Ball State University – my answer to vjtorley

I expect that most here have heard about the situation at Ball State University (in Muncie, Indiana), where a physics professor was apparently including some Intelligent Design in a science class.  There was a public fuss.  And, more recently, the president of Ball State wrote a letter to the faculty about the situation.  It seems to have been a classy letter.  She described the issue as one of academic integrity, rather than one of academic freedom as a few commentators had suggested.  She apparently agreed that there were first amendment issues, as others suggested.  But she saw academic integrity as the main issue.  Incidentally, I also thought academic integrity was the issue.

The ID people don’t like what she wrote, because she was blunt about ID not being science.  Over at UD, vjtorley has a post “An open letter to BSU President Jo-Ann Gora” where he raises some questions that he would like the Gora to answer.  I’m giving my answers here, rather than in a comment at UD, because I think the issues warrant more discussion, and I’m sure others here will want to join in.

Defining ID

Vincent’s first question starts with “how do you define ID”.  It specifically asks about fine tuning.

My answer:  It is not up to Ball State to define ID.  They are reacting to a movement which has been very noisy about what it advocates.

On fine tuning:  It does not matter to me whether “fine tuning” is specifically designated as ID.  The relevant issues are that:

  • “fine tuning” is a religious apologetics argument, and
  • it has no scientific content.  If the apologetics were removed, it would be philosophy, not science and not philosophy of science.

He also brings up the question of whether the cosmos could be a giant computer simulation.  But that, too, I see as philosophy and not science.

Bad science

Vjtorley’s second section opens with:

Would you agree that the discussion of a bad scientific theory – even one whose claims has been soundly refuted by scientific testing, such as aether theories in physics, the phlogiston theory in chemistry, and vitalism in biology – can be productive and genuinely illuminating, in a university science classroom?

To me, this seems a misdirection.  ID has never shown any scientific value.  By contrast, phlogiston led to a research program of measuring the mass of combustion products.  It was the beginnings of modern chemistry, though that very research led to the downfall of phlogiston.

I would class the aether as an hypothesis, rather than a theory.  It was a background assumption but played no direct role in research with the exception of the Michelson-Morley experiment.  But it did provide a useful background for discussing apparent wave-like phenomena in light transmission.  Perhaps it’s role is similar to that of origin-of-life questions in biology.  The physics itself did not depend on anything about aether, just as biology does not depend on how life originated.  As far as I can tell, ID does not offer anything comparable.

I don’t know much about the history of vitalism, so I won’t comment about that.

Fred Hoyle

The next section begins with:

If you answered “Yes” to question 2, as I expect you did, then I shall assume that for you, the decisive reason for keeping intelligent design out of the science classroom is that it is essentially religious in nature. As you wrote in your email: “Teaching religious ideas in a science course is clearly not appropriate.”

It then goes on to discuss Fred Hoyle’s ideas.

Honestly, Vincent, this is absurd.  Nobody would have heard of Hoyle’s view of evolution, if he were not already famous for his astrophysics.  An famous astronomer says something laughably dumb about biology, and you really think that’s worthy of time in a biology class?

Now I hope you can see where I’m heading with this line of inquiry. If the discussion of the flaws in intelligent design theory belongs in a university science classroom, it logically follows that discussion of the theory itself belongs in a university science classroom.

Sigh!  Creationists and ID proponents are still confusing “theory” and “hypothesis”.  ID was never a theory.  At best, it is an hypothesis, and a rather bad one at that.  Compare it to phlogiston, which was a genuine theory and did lead to useful empirical research.  The research we see coming out of the ID community seems to be little more than a search for gaps in which to put your “god of the gaps.”  You don’t even need an ID hypothesis for that kind of research.

Richard Smalley

The next section is about Richard Smalley.  The whole section reads like apologetics.  I am wondering why vjtorley thinks that an apologetics argument would persuade people that ID is not religion.

So my question to you is: if a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry thought that intelligent design belongs in the category of “science”, what makes you so sure that it belongs in the category of religion?

Another non-biologist says something stupid about biology.  It should be obvious that this is not useful to discuss in a science class.

Viewpoint endorsement

The Ball State statement said that particular viewpoints should not be endorsed, even in humanities classes.  Vjtorley begins his question with:

I’d now like you to consider the hypothetical case of a humanities or social science lecturer at your university who is asked a very direct, personal question by a student: “Do you believe in intelligent design?”

