Why be skeptical about Swamidass’ ‘Peaceful Science’ pitch?

This thread is meant to be a resource for people to express their hopefully sincere & proper skepticism about Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass’ so-called ‘Peaceful Science’ project on an on-going basis as issues & challenges arise. The purpose for starting this thread now is the announcement of a grant to Peaceful Science (PS) by the mutual fund wealth-based John Templeton Foundation. http://peacefulscience.org/new-voice/

I will express some of my skepticism about PS in a few words: Joshua is strangely aiming by ‘inviting all positions as equal’ to relativise the names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve,’ while at the same time trying himself to become a ‘genealogist’. The woman in the pair he apparently has some kind of a gender bias against, since he hasn’t laid out why he sometimes omits her & only sometimes brings Eve into the conversation. I predicted here a few months ago that Joshua would eventually change his almost exclusively ‘Genealogical Adam’ talk to finally start being more inclusive with ‘Genealogical Adam & Eve.’ Joshua hasn’t taken the hint by adapting his language & thinking yet, though he has been known to change his mind about things in the past.

Once others realise the relativistic, ‘diversity-driven’ goal of his enterprise, even while he speaks about that goal only indirectly, he will hit his ceiling much like BioLogos has in its mission to convert evangelicals to ‘evolution-accepting,’ kinda like Joshua but different. BioLogos stands as the USAmerican-made role model for Joshua to go his own way, not long after he actively alienated himself from Deborah Haarsma & BioLogos leadership publicly. Example 1 of borrowed modelling: PS uses the same software as BioLogos. (TSZ is behind & should likewise adopt Discourse asap.)

While the explicit intention of making an attempt to bring people of different ‘faiths’ into a dialogue about ‘human origins’ for the improvement of relations between people drawn along what Joshua labels as ‘secularist vs. confessionalist’ lines may sound good on the surface for valuable social & cultural purposes, unfortunately, at the end of the day it’s a USAmerican production of the creationist & IDist flavour that could not have arisen elsewhere the way Swamidass has been promoting himself & selling it. Because of this I don’t think Joshua can actually ‘act peacefully’ in his own community due to his sometimes loud, brash attitude, which I have witnessed now on several occasions in arrogant dismissals & self-justification of wrongs at the cost of relationships with others who he seems to consider as ‘below’ him or simply ‘non-scientist’ & therefore less suited for the broader science, philosophy & theology conversation. Ann Gauger has already expressed how uncomfortable she feels in the way she has been treated at PS, despite Joshua’s efforts at pleasantries. This is largely due to Joshua’s hierarchical structure of participants through which he finds himself compelled to defend one of his largest boosters & fanboys, an atheist friend of FFRF who has made over 3,600 posts at PS, as well as a self-described ‘frantic’ unitarian universalist with 2800 posts.

As for the TSZ & PS relationship, it has been growing & I am delighted to see more and more atheists & agnostics (i.e. ‘skeptics’) from this site visiting there, which is surely more inspiring & enlightening than here. TSZ moderator Neil Rickert a.k.a. “Agnostic Mathematician” has posted over 730 times there in the past 4+ months. Former TSZ moderator Alan Fox “Secular European” has posted almost 160 times. Once volunteer moderator Vincent J. Torley “Catholic Philosopher” has posted 174 times. New TSZ moderator Mung “Theistic-ID Evolution” has posted almost 1,000 times already at PS in just 3 months. John Harshman “Secular Avian Phylogenist” ( I have no idea why he uses the term ‘secular’ there other than following Joshua’s main dichotomy of secular vs. confessional) has created more than 1,200 posts there. This is a record transfer of attention from TSZ to PS, just as I had hoped! There is really no need to turn back to UD or continue to give it attention when PS is available now & growing. http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/peaceful-science-has-eclipsed-uncommon-descent-how-will-that-impact-tszs-reason-to-be/

Nevertheless, the absence of balance is obvious. Joshua has only a few times comes to TSZ to share or explore his views in a more challenging environment than in his own ‘safe space.’ Perhaps he is daunted that he might have to actually face ideological scrutiny, which so far he has proven himself unable to handle carefully, properly or sufficiently, either when he started going public only with his ‘science vs. religion’ views over at BioLogos or now at his own site.

It appears that there’s enough of a taste of PS & Swamidass’ view of managed ‘peace-seeking’ already from people here. So, what do you think? Why are you skeptical about Swamidass’ ‘Peaceful Science’? Or, on the other side, what do you believe in about this ‘new voice’ on ‘human origins’ (which sounds mostly palaeological, rather than contemporary anthropological, sociological or psychological) now funded to expand its platform?

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344 thoughts on “Why be skeptical about Swamidass’ ‘Peaceful Science’ pitch?

  1. Gregory: Chained to ‘Darwinism’ atheists & IDists dance together, while others try to ignore them, they both flail & stammer for attention.

    Just out of curiosity, what’s your basis for rejecting/ignoring evolution?

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  2. dazz: Just out of curiosity, what’s your basis for rejecting/ignoring evolution?

