, I am a mathematician though recently I have been mostly involved in computer science. I do not assert “evolution has been proved.” Scientific theories are never proved. They are supported by the evidence but not proved by the evidence.

    I’ll go a bit further. Scientific theories are never true, unless they are logical truths (analytic statements). Scientific theories are judged by their goodness of fit to the problems that they address, not by their truth. Every respectable physicist knows that Boyle’s law is false. It is one of the ideal gas laws. It is true about an imagined ideal gas, but false about any real gas. However, it fits quite well even if imperfectly, so is a valued part of physics. When doing theoretical work, it is often useful to treat a theory as if it were true. But, if one wants to be strict then one should avoid saying that a scientific theory is true.

    Further, even if they had some related expertise that makes them qualified, to some degree, to successfully parse such papers, as has been brought up in this forum repeatedly is the lack of confidence in the peer-review process as a safeguard against bad science or bad math, or even fraudulent and sloppy science.

    I’ll use an example to illustrate how I look at peer review.

    In 1993, Andrew Wiles presented a proof of Fermat’s last theorem. This has been extensively peer reviewed. On the basis of that, I believe it to be true. However, I am not sufficiently justified in that belief to build further mathematics on top of that theorem. In order to be sufficiently justified, I would have to carefully study Wiles’ proof and make sure that I understand it.

    My point: Peer review is only a guide, a kind of editorial filter. It requires additional knowledge before one can judge research. I think most scientists and mathematicians would agree with this.

  35. I take that point, William. But your two positions do not have a one-to-one mapping with what you describe as “ID” and “NDE”:

    I didn’t claim there was a “one-to-one” mapping. Re-read what I wrote.

    “NDE” is compatible with both.

    Not as I have defined NDE.

    Now you might argue that someone who found the idea of a god “mind-numbing”

    Only, it wasn’t the idea of a god they found “mind-numbing”. Re-read his post. You are mischaracterizing it. The comment was directed at humans having an objective purpose. I don’t really think it is the idea of a “god” of some sort that bothers NDEists (as I have defined it) so much, but rather the state of man under a god that deliberately generated humans for a purpose that is the real ontological issue they are motivated against.

    But someone who found the idea of being created with an “objective purpose” important for their psychological well-being should be less biased towards “ID”, because both positions are compatible with an intentional creator.

    But, as I have defined them, both are not compatible with “humans being deliberately designed for a purpose”.

    This is exactly why I didn’t not found my pemise statements on atheism/theism, because theists can certainly accept Neo-Darwinism and thus feel no psychological or emotional motivation to argue and debate the validity of it from fields they have no legitimate capacity to argue.. Which is why I don’t think the difference (that generates debates where people imply knowledge they do not have) is so much one about the idea of a “god” of some sort, but about the distinction I actually used in my argument – whether or not humang beings were deliberately designed for a purpose.

    If one doesn’t believe that NDE is driven by oracle (front-loaded) information that seeks out human being-like creatures for a reason, or that NDE is monitored and gamed for that purpose, then they don’t believe that humans were deliberatey generated for a purpose, whether they are theists or not.

  36. 1) Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose;

    2) Humans are not deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose.

    I really don’t understand this talk of “world view.”

    You can put me in the second of those two camps. But nothing that I do in my ordinary life depends on which of those camps I am in. I was a member of an evangelical church for a number of years, including those of my undergraduate studies and the beginnings of graduate studies. I guess I would have been counted as in the first camp at that time. I sat on the fence for evolution for a while; it looked as if it explained a lot, but I wasn’t quite sure about it. My decision to cast aside any doubt came after I read Watson’s book on the double helix. That pretty much sewed things up. I was still in the first of your two camps at that time.

    Why am I opposed to ID? Because it is flagrantly dishonest. Call off the politicians and the attempts to force this into the school curriculum, and I will drop my opposition. If good science should happen to come out of ID, that would be great. But if it does, then it will make its way into the classroom without the politics. At present there very little science to be found.

    Sure, the debate is a proxy. It is a proxy for the fight to keep science honest, to keep to politicians and theologians from meddling with the science curriculum.

  37. Neil Rickert,
    Very well said – I strongly second the entirety of this post.

    (Except the part about being a mathematician ;)

    But to add my cards to the table re WJM’s suggestion that “most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own”: I am a trained and practicing behavioral ecologist, which means that I have expertise in the ecological and ethological aspects of evolutionary biology.)