If a student asked me that in class, I would decline to answer and rule it off-topic.  If he asked me informally out of class, perhaps I would answer.  But, in my opinion, this sort of viewpoint endorsement does not belong in the classroom.  I agree with president Gora that this is an issue of academic integrity.

258 thoughts on “Ball State University – my answer to vjtorley

  1. I’m sorry you feel piled on, William. Petrushka makes a fair point, though. Plus blaming others for not keeping up with your views, while admitting you change them as often as your socks, is hardly likely to get you taken seriously.

  2. Neil Rickert,

    My understanding of the history of the design argument is based largely on Sedley’s Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity, and my own readings in ancient and modern philosophy. Generally speaking, I’d say that the design argument does come originally from Plato — though Sedley argues, based on his interpretation of Xenophon, that it is actually Socrates himself who first saw the need for a a design argument.

    The design argument certainly has played a very important role in the history of cosmogonic speculation — not only Plato, but also the Stoics, much of Christan thought, much of modern philosophy (esp. Leibniz), the revival of Christian Stoicism that was deism, Paley (of course), and so on. But the design argument has always had its critics, from the Epicureans of ancient Greece to the modern-day attacks led by Hume and Kant.

    In my estimation, the design argument, as an argument for the existence of God, cannot survive the criticisms advanced by Hume and by Kant. This is part of why the intelligent design movement doesn’t claim to identify the designer as God — not just because they want to sneak creationism into public schools (though there’s that, too), but because the argument itself just doesn’t work, and they know it.

  3. William J. Murray,

    In any event, being the object of such mob-like group ridicule here is certainly not making my case against the moral capacity of atheistic materialism any the worse.

    It’s bizarre that any IDist would whine about “piling on” when they haven’t brought the first bit of genuine evidence for design to the table. We can’t respond to William’s attempts at ridicule with something better, aside from demands for evidence–which he promptly ignores.

    They owe so many answers, while the same baseless name-calling is about all that we can get from William.

    The fail is great with this one.

    Glen Davidson

  4. Richardthughes:…you allude to a fantastic, materialism defying paradigm, and yet still eat your cornflakes with a spoon.

    Man I want that on a T-shirt or a bumper sticker!

  5. In any event, being the object of such mob-like group ridicule here is certainly not making my case against the moral capacity of atheistic materialism any the worse.

    .
    Hmmm. Being mocked (“I never provoked ’em, honest!”) by a handful of denizens of an internet discussion site is hardly a reliable guide to the entire moral character either of them individually or the broader materialistic worldview, either.

    I am also tempted to offer a tu quoque re: parallels at UD here, but will pretend I haven’t by merely mentioning the desire knowingly.

  6. Kantian Naturalist-Emergentist and Neil Rickert,

    Thanks to KN-E for a quick overview of ‘the design argument,’ though I disagree with some aspects of it (more below). I’d like to hear more about what Neil “was hinting at.” That’s why I asked him to elaborate.

    It is not a small claim what you wrote, Neil:

    “there is a far larger “intelligent design” community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy. Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective … that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political”

    Were you not serious about this? If so, what did you mean? Surely if you were serious, providing names shouldn’t be too difficult. I engage with ‘academic philosophers’ on a regular basis and will be glad to discuss your claim with them, should you explain what you meant.

    “You ask for specifics, but my remark was not about specifics.” – Neil

    No, I mentioned what I was specifically interested in from what you wrote. Please, give all the specifics or generalities that you like in explaining what you meant. Another thread would be a good place to start, even if names are not included, just more hints, suggestions, etc.

    Re: ‘the design argument,’ this is different from the concept duo ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design.’ Dembski makes this more or less clear in “The Design Revolution” (2004). Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) qua theory is meant as a ‘natural scientific’ contribution to knowledge (whether it in any way succeeds or not aside). The ‘design argument’ or more accurately ‘design arguments’ are mainly theological or, if you like, religious philosophy or apologetics.

    It means little, of course, for KN-E to claim ‘the argument doesn’t work’ or ‘cannot survive criticisms from Hume,’ etc. given that KN-E is an agnostic (or atheist?), iow, a disenchanted philosopher (who would like to be enchanted like ‘Abraham of old,’ as Weber suggested and/or as he has hinted here at TSZ). Anti-theological design is his personal opinion based on the ideologies he has currently embraced in his own worldview (which doesn’t sound all that ‘skeptical’ after all!). A disenchanted, agnostic philosopher arguing against theological design arguments is about as surprising as Madonna (Ciccone) singing about virginity. A bit disingenuous, but c’est la vie!

  7. Neil Rickert: I do not criticize Hoyle for not being an expert in biology. Anybody can study whatever they want, and exercise their free speech about it. They are even entitled to be wrong.

    Hoyle’s “tornado-in-a-junkyard” argument and the second law of thermodynamics have been the ID/creationist’s foundational arguments against evolution and the origins of life.

    William brings up Hoyle in his mockery of Neil; and when pressed to justify Hoyle’s argument, all we got was name-calling and more mockery.

    Not only is the mockery off topic, it was deliberately provocative in order to direct attention to himself and his “philosophy.”

    That is the way it always goes with ID/creationist advocates. If you try to get them to give the specifics of their memorized “arguments,” suddenly they lurch into turgid “philosophy” and attempt to justify why they don’t have to know anything about science. Their “philosophy” is an intellectually “superior” exercise of the mind; they don’t need no stinkin’ science.

    The offer is still open to William to take up that little high school physics/chemistry calculation and then justify Hoyle’s “argument.”

    Any bets on what will happen?

  8. I’m sorry you feel piled on, William. Petrushka makes a fair point, though. Plus blaming others for not keeping up with your views, while admitting you change them as often as your socks, is hardly likely to get you taken seriously.

    If one is going to dress someone down for their personal beliefs, it is incumbent upon them to make sure they have valid, current information about those beliefs. My job is to correct them or bring it to their attention when they are in error – which I did.

    “Being taken seriously”, in venues such as this, is not a goal I aspire to.

  9. William J. Murray: My job is to correct them or bring it to their attention when they are in error

    Aren’t you the one who hates the “fascist thought police?”

    But, of course, you yourself are not subject to correction; you get to believe whatever you want and accuse anyone of anything you want. You get to provoke others and engage in name-calling; but you don’t have to answer for anything. It “serves your purposes.”

    Yup; we noticed that already.

  10. William

    “Being taken seriously”, in venues such as this, is not a goal I aspire to.

    If you have solved the problem of free will like you think you have then I have to wonder why you are not publishing your work in the many, many many journals that would be happy to receive that wisdom.

    Instead you are here or at UD. Actions speak louder then words William, have you not learnt that by now?

  11. Same reason Gary Gaulin is at AtBC.

    Job one should be to get the respect of the ID community and at least get published in something like BioComplexity.

    But trolling for abuse is easier than working for respect.

  12. William,

    Let me share some advice on dealing with ridicule.

    Ridicule only really stings when there’s some truth in it, which is why people like Barry Arrington, Joe G and Mung are so ineffective at ridiculing others. That’s not to say that we always welcome false ridicule; it can have negative consequences even when it’s untrue. But the real sting comes from knowing that your critic is right in some important way. The best defense against such ridicule is having a position that makes sense. Attempts at mocking a strong position tend to backfire. If you’d prefer not to be mocked, then hold a strong, defensible position.

    Learn to probe your own position for weaknesses and inconsistencies. If you depend on others to do this for you, you’ll end up changing your beliefs over and over. This has obviously been a problem for you.

    When others criticize your position, ask yourself if they are right, rather than trying to brush the criticism aside. (For example, I’m still waiting for a reply to this simple question.) It may be painful to admit that your critics are right, but it’s better than clinging to your error for months or even years.

  13. This is precisely the reason that arguments about science can be productive (doesn’t mean they always are) and arguments about religion, philosophy and politics are almost never productive.

    Statements that do not have testable entailments go nowhere.

    At best you can talk about whether the statements are well constructed, but you never reach agreement about whether they mean anything.

  14. petrushka: But trolling for abuse is easier than working for respect.

    It certainly seems to be the case. What I find most odd is this:

    Someone: “The scientific process is subverted and valid science is being suppressed if it argues in favour of ID”.

    SomeoneElse: “Give us an example then?”

    Someone: “You’ve stolen the concept of example…”

    SomeoneElse: “?”

    I’d stop asking the question if I ever got an answer!

  15. William J. Murray: If one is going to dress someone down for their personal beliefs, it is incumbent upon them to make sure they have valid, current information about those beliefs. My job is to correct them or bring it to their attention when they are in error – which I did.

    Yerrokaybut … when people, sincerely and thoughtfully, try and tell you why they think you are wrong abut the entailments of their worldview, you tell them they are self-deluded sophists, terrified (of something not clearly articulated), equivocating, dishonest, an ilk you can barely stomach but at least the internet allows you some distance … charmed, I’m sure. You fall back on lazy rationalisations, despite the effort you think people should put into understanding your (current) position. You already know that atheists are all x, y and z. If they post at TSZ, they are that with knobs on. The shoe fits …

  16. Emerging with a few minor scratches from the wreckage and heading back to the OT on foot, readers may be interested in Larry Moran’s take on Gora’s actions here. His beef is that academic content is a matter for the academicians, not the administration.

  17. Gregory: Were you not serious about this? If so, what did you mean? Surely if you were serious, providing names shouldn’t be too difficult.

    I can’t name names, because there are too many of them. It probably goes back to Plato. Perhaps this is part of “The Two Cultures” problem, and I look at it from the science side. Philosophers are very bright people, but they look at things in what seems to me to be an odd way.

  18. William,

    If one is going to dress someone down for their personal beliefs, it is incumbent upon them to make sure they have valid, current information about those beliefs. My job is to correct them or bring it to their attention when they are in error – which I did.

    Setting aside your blatant hypocrisy, which Allan points out just above, you are responsible for your statements, particularly those that you have gone out of your way to publish. It’s not our responsibility to scour the Internet looking for every scrap of a comment in which you happen to contradict something you wrote (or published!) earlier.

    If you no longer agree with the ideas expressed in Instant Enlightenment, then I congratulate you. Instead of complaining that we are holding you responsible for the things you have written, but now repudiate, how about taking the initiative? Explain to us exactly what is wrong with the ideas expressed in Instant Enlightenment. Tell us what mistakes you made that led to those ideas, and how your current view corrects those mistakes.

    Save the link, and when anyone comments on your books, tell them you no longer believe that stuff, and give them the link.

    Then you can move on to defending your current view against our criticisms.

  19. Neil Rickert: Philosophers are very bright people, but they look at things in what seems to me to be an odd way.

    It’s true, we’re odd ducks. There are many salient differences between philosophers and scientists, but the biggest one is that whereas scientists are interested in explanations, philosophers are interested in arguments. Put more technically, philosophers are interested in a priori truths, whereas scientists are interested in a posteriori truths. If I want to know what the empirical truth about some particular question is, I would consider it foolish not to find out what scientists concerned with that question would say about it. But if I want to find out “what is ’empirical truth’, and how does it differ from other kinds of truth?”, then I’d need to ask a philosopher — or become one.

    Another salient difference is that everyone can be, and must be, his or her own philosopher. The people who get called “philosophers”, aka professors of philosophy, are important because we help guide people to philosophize for themselves. Whereas it’s not the case that everyone can be, let alone should be, his or her own astrophysicist or neurobiologist.

  20. Neil,

    Your statement is pretty provocative:

    Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version.

    Do you really believe that? If so, it’s probably worth explaining why.

  21. “I can’t name names, because there are too many of them.” – Neil Rickert

    Oki-dokie then. 😛

    Btw, the so-called ‘two cultures problem,’ articulated by C.P. Snow is quite dated. Indeed, there’s a 3rd Culture perspective now, with an attractive website that perhaps many skeptics, liberals and atheists/agnostics here might appreciate http://www.edge.org

    Sadly, quite a few persons who think only ‘natural science’ is capable of demonstrating/discovering ‘knowledge’ (i.e. ‘scientism’) remain very shallow in their understanding of humanity and the humanities, including philosophy and history. Horizontal knowledge of techniques, facts and formulas, w/out the vertical features of humankind including values, beliefs, and yes, perhaps even teleological ideas.

    Thankfully, even many natural scientists read literature, watch films, listen to music, and yes, shockingly, are even (if indirectly) influenced by philosophical, anthropological, psychological, sociological, and other cultural ‘fields’ (a term substituted for ‘sciences’ b/c in N. America those ‘fields’ are not considered ‘sciences’ like they are in the East, which is imo way ahead in Philosophy of Science from the West, and which is the main field Neil is depending on with his provocative claims), as with a trickle-down or dissemination of ideas from the academy (scholars and thinkers) and public intellectuals to society.