    Would it make you feel silly if what you wrote was wrong?

    I don’t reject or ignore biological evolutionary theories. I’m not anti-biological evolution & don’t ignore it.

    However, at the same time, I don’t sit back & keep quiet when the term ‘evolution’ is exaggerated, distorted & misused in other fields, which try to identify a ‘common metaphor’ or draw on the analogy of biological evolution to describe or attempt to explain non-biological change-over-time. There are other terms available & we should not be trapped into ignoring or rejecting those terms because some crazy atheist scholar thinks ‘gene culture co-evolution’ is a coherent phrase & naturalism applies to human choices too.

    It’s almost entirely atheist biologists & other naturalists who surprise, surprise (already been done before them) think they got a ‘brilliant idea’ after years of work, that they should ‘extend evolution’ beyond biology into cultural fields, even into the study of technology. Do you not find that practise highly problematic too, dazz?

    For that matter, do you actually deny even the possibility of ‘conceptual misappropriation’ when it comes to the term ‘evolution’? Are you one of those ‘everything evolves’ people, defying proper limits to ‘evolution’? There are many unnecessarily lost thinkers making all kinds of claims of what (supposedly) ‘evolution does’ without saying anything about what evolution doesn’t do. It sounds like evolutionary religious naturalism in the name of atheism.

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  3. Gregory,

    To me evolution is just a scientific explanation in the field of biology. We can also apply its principles to solve problems (genetic algorithms) to develop technology, but that’s not the same thing as explaining technology itself through evolution.

    So I guess we agree. Should that make me feel silly too? Just kidding

    Gregory: For that matter, do you actually deny even the possibility of ‘conceptual misappropriation’ when it comes to the term ‘evolution’?

    No, I don’t.

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  4. Biolological evolution is appropriated from economic thought.

    It is useful to think in terms of population change occurring by incremental changes, each competing with unpredictable results. I can’t think of an example in the worlds of technology, commerce, politics or philosophy where long term change proceeded according to a plan.

    Obvious direction seems obvious only in retrospect. Unsuccessful predictions forgotten.

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  5. “To me evolution is just a scientific explanation in the field of biology. We can also apply its principles to solve problems (genetic algorithms) to develop technology, but that’s not the same thing as explaining technology itself through evolution.” – dazz

    Thanks for your attempt at delimitation. What do you do with the field known as ‘evolutionary economics’ then, for example? Is it ‘unscientific’, simply ‘off your radar’ of interest, generally irrelevant, or something else entirely? I’m sure that simply being a ‘skeptic’ isn’t the same as preferring ignorance on a topic when there is available knowledge.

    Let me assure you (because I have met some) there are indeed not a few die-hard evolutionists among economists. So while I agree with you that evolution properly belongs as “just a biological explanation” or rather ‘description of natural history,’ others would argue with that position, instead saying that ‘evolutionary science’ encompasses everything, including the social sciences & humanities. What’s your answer to them?

    “No, I don’t.”

    Great! Can you then please give us some obvious & common or even more detailed examples of the conceptual misappropriation of ‘evolution’, preferably with the name(s) of the misappropriator(s) attached? These people need to be called to account for their loose ideological usage of ‘evolution’ that serves as a stain on the legitimate evolutionary biological & ecological science.

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  6. petrushka:
    Biolological evolution is appropriated from economic thought.

    Not really, since the biological ‘discoveries’ were made independently by naturalists. There was no similar ‘discovery’ of ‘evolution’ in economics. While the fields of biology & economics certainly do have points & moments of convergence & divergence; they nevertheless have a fundamentally different subject/object of study.

    Which economist(s) would you suggest Spencer, Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, et al. ‘appropriated’ evolution from? (Adam) Smith, Bentham, Ricardo or JS Mill? None of them used ‘evolution’ as a primary topic in their works. Please establish a clearer link for what you are hypothesizing.

    Or are you simply suggesting Darwin ‘appropriated’ the (quasi-)economic, population ideas of Malthus? Karl Marx’s political economics is more ‘revolutionary’ than ‘evolutionary’. I’ve looked closely at his language in translation on this topic. Carl Menger & Alfred Marshall used ‘evolution,’ but not crucially or critically among their theories. Veblen wrote famously about “Why is Economics not an Evolutionary Science” in 1898 & occasional or more regular uses of ‘evolution’ by economists can be traced to the likes of von Mises & Hayek. Schumpeter is the watershed for ‘evolutionary economics’ & the nonsense of playful economic paradoxes like ‘creative destruction’ continue to spew from the mouths of economists.

    “I can’t think of an example in the worlds of technology, commerce, politics or philosophy where long term change proceeded according to a plan.”

    I.e. macro-development. Are you unaware of the long-term change happening according to a plan in China right now? Wow – check out some of their anthropogenic changes in photos from recent years to be amazed.

    Link to google books

    “Obvious direction seems obvious only in retrospect. Unsuccessful predictions forgotten.”

    That sounds too ‘blind’ for most people to apply to their lives.

    Human extension is an example of ‘obvious direction’ in prospective viewpoint, