The Un-Wedge

While I do not accept Elizabeth’s analysis of what divides us, I do share her desire to engage in a manner that values dialogue over diatribe.

Elizabeth:

So how to heal the rift, rather than drive the Wedge in further? It was always part of my vision for this site that we would try to do the former rather than the latter. It’s not easy, and we have not always been successful. But I am not despondent.

I don’t believe the rift can be healed. I believe the wedge is being driven in by multiple sides and it’s not possible to prevent the various sides from taking swings at it and driving it in further. Claims of “she hit me first” are childish at best, and unproductive.

So how to proceed. Well, first, I suggest a mutual respect. I think the desire for this is expressed in the site rules, in which respect each other becomes respect the rules, because the rules are worthy of respect, because we are each worthy of respect. Is that circular?

Think before you respond. Do I have something of substance to contribute? Is it possible I do not understand? Am I sure I am not misrepresenting the opposing view? Reduce trollish behavior.

Seek to understand. Dismissiveness is not a virtue. What are the propositions? What is the argument? What is the evidence?

ok, so far i’ve probably not said anything that anyone can disagree with, lol! This demonstrates that I am never wrong.

I do believe that in a past life I suggested a “book swap” approach. You pick a book then I pick a book. That went nowhere.

So what interests the regulars here at TSZ? Is ANTI-ID the general purpose of this site? I have lots of anti-ID books. We could look at their arguments.

I can’t promise that I’ll have time to engage deeply in any given topic, but I did try to come up with a list of topics of potential interest:

Biosemiotics
Causation
Code Biology
Genetic Algorithms
Materialism
Organisms and Artifacts
Philosophy of Science
Scientism

Other suggestions?

81 thoughts on “The Un-Wedge

  1. From the OP:

    So how to proceed…[presumably to extract the wedge of tribalism and “groupthink*” that hinders discussion across political divides?] Well, first, I suggest a mutual respect.

    Poacher turned gamekeeper?

    I think the desire for this is expressed in the site rules, in which respect each other becomes respect the rules, because the rules are worthy of respect, because we are each worthy of respect. Is that circular?

    In an ideal (I would consider it ideal) world, rules would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, rules are necessary to prevent discussion on contentious or emotional issues from becoming shouting matches. Site rules here are an honest attempt to strike a balance between free speech and censorship. Mods are fallible and not omnipresent but there are checks and balances.

    Think before you respond. Do I have something of substance to contribute? Is it possible I do not understand? Am I sure I am not misrepresenting the opposing view?

    All reasonable points. I wrote more here and then deleted it. See how easy that was!

    Reduce trollish behavior.

    Ah! What would help here is an idea of what you consider as trolling. You made some remarks about this in connection with my life as Aurelio Smith. If you ever find time, there are some comments in Sandbox (cont’d) you might address. Starting here where you wrote:

    Troll much Aurelio?

    But I digress.

    Seek to understand. Dismissiveness is not a virtue. What are the propositions? What is the argument? What is the evidence?

    Again, all reasonable points. In fact, I see somewhat of a sea change in some of your recent comments.

  2. Mung writes:

    I do believe that in a past life I suggested a “book swap” approach. You pick a book then I pick a book. That went nowhere.

    I’ve tried that myself in the past: several times at Telic Thoughts if memory serves, as it has to now TT has disappeared. Never worked for me, either.

    OT

    I see you mention elsewhere that Joe Gallien is currently banned at Uncommon Descent. I’d noticed he had taken a break but did not realise he’d been banned. I’m shocked! And no announcement? That can’t be fair, can it? Are his old comments still visible? 🙂

    ETA link

  3. “I believe the wedge is being driven in by multiple sides”

    The single best way to ‘heal the rift’ is to Remove the Wedge that the IDM intentionally lodged in the first place! The DI’s “So what?” article in response to the Wedge leaking doesn’t do this. Mike Gene tried to envision a ‘Post-Wedge World’ at TT, but failed.

    However, since Phillip Johnson first articulated the Wedge (of Truth!), the attempt by some to distance IDism from Johnson’s simplistic (black & white) philosophy of science, combined with a series of strokes slowing down his output, has pushed him out of the IDM’s leadership role. Will Mung contact Johnson or the DI & ask for a retraction?!

    To ‘Remove the Wedge’, IDists should ‘Stop the Double-Talk,’ which is most clearly demonstrated in their equivocation between ‘design theory’ and “Intelligent Design Theory”, or as others have suggested and which I agree, between lowercase ‘intelligent design’ and uppercase ‘Intelligent Design.’ This ‘move’ would show due respect to both non-IDist design theorists and also to theists who reject IDism that is currently lacking.

    Hint: Mung could actually confront UD about how it flip-flops between ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘intelligent design’ on its own definition page! If that simple task is too much to ask Mung in good faith to do, then really, what more can one expect from him? Further avoidance of this clearly problematic issue by Mung is expected, as usual.

  4. Mung,

    Think before you respond. Do I have something of substance to contribute? Is it possible I do not understand? Am I sure I am not misrepresenting the opposing view? Reduce trollish behavior.

    The only way you are going to achieve what you claim you want to achieve is to sign up with another pseudonym and start over.

    Respect is earned.

  5. OMagain: The only way you are going to achieve what you claim you want to achieve is to sign up with another pseudonym and start over.

    I see a genuine difficulty with that. How would we know pseudonymous poster B used to be pseudonymous poster A? Would B have to admit he is/was A? I think anyone can change an aspect of their behaviour if they want to. Can we not at least suspend judgement and see what happens?

  6. Alan Fox: How would we know pseudonymous poster B used to be pseudonymous poster A?

    We’d not. But that’s ok. The arguments are what counts 🙂

    Alan Fox: Would B have to admit he is/was A?

    No, not at all. Mung just fades away. Someone who espouses the same opinions without the, well, mungness, arrives.

    Alan Fox: Can we not at least suspend judgement and see what happens?

    Very well. I will accord Mung and Mung’s arguments precisely the level of respect he accords others, both here at at UD.

    EDIT: Starting today, clean state.

  7. I try very hard to address just the post I’m responding to. Sometimes I stretch things a bit and observe that a poster hasn’t actually demonstrated a point. There are people who almost never deviate from their canned speech, and I try to ignore them.

    I do not aspire to convert anyone, but it would be an interesting change to engage in an actual dialogue.

  8. LOL! I see the irony of Mung pleading for an end to trollish behavior is not lost on anyone.

  9. So how to heal the rift, rather than drive the Wedge in further?

    The first step would be to remove the posting abilities of Denyse O’Leary at UD. Almost all of her posts are attempts to drive in that wedge.

  10. I can’t promise that I’ll have time to engage deeply in any given topic, but I did try to come up with a list of topics of potential interest:

    Biosemiotics
    Causation
    Code Biology
    Genetic Algorithms
    Materialism
    Organisms and Artifacts
    Philosophy of Science
    Scientism

    Other suggestions?

    I suggest you start simple, with politics and a scientific hypothesis of ID.

    Politics is important because the Wedge Document is political, not scientific, as is intelligent design. Immediately following the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard where the Court found the teaching of “creation science” unconstitutional, the text of Of Pandas and People was modified to replace the word “creationist” with “intelligent design proponent”. This is where the famous cdesign proponentsists evidence was found. When you can replace those terms without changing the rest of the book, it’s pretty clear they are synonyms. Admitting that would be the intellectually honest approach.
    The reason why ID is only a political controversy is because there is no science behind it. Rather than go through all the topics you listed to try to cast doubt on modern evolutionary theory, try something no ID proponent has ever done before: Propose a scientific hypothesis of intelligent design with testable entailments. ID is not the automatic default if some aspect of evolutionary theory is refuted. It needs to stand on its own and explain observations better than any alternatives. “Somewhere at some point or points in time some entity or entity did something somehow” is not a scientific hypothesis.
    Want to heal the rift? Be honest, stop trying to push sectarian theology into public schools, and do some real science.

  11. In another thread I mentioned a comment that Mung had made at UD regarding heat shock proteins, where my reading was that Mung was stating that they could not have evolved. This was in relation to Larry Moran calling them deeply homologous.