    “Philosophers are very bright people, but they look at things in what seems to me to be an odd way.” – Neil Rickert

    Thanks for the lip service re: ‘bright people’. 😉 Perhaps what you perceive as ‘oddness’ is what you meant by “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a intelligent design perspective”? It deserves another thread by itself and would likely generate lively discussion, even if only about ‘the love of wisdom’.

  22. Gregory: It means little, of course, for KN-E to claim ‘the argument doesn’t work’ or ‘cannot survive criticisms from Hume,’ etc. given that KN-E is an agnostic (or atheist?), iow, a disenchanted philosopher (who would like to be enchanted like ‘Abraham of old,’ as Weber suggested and/or as he has hinted here at TSZ). Anti-theological design is his personal opinion based on the ideologies he has currently embraced in his own worldview (which doesn’t sound all that ‘skeptical’ after all!). A disenchanted, agnostic philosopher arguing against theological design arguments is about as surprising as Madonna (Ciccone) singing about virginity. A bit disingenuous, but c’est la vie!

    Wait a minute — are you suggesting that I would need to believe in the conclusion of the design argument in order to be objective and unbiased in my evaluation of it? No, surely that couldn’t be right!

    In my capacity as an instructor of philosophy, my responsibility is to teach the canon, not my own views. And I teach a great many philosophers who I think were seriously mistaken — such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, and so on. (And if I thought that any philosopher had gotten it completely right, there wouldn’t be anything for me to do!)

    The extremely serious “disenchantment of nature” problem, which is actually the focus of a good deal of my writing and scholarship, is not (I think) to be solved by any nostalgic return to “enchantment”, whether animistic or theistic — in fact, I think that a return to ‘enchanted’ nature, whether animistic, theistic, etc. at the level of ideology, without any accompanying transformation in the material-practical engagement with nature (i.e. nature as the object of our exploitation and domination) would be even worse, because more deceiving, than the disenchantment of nature itself. That’s my chief complaint against “deep ecology” and much environmental philosophy besides.

  23. I’m not sure what to make of that “edge” web site.

    Sadly, quite a few persons who think only ‘natural science’ is capable of demonstrating/discovering ‘knowledge’ (i.e. ‘scientism’) remain very shallow in their understanding of humanity and the humanities, including philosophy and history. Horizontal knowledge of techniques, facts and formulas, w/out the vertical features of humankind including values, beliefs, and yes, perhaps even teleological ideas.

    I have never been attracted to scientism, though I’ll grant that my knowledge of the humanities is somewhat thin.

    Thanks for the lip service re: ‘bright people’.

    It wasn’t just lip service. I did mean that. I can’t say whether it applies to you, because I don’t know you well enough. For that matter, I had assumed you were a sociologist rather than a philosopher.

    It deserves another thread by itself and would likely generate lively discussion, even if only about ‘the love of wisdom’.

    I’m pretty sure you have the ability to start a thread.

  24. Neil,

    Yes, I am able to start a thread, just as I did in directly responding to your request that I do so re: ‘Darwinism.’ That thread isn’t closed btw and perhaps more can be gained from it (as you also suggested) if people would disclose their thoughts rather than fear being trapped by creationists or IDists. As you know, Neil, I am neither a creationist nor an IDist, but it is nevertheless still possible to think critically, nay, even skeptically, about some of the claims of ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ in ‘natural sciences’.

    Skeptics who have tied their worldview to Darwinism (which neither you nor I do) as a way of self-identification, however, whether it means “I oppose creationists and religionists,” or “I believe Darwin was the greatest scientist/naturalist in history” or “I elevate science into a scientistic worldview,” usually don’t wish to give any hints of their skepticism of Darwinism or natural scientism as ideologies. At least, not in public on a forum like TSZ.

    I guess you are stepping back from your provocative claim re: ‘intelligent design’ and philosophy then?

    “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version.”

    What do YOU consider “a[n] intelligent design perspective” in philosophy, Neil?

    keiths adds, “it’s probably worth explaining why.” I’m interested in this ‘community’ of non-IDM philosophers who endorse ‘intelligent design’ thinking.