  38. Yes, you did: “I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.”

    A suggestion is not a claim; it’s presented as part of the premise of my argument. If you disagree that most people on both sides of the argument lack the professional expertise in the relevant fields to inform the kinds of claims they make about what has been proven, or about what data from research means, or whether or not the math is correct or contains appropriate models and formulas, then we have nothng to debate, because you disagree with my premise.

  39. WJM, I’m still very interested in seeing your scientific positive evidence that humans were not only designed, but were designed for a purpose.

    My mind is wide open. Please show me the scientific positive evidence.

    Thornton, please stay on topic. This debate has nothing whatsoever to do with what scientific evidence may exist pro or con for either side.

  40. I think the nuance here is that for most ID folks, the debate _is_ a proxy for a worldview discussion, and I agree that most ID-friendly participants do not have an adequate scientific background to do more than cheerleading. For most of the pro-evolution participants I have known through their messages, the debate is either about the science because that is what they know and love. They have the education to understand the issues and read the papers (and write the papers in some cases). They care about science education in the public schools because they think science education should reflect reality, not worldview.

    Questions of trash science are a distraction. Restrict your view to well established, well cited science and the evidence is still overwhelming.

    If WJM thinks both groups don’t have the background to understand what they are talking about, I suggest he bring the data. If he doesn’t have the data, he should collect the data. Here, I’ll help. I have a BS and MS in Computer Science and have written genetic algorithms for optimization problems in the financial services industry. I understand what I post about, and I have enough respect for others to avoid posting about things I don’t know anything about.

  41. WJM said: “it’s presented as part of the premise of my argument. If you disagree that most people on both sides of the argument lack the professional expertise in the relevant fields to inform the kinds of claims they make about what has been proven, or about what data from research means, or whether or not the math is correct or contains appropriate models and formulas, then we have nothng to debate, because you disagree with my premise.”

    What? If I disagree with your premise, we have nothing to debate??? Your entire argument RELIES on this premise being valid! If you can’t show that your premise is valid, your entire argument falls apart! Or are you going to go down the road of: *this is just a hypothetical IF-THEN scenario* yet again?

  42. William J. Murray: A suggestion is not a claim; it’s presented as part of the premise of my argument. If you disagree that most people on both sides of the argument lack the professional expertise in the relevant fields to inform the kinds of claims they make about what has been proven, or about what data from research means, or whether or not the math is correct or contains appropriate models and formulas, thenwe have nothng to debate, because you disagree with my premise.

    Please support your premise that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments from the pro-science side lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.

    Show us the data WJM. Your personal incredulity won’t cut it.

  43. William J. Murray: Thornton, please stay on topic. This debate has nothing whatsoever to do with what scientific evidence may exist pro or con for either side.

    If you don’t want to discuss whether or not humans were designed for a purpose, why did you raise the issue in an earlier post?

  44. William J Murray,

    Neil Rickert: “Sure, the debate is a proxy. It is a proxy for the fight to keep science honest, to keep to politicians and theologians from meddling with the science curriculum.

    Neil said it all, that this really is a battle in a war to maintain the separation of church and science.

    We don’t pray in a science class and we don’t have laboratories in church.

    They each serve a unique and focused need and anyone who wants to blend them, doesn’t actually understand the purpose of either.

  45. WJM: If you disagree that most people on both sides of the argument lack the professional expertise in the relevant fields to inform the kinds of claims they make about what has been proven, or about what data from research means, or whether or not the math is correct or contains appropriate models and formulas, then we have nothng to debate, because you disagree with my premise.

    Then I think this will be a short debate, as most of us on the pro-evolution side would disagree that your premise applies to us. As I suggested above, many (most? straw poll time?) of us have expertise in some fields relevant to evolution. That, rather than pre-existing philosophical or theological biases, is the main motivator in the debate.

    FWIW, I’m a professional ecologist (which is why I don’t get involved in molecular arguments.)

  46. I think the nuance here is that for most ID folks, the debate _is_ a proxy for a worldview discussion, and I agree that most ID-friendly participants do not have an adequate scientific background to do more than cheerleading. For most of the pro-evolution participants I have known through their messages, the debate is either about the science because that is what they know and love. They have the education to understand the issues and read the papers (and write the papers in some cases). They care about science education in the public schools because they think science education should reflect reality, not worldview.

    Let’s look at dvunkannon’s comment as another example. He begins with a vague intro – “I think the nuance here. ..”, then proceeds to negatively characterize the ID side of the debate. With nothing more than personal anecdote he/she attempts to glowingly characterize the NDE proponents. There’s nothing offered here but rhetoric and emotional pleading.