    What is the argument? What is the evidence?

    I’m actually unfamiliar with the arguments and evidence on either side. If I’m reading you correctly Mung, and you are saying what I have noted you as saying then perhaps this would be a reasonable topic to discuss, as you must have your reasons for holding that position. If indeed it is your position. And my reason for holding my position (“they evolved or otherwise were not designed by an intelligent designer”) is that each time we’ve had an unknown and filled it with a telic force, when (if) that unknown becomes a known it’s never a telic force filling the gap. And we have a mechanism known to produce novelty at hand already.

    The list of topics you propose in the OP is somewhat broad. Focussing on something much more specific may pay dividends in actual identifiable progress, as Patrick also suggests.

  12. Although we all have no problem identifying an obvious “troll” and obviously “trollish” behaviour, there is a huge grey area that will depend on the perspective of the reader.

    For example, Barry and KF have a tendency to label people trolls if they disagree with them or refuse to accept correction. Disagreement is not trollish. Even persistent disagreement, which is all Aurelio Smith might be guilty of, is not trollish behaviour.

    As long as someone stays on topic, respects other commenters, and minimizes the use of unsupported assertions, I think that is all we can ask.

  13. A simple fact: at no point in the history of humankind has an explanation, once found, involved anything other than regular processes.

    That could be an OP.

  14. petrushka: A simple fact: at no point in the history of humankind has an explanation, once found, involved anything other than regular processes.

    Care to try and support this assertion? Because, on the surface, it appears to be nothing but rhetoric.

    I’m thinking that perhaps a better way to arrange this statement: “A simple fact: at no point in the history of humankind has anyone, when faced with some phenomena seemingly inexplicable in terms of their ideology, failed to find some way to at least hypothetically account for that phenomena in terms of their own worldview, even if that hypotheses includes a miracle (material or non-material).”

  15. Take spoon bending for example. Videotape the bender and you find he cheated. Show me a spoon being bent by someone not handling the spoon.

  16. William J. Murray: Care to try and support this assertion?Because, on the surface, it appears to be nothing but rhetoric.

    If you think differently please provide your evidence, verified and repeatable in a scientific venue. Sorry but the anecdotal woo you’ve C&Ped from alternate science websites doesn’t qualify.

    Better yet, please explain how to do any science without relying 100% on materalism. Show how to allow for unreliable and unrepeatable supernatural fiddling with your experimental results. You’ve been dodging the question for years now.

  17. If this turns into a “WJM can’t prove a negative” fest then I’m out. Just sayin 😛

  18. Mung raises two issues – the Wedge generally, and his own wish to advance and participate in serious discussions here.

    Regarding the wedge generally, from where I sit two facts need to be honestly addressed by advocates of ID before the wedge can be dissolved:

    – ID is not science, ID drives no research, and ID adds nothing to our understanding of origins or the history of life on earth. So far as I can see, it will never be a science. It has no place in a science class. Like many, my opposition to ID arose in response to attempts by the ID movement to inject ID into my state’s science curriculum, not merely as a casual internet debate position. I find it impossible to respect persons who strive to damage science education.

    – Similarly, I find myself unable to respect ID principals due to the irreducible mendaciousness and dishonesty of the movement. The flat fact is that ID is religiously motivated and advances fundamentally religious notions under a threadbare scientific guise. The lengths to which those in the movement go in attempts to disguise this fact are simultaneously appalling and amusing: Who do you think you are fooling? (I”ll help you with that: yourselves, only, and your gullible, motivated followers.) So far as I am concerned, anyone who disputes this flat fact has either been duped or is assisting in perpetrating this fraud. Stop it.

    Mung, regarding your thoughts on promoting civil discussion, from where I sit your internet persona within this circle has consistently come across as “mlldy clever internet dipshit,” sort of a Joe G. Lite. That’s a woeful image to project. I don’t ordinarily engage in name calling and apologize if that remark comes across that way – but there is no other way to express how I perceive your contributions. For most of your run I’ve found your snark unproductive in the context of discussion and best ignored.

    All that said, if you have something constructive to offer, by all means go for it. But if you want respect, don’t get all sincere here, then run back to UD perpetrating your snarknadisms about TSZ. No one is going to respect that.

  19. Reciprocating Bill,

    I agree, but everyone deserves a reboot, I think.

    ETA: I believe that open, sincere dialogue is the way to go, because that will Kill ID the quickest: A frank and honest exchange of facts would be fatal IMHO.

  20. The Wedge is turning into a hopeless metaphor. The whole point of it was to drive the thin end of the wedge into “materialism” and what not, and to end up toppling “materialism/naturalism” and replacing it with what appears to be some sort of theocracy. Presumably, the IDists should want to optimize the wedging, while we want to blunt it as much as possible, although it’s already pretty blunt.

    Both Lizzie and Mung seem to be using it as a different metaphor, one where both “sides” are driven apart and don’t speak meaningfully to each other (Barry seeming to be one cause). Which would be fine, except that we have this other Wedge.

    Moving on, though, I’m not sure what is to be done about Lizzie and Mung’s “Wedge.” I mean, I’d like to say, present the evidence. That should do it. But we have evidence, and they don’t, and, in general, they’re really not much interested in looking for consilience between the fossil record and genetic data. They can’t even tell us where “design” leaves off and “microevolution” begins, nor what kind of evidence would begin to tell us where it might be (not counting incredulity at the functional complexity). There seems to be a simple explanation, which is that the evidence is of unexceptional (not magic) common descent throughout.

    Basically, we just end up pointing to the evidence, and they ignore it, or find exceptions that supposedly undermine that evidence (the “problems” always trump the other evidence–they can’t tell us why). And I expect that it will continue this way, because both sides want to win, and ours is an evidence-based theory, while theirs is religious apologetics.

    The two don’t really mesh very well, as history has shown.

    Glen Davidson

  21. And I expect that it will continue this way, because both sides want to win, and ours is a evidence-based set of theories constrained by materialist ideology, while theirs is religious apologetics not.

    Fixed it.

  22. OMagain:
    If this turns into a “WJM can’t prove a negative” fest then I’m out. Just sayin

    I”ll take that as a “no”.

  23. Woo is real, and if you were just a bit more gullible, you’d see that…

  24. William J. Murray: Fixed it.

    Still waiting for you to explain how to do science without relying 100% on “materialist ideology”. You’re a great one for flinging poo but never have the brains or backbone to offer anything better.

  25. Richardthughes:
    Woo is real, and if you were just a bit more gullible, you’d see that…

    Heh. His “intent is a physical force than can move material objects” was a real beauty, ID woo worthy of FSTDT. 😀

  26. William J. Murray:

    petrushka: A simple fact: at no point in the history of humankind has an explanation, once found, involved anything other than regular processes.

    Care to try and support this assertion?Because, on the surface, it appears to be nothing but rhetoric.

    I’m thinking that perhaps a better way to arrange this statement: “A simple fact: at no point in the history of humankind has anyone, when faced with some phenomena seemingly inexplicable in terms of their ideology, failed to find some way to at least hypothetically account for that phenomena in terms of their own worldview, even if that hypotheses includes a miracle (material or non-material).”

    To which petrushka elegantly replied:

    A single counterexample would suffice.

    As for WJM’s “better way to arrange this statement”, he is claiming that at no point in the history of humankind has someone changed their worldview, based on evidence. While WJM has told us he don`t roll that way, others demonstrably do. A rather famous example would be Darwin and the ichneumonidae. There are others. Given WJM’s slippery relationship with evidence, I found his efforts to “fix” GlenDavidson’s comment deliciously ironic.

  27. Adapa said:

    If you think differently please provide your evidence, verified and repeatable in a scientific venue. Sorry but the anecdotal woo you’ve C&Ped from alternate science websites doesn’t qualify.

    Petrushka said:

    A single counterexample would suffice.

    It’s not my job to disprove the bald, unsupported assertions of others. I’ll take this to mean the claim cannot be supported, but rather represents nothing but the materialist faith of those making the claim.