    But I’m not going to start a thread about it; you brought it up and it is up to you to explain what you meant or to hand-wave it away as if nothing happened. At the least, you could provide a paragraph or two expanding on your paragraph in this thread, a short provocative opening of a thread and let others comment on your thoughts rather than writing an essay about ID philosophy.

  25. I guess you are stepping back from your provocative claim re: ‘intelligent design’ and philosophy then?

    My point was misunderstood, and I do not want to encourage further misunderstanding.

    What do YOU consider “a[n] intelligent design perspective” in philosophy, Neil?

    A lot of philosophy seems to be done as if the world has a design, and the job of science is seen as finding that design.

  26. I agree with your premise Neil. I too see a lot of philosophy as a practice of arranging concepts so as to answer questions based, at least in principle, on the assumption that there’s validity to the questions in the first place. That is, there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is an explanation for why life, the universe, and everything exists and why humans are here and that therefore the question, “what is the purpose of human existence” entails a valid premise in the first place. This all, at least to me, presupposes on some level the concept of design.

    I personally don’t find such questions inherently valid. That is, the questions might be valid given certain evidence (assuming it was found or presented before the question was asked), but in and of itself, the question is meaningless in a vacuum. Design is not a null hypothesis to me and thus such questions have no inherent validity to me.

  27. Asking what is the meaning of life is equivalent to asking have you stopped beating your wife.

    I fail to see any context in which this question makes any sense.

    Looking to god as the custodian of meaning simply drives the question back a level without adding any information. It’s equivalent to attributing the origin of life to aliens.

    It’s another infinite regress, solved by theist by asserting there is an entity that — gosh darn it — provides the solution.

    Next problem.

  28. Robin: I too see a lot of philosophy as a practice of arranging concepts so as to answer questions based, at least in principle, on the assumption that there’s validity to the questions in the first place. That is, there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is an explanation for why life, the universe, and everything exists and why humans are here and that therefore the question, “what is the purpose of human existence” entails a valid premise in the first place.

    I disagree — there’s at least as much philosophical reflection devoted to criticizing the conceptual basis of these concerns as is there is to answering them.

    One way of making this more precise is to think about whether the principle of sufficient reason (for every fact, there is a reason for why that fact is the case) is a metaphysical principle (as rationalists think) or just an ideal for guiding successful empirical inquiry (as pragmatists think).

    Another way of focusing the issue would be consider Nietzsche (esp. as a critic of Kant and Hegel) who posed the question, ‘how can we human beings determine the meaning, value and purpose of our lives if there is no inherent meaning, value, or purpose to nature, life, or history?” (It is a very interesting feature of Nietzsche’s entire thought, that he invented existentialism by virtue of taking Darwin seriously.)

  29. Let me update what I said from “I’m not going to start a thread about it” to “I’m thinking about starting a thread about this”. If Neil is going to blame others for ‘misunderstanding’ what he wrote without properly or even making an attempt to explain himself clearly, perhaps there’s something behind it. He is invited to do so himself in another thread.

    He speaks about philosophers (too many of them to name!) as an “intelligent design community” that is “honest and largely non-political”. What does he mean by that? Does the IDM know it has a rival ‘community’ among philosophers?

    KN-E claimed that Nietzsche “invented existentialism by virtue of taking Darwin seriously.” Hmmm, I guess he doesn’t teach Kierkegaard (who died when Nietzsche was 11)? Yes, there was existentialist angst in Kierkegaard too, but it was Christian existentialism, so perhaps KN-E doesn’t wish to credit him, though he is widely credited as founder of existentialism.

    Nevertheless, the question is fair. Should we understand KN-E’s suggestion as “how can we human beings determine the meaning, value and purpose of our lives if there is no inherent [design/creation] to nature, life, or history?” Iow, more crudely, what’s the point if there is no point?

    Neil seems to mean this when he states: “A lot of philosophy seems to be done as if the world has a design [Design].” But then he seems to imply that non-religious philosophers also believe in the world’s design/Design. I wouldn’t want to misinterpret him or put words in his mouth (by simply quoting him), so perhaps he’ll more deeply explain what he means by this.

  30. Let me update what I said from “I’m not going to start a thread about it” to “I’m thinking about starting a thread about this”.