    Questions of trash science are a distraction. Restrict your view to well established, well cited science and the evidence is still overwhelming.

    So, what is he/she characterizing as “trash” science? Unless dvunkannon is a professional in those fields, then the claim that “the evidence is still overwhelming” can be nothing more than cheerleading the work of others that agree with him/her, and apparently denigerate as “trash” that which is also published and peer-reviewed, but perhaps not meeting the vague criteria of “well established” and “well cited” – which is, essentially, just fishing for some characterization that precludes ID papers. Not too long ago, the argument was that ID wasn’t valid because it didn’t produce peer-reviewed, published papers. The scientists involved were not “real” scientists’. These are rhetorical characterizations, not examinations of research data.

    If WJM thinks both groups don’t have the background to understand what they are talking about, I suggest he bring the data.

    I think it’s a rather trivial premise that most people involved in the debate on sites like this and other forums lack the specific expertise in the fields in question, and rather rely on the work and word of others to make their case – as you did, I would think, above. However, if you don’t agree with that premise, you are free to avoid the debate. Are you really going to hang your hat on the belief that most people involved in the NDE side of the debate have the expertise in the appropriate fields to render knowledgeable interpretations of data and research into sound conclusions on their own?

    If he doesn’t have the data, he should collect the data. Here, I’ll help. I have a BS and MS in Computer Science and have written genetic algorithms for optimization problems in the financial services industry. I understand what I post about, and I have enough respect for others to avoid posting about things I don’t know anything about.

    So, you have claimed that the evidence for NDE is “overwhelming”, even after admitting you have no professional expertise in evolutionary biology? How would you know?
    In this example, we find a lot of convenient, rhetorical characterizing and an assertion that the evidence from those fields is overwhelming even though dvunkannon admits they do not have the expertise in the appropriate areas to meanignfully render such a judgement. Also, those on dvunkannon’s side are characterized in glowing emotional terms, and those on the other are painted in darker emotional terms.

    Which, again, indicates that the belief is held for other reasons and emotional attachments.

  47. Toronto: Neil said it all, that this really is a battle in a war to maintain the separation of church and science.

    Seconded.

  48. William said:

    I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.

    I am only relying on anecdotal evidence obviously, but if you compare this blog with Uncommon Descent, then I think it’s fairly obvious that there is far more expertise on the “NDE” side than on the ID side. I bet most commenters here have advanced science or maths degrees while only a small minority of the UD regulars do. Don’t you agree?

  49. WJM: “I think it’s a rather trivial premise that most people involved in the debate on sites like this and other forums lack the specific expertise in the fields in question.”

    You think? Do you care to back up this premise of yours, as you have been repeatedly asked to do, since your entire argument relies on it?

  50. William J. Murray: Unless dvunkannon is a professional in those fields, then the claim that “the evidence is still overwhelming” can be nothing more than cheerleading the work of others that agree with him/her, and apparently denigerate as “trash” that which is also published and peer-reviewed, but perhaps not meeting the vague criteria of “well established” and “well cited” – which is, essentially, just fishing for some characterization that precludes ID papers.

    100% unadulterated bullshit. You don’t have to be a professional in a specified scientific field to recognize that ID arguments don’t follow standard scientific methodology. Indeed, ID doesn’t practice ANY sort of methodology at all, save for publishing nonsensical propaganda aimed at ignorant laymen.

    Not too long ago, the argument was that ID wasn’t valid because it didn’t produce peer-reviewed, published papers. The scientists involved were not “real” scientists’. These are rhetorical characterizations, not examinations of research data.

    What research data would that be? ID hasn’t produced any research data. I personally have read a large chunk of the ID popular press “science” that’s been put forth. I can shred most any of it with sound scientific arguments backed by real data.

    I think it’s a rather trivial premise that most people involved in the debate on sites like this and other forums lack the specific expertise in the fields in question, and rather rely on the work and word of others to make their case – as you did, I would think, above.

    Please support this with data or retract it.

    However, if you don’t agree with that premise, you are free to avoid the debate.

    LOL! Typical ID debating style – “either agree with me or leave”. Or be like so many ID sites and ban all dissenting opinions.

    So, you have claimed that the evidence for NDE is “overwhelming”, even after admitting you have no professional expertise in evolutionary biology? How would you know?

    Most of us have studied aspects of it to varying degrees, and have demonstrated competence and understanding in it. “Having no professional expertise in evolutionary biology” does not equate to “doesn’t understand and can’t follow the evidence”.

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