    Adapa continues:

    Better yet, please explain how to do any science without relying 100% on materalism. Show how to allow for unreliable and unrepeatable supernatural fiddling with your experimental results. You’ve been dodging the question for years now.

    Actually, I’ve been providing the evidence for “the supernatural” for years now, providing both published, peer reviewed papers and I’ve pointed out ongoing research.

    As to your claim about “science relying 100% materialism”, I’m afraid you have it backwards. Science relies 100% on that which materialism cannot, even in principle, account for: independent observers, objective measurements, and a reliable system of inference.

  28. And I expect that it will continue this way, because both sides want to win, and ours is a evidence-based set of theories constrained by materialist ideology, while theirs is religious apologetics not.

    William J. Murray: Fixed it.

    I’m willing enough to take on the label “atheist” because of how broad the meaning can be, and I don’t seem able to escape it anyhow. But I’ve never been willing to take on the label “materialist,” except when I was much more naive. No one knows what “matter” fundamentally is, nor what “energy” fundamentally is, so that in the end we’re just left with our perceptions and, for example, capacities for spatial reasoning and for logic, in order to make sense of those perceptions.

    With that caveat out of the way, of course we have theories constrained by what is popularly known as “materialism,” and the religious apologetics is not. That’s why “materialist” science works to provide answers, and religious apologia do not. Without constraints, any speculation is as good as any other (save for a few logical contradictions, etc., which don’t much constrain the vast majority of coherent speculations), and it is the constraints that give science its power.

    Glen Davidson

  29. William J. Murray:
    It’s not my job to disprove the bald, unsupported assertions of others. I’ll take this to mean the claim cannot be supported, but rather represents nothing but the materialist faith of those making the claim.

    I’ll take that as a “no”, you can’t provide any example of the supernatural that will pass the slightest scientific scrutiny.

    As to your claim about “science relying 100% materialism”, I’m afraid you have it backwards. Science relies 100% on that which materialism cannot, even in principle, account for: independent observers, objective measurements, and a reliable system of inference.

    I’ll take that as a “no”, you can’t provide any way of doing science that doesn’t rely 100% on materialism. You’re just blowing your usual woo-filled smoke.

  30. How’s your non-materialist science program comming, William? Any progress? If it’s not your job to falsify the statement then we can ignore you, and inductively reason you will again retract and be embarrassed by your current views.

  31. GlenDavidson said:

    No one knows what “matter” fundamentally is, nor what “energy” fundamentally is, so that in the end we’re just left with our perceptions and, for example, capacities for spatial reasoning and for logic, in order to make sense of those perceptions.

    I couldn’t agree more, which is why I don’t really think the real argument has anything to do with “materialism” per se. IOW, “materialism” is the proxy battleground. The real war, IMO, is theism vs anti-theism.

    With that caveat out of the way, of course we have theories constrained by what is popularly known as “materialism,” and the religious apologetics is not. That’s why “materialist” science works to provide answers, and religious apologia do not.

    Note how you’re framing the debate, as if all that occurs on the other side of the debate is “religious apologia”. Was Galileo conducting “religious apologia”? Was Newton proceeding from “materialist assumptions” when he proposed spooky action at a distance without any mediating, physical interactions – otherwise known as “physical laws”? Most of the history of science is written by those seeking to know the mind of god.

    Without constraints, any speculation is as good as any other (save for a few logical contradictions, etc., which don’t much constrain the vast majority of coherent speculations), and it is the constraints that give science its power.

    Those constraints were invented by non-materialists, Glen, under the operating heuristic of rational theism, and were invented to accommodate and operate from certain assumptions not derivable from materialism. This is why science flourished where it did and when it did. Yes, science requires functional constraints, but when functional constraints turn into metaphysical expectations rooted in what any group happens to think “materialism” means, then the process of science is skewed towards local materialist ideas and expectations.

    IOW, if some research seems to contraindicate materialism, then it must be wrong and there must be another explanation. As you yourself admit, WTF does “materialism” even mean? What would it entail, what would it exclude? Who the heck knows?

    Which is why I said before that science should be “methodological pragmatism” – that way, science can focus on empirical results and not hammering data in to fit some vague local concept of “materialism”.