    I welcome you starting such a thread. I don’t want to, because I would probably only increase confusion.

    Does the IDM know it has a rival ‘community’ among philosophers?

    I did not intend to suggest that there was something comparable to the ID movement. Apologies if what I said gave that impression.

    Neil seems to mean this when he states: “A lot of philosophy seems to be done as if the world has a design [Design].”

    You should leave it at that.

  31. Gregory,

    I thought of Kierkegaard as I was writing that, hoping that I could get away with just referencing Nietzsche and leaving it at that — but clearly not!

    I won’t get into the whole debate as to whether Kiekegaard or Nietzsche is better credited as inspiring existentialism, or who sees more deeply into the anxiety of modernity — let me just say that Nietzsche motivates a turn towards existential pathos by way of taking “Darwinism” (loosely and broadly construed) seriously, whereas Kierkegaard takes a different path.

  32. keiths:

    Ridicule only really stings when there’s some truth in it, which is why people like Barry Arrington, Joe G and Mung

    You can’t even get the quote correct, which is why this instance of ridicule will go right over your head.

  33. Neil Rickert:

    As far as I know, the mathematics itself was fine. The problem was in the underlying assumptions about how evolution works. I seem to recall that Maynard Smith gave a pretty thorough debunking of Hoyle’s argument.

    Yeah, yeah, and Mike Elzinga is no John Maynard Smith. We’ve heard it all before.

  34. Allan Miller:

    Hoyle assumes that…

    Based on your response I have no reason to believe you ever read the book. Have you?

  35. Mike Elzinga:

    In the light of your answer, justify Hoyle’s – and the ID/creationists who constantly quote him – equating the behaviors of atoms and molecules with junkyard parts.

    I already responded to this silliness long ago.

    Based on your response I have no reason to believe you ever read the book either. Have you?

    What a joke. All these “critics” of Hoyle never bothered to read his book Mathematics of Evolution.

    If they had a refutation they would toss it right out.

  36. From the OP:

    Nobody would have heard of Hoyle’s view of evolution, if he were not already famous for his astrophysics. An famous astronomer says something laughably dumb about biology, and you really think that’s worthy of time in a biology class?

    Let’s pretend that Hoyle made his statement out of complete and utter ignorance of the mathematics and physics involved. Sure, let’s avoid dealing with the actual facts.

    Have you read Hoyle’s book?

  37. Let’s pretend that Hoyle made his statement out of complete and utter ignorance of the mathematics and physics involved.

    I don’t pretend that. I assume his mathematics was okay. The issue is whether his mathematical model fits the biology.

    Have you read Hoyle’s book?

    Yes, though I did not try to work my way through his equations.

  38. Mung,

    Hoyle was a smart man, but he was also capable of inanity. According to Hoyle and his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, humans evolved with downward-pointing nostrils to protect us from ingesting pathogens floating down from space.

  39. Kantian Naturalist: It’s true, we’re odd ducks. There are many salient differences between philosophers and scientists, but the biggest one is that whereas scientists are interested in explanations, philosophers are interested in arguments.Put more technically, philosophers are interested in a priori truths, whereas scientists are interested in a posteriori truths.If I want to know what the empirical truth about some particular question is, I would consider it foolish not to find out what scientists concerned with that question would say about it.But if I want to find out “what is ‘empirical truth’, and how does it differ from other kinds of truth?”, then I’d need to ask a philosopher — or become one.

    Another salient difference is that everyone can be, and must be, his or her own philosopher.The people who get called “philosophers”, aka professors of philosophy, are important because we help guide people to philosophize for themselves. Whereas it’s not the case that everyone can be, let alone should be, his or her own astrophysicist or neurobiologist.

    maybe not so much as a subspecialty, but just as everyone can and should be his own philosopher, it’s just as valid to argue that everyone can and should be her own scientist. Science is not a collection of knowledge, it’s an approach to obtaining knowledge, one that is accessible to everyone.

  40. Gregory,

    Nevertheless, the question is fair. Should we understand KN-E’s suggestion as “how can we human beings determine the meaning, value and purpose of our lives if there is no inherent [design/creation] to nature, life, or history?” Iow, more crudely, what’s the point if there is no point?

    It’s not that difficult, really. History shows, and human creativity reveals, that humans don’t determine meaning (unless they are trying to impose it on someone else) so much as they invent it.