  32. William J. Murray:

    Was Galileo conducting “religious apologia”?Was Newton proceeding from “materialist assumptions” when he proposed spooky action at a distance without any mediating, physical interactions – otherwise known as “physical laws”?Most of the history of science is written by those seeking to know the mind of god.

    It must be noted, though, that those illustrious scientists have been singularly unsuccessful in actually getting to know the mind of God. On the other hand, they have been quite good at figuring out how the natural world is working. They laid down what they discovered in physical laws, models and equations – none of which contain a ‘God’ factor or variable.

    It would appear, then, that the workings of the natural world can quite nicely be understood, captured and harnessed without ever invoking any divine input. Modern science is happily proceeding on this route, as it was paved by those venerable theists. God plays no role in science, although of course she may be quietly waiting outside the lab door.

    fG

  33. William J. Murray: IOW, if some research seems to contraindicate materialism, then it must be wrong and there must be another explanation.

    Can you give an actual concrete example? Name names? What research? And what was the “cover up”? What was the other explanation?

  34. William J. Murray:
    IOW, if some research woo I found on some loopy anti-science website seems to contraindicate materialism, then it must be wrong and there must be another explanation.

    Fixed it for you WJM.

  35. Fg:

    God plays no role in science, although of course she may be quietly waiting outside the lab door.

    More like snoozing in the broom closet, by the look of things.

  36. Sadly, Patrick, I’m not interested in politics. To me they are all two sides of the same coin. So not going to happen. Bet you thought I was a Republican, right? LoL.

  37. GlenDavidson:
    No one knows what “matter” fundamentally is, nor what “energy” fundamentally is, so that in the end we’re just left with our perceptions and, for example, capacities for spatial reasoning and for logic, in order to make sense of those perceptions.

    That is so spot on.

    Neil made a comment recently as well worthy of attention:

    Neil Rickert: The obvious problem with that, is that there are no physical facts.

    We can talk about fermions and bosons.But nothing physical assigns names “fermion” or “boson” to anything.We cannot have facts without conventions (such as naming conventions).So when we talk of fermions and bosons, we are already going beyond what the physical facts allow.

    This is why I deny that I’m a materialist or a physicalist.But I allow that I am some kind of behaviorist (though not the Skinner kind).Naming things is behavioral rather than physical.

  38. In the OP I expressed a number of areas of interest, but I am going to say now that while I find all these topics interesting and relevant and have enough material on hand to discuss them, I am very likely to start a new OP on only one or two of them. Biosemiotics and Code Biology.

    I need to be more focused and thus more disciplined. These are now my primary area of interest.

    I think an allegation was raised in a different thread that I am only interested in these because of Upright BiPed, and while I cannot be certain that this is not the case I don’t see why or how it matters.

    Salvador seems to think that we at UD can’t be critical of each other, and that’s just false. I am constantly comparing what I find in the Biosemiotics literature to what Upright BiPed has written.

    So I think WJM has probably hit the nail on the head. Are there any THEISTS here who oppose ID? Gregory?

  39. Mung: Neil made a comment recently as well worthy of attention:

    Maybe I should expand on that. I had earlier said “Naming things is behavioral rather than physical.” I’ll add that there is nothing physical that dictates what counts as a “thing”. That, too, depends on human conventions.

    And I’ll comment on what you quoted from Glen, who was questioning what is matter. And that’s the same problem. All we can really say is that our theories that identify matter work pretty well. We accept those theories on pragmatic grounds. As best I can tell, there is no basis for saying that they are true.

  40. OMagain:
    Mung,

    The only way you are going to achieve what you claim you want to achieve is to sign up with another pseudonym and start over.

    I disagree. I have enough of a history here at TSZ. What’s been so offensive about it?

    Respect is earned.

    Respect is a gift. It’s not something that can be earned.

  41. Richardthughes:
    Are you going to be making a positive case for ID, Mung?

    I don’t need to. ID is blatantly obvious. Are you going to be making a case for why you deny it?

  42. Neil, I am not sure how we identify something without knowing what it is or without measuring it. In which case we’re right back where you started.

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