    There doesn’t need to be an a priori point when we’re perfectly capable of creating one.

  41. keiths:
    Mung,

    Hoyle was a smart man, but he was also capable of inanity.According to Hoyle and his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, humans evolved with downward-pointing nostrils to protect us from ingesting pathogens floating down from space.

    When we all know it was really to avoid inhaling water during our aquatic ape phase.

    Hoyle and Elaine Morgan would have made a great team.

  42. petrushka: http://wasdarwinwrong.com/kortho46.htmGood review of Hoyle’s book. Some surprises (for me).

    Interesting review.

    Indeed the ID/creationists latched onto Hoyle when they found out about his calculations; which not one ID/creationist can understand or do, by the way. This is especially the case after 1987 when, coincidently, the US Supreme Court ruled on Edwards v. Aguillard

    But even before that, Henry Morris and Duane Gish had latched onto Isaac Asimov’s popularizations and claimed that evolution violated the second law of thermodynamics. Asimov did not say this; and he firmly disagreed with the creationists.

    It is interesting that the concepts of “irreducible complexity,” “genetic entropy,” and the Lottery Winner’s Paradox are foreshadowed in Hoyle’s work. Hoyle was obviously not familiar with some basic concepts of evolution or with some basic concepts in condensed matter physics and chemistry.

    In a related note on ID/creationist history, I found Ken Ham’s revisionist history and tu quoque accusations about “secularists” to be just more of the same; not unexpected from him. All ID/creationists are now dong the same kinds of revisionist history and projecting.

    Unfortunately for them, their history is already recorded and available to the public in books, articles, and major court cases.

  43. Mung:
    Allan Miller:

    Based on your response I have no reason to believe you ever read the book. Have you?

    Mung – we were talking of Hoyle’s 747 junkyard argument, which I have read, and to which my post was addressed. You linked an entire book, which I freely confess I have not read. You want someone to refute all of it? For the edification of someone who strolls by every 4 weeks with a couple of one-liners? Have you read it? Did you understand it? But it’s not relevant anyway; Mike was asking for a defence of Hoyle’s junkyard argument, not his entire take on biology.

    Perhaps you could point to the passage in Hoyle’s book which addresses the 747 fallacy, which I may need to read in order to understand it differently from the way I understand it from his other presentations of the idea.

    I’ve discussed the combinatorial approach to protein function here, vjtorley attempted a refutation of part of it here, and I responded to that here. Hoyle’s legacy looms large over those three posts. If I have misrepresented his argument, feel free to explain how.

    Hoyle was a great man. But this did not stop him being wrong, sometimes spectacularly so in his forays from his areas of expertise. For the IDer, he seems to be regarded as an infallible icon.

  44. Mung: Mike Elzinga:I already responded to this silliness long ago.Based on your response I have no reason to believe you ever read the book either. Have you?What a joke. All these “critics” of Hoyle never bothered to read his book Mathematics of Evolution.If they had a refutation they would toss it right out.

    No, you haven’t answered anything; all you ever do is fly by from time to time just to sneer and throw insults at everybody.

    I already know that you and your cohorts over at UD are incapable of any such a high school level calculations; and you just confirmed it yet again.

  45. Mike Elzinga:
    No, you haven’t answered anything; all you ever do is fly by from time to time just to sneer and throw insults at everybody.

    I’ve engaged seriously on a number of topics, but that doesn’t fit your view of ID’ers or your narrative, so you ignore it. You poor pathetic man.

  46. Allen:

    Mung – we were talking of Hoyle’s 747 junkyard argument, which I have read, and to which my post was addressed. You linked an entire book, which I freely confess I have not read.

    Yes, I know what you were talking about. My point is that Hoyle didn’t just pull his comment out of his ass and that you and others who want to denigrate his comment need to do more research into why Hoyle believed as he did.

    Is that a fair point for me to make? I think it is.

    Even I have not just latched on to his “tornado in a junkyard” comment and attempted to make hay from it. I’ve read a number of his books. I try to understand his position. I try not to caricature.

    Mike wants us to believe that Hoyle didn’t grasp the physics involved, which is just absurd. Others want us to doubt his mathematics, a dubious proposition.

    Hoyle believed as he did for a reason.

    Is that so difficult to accept?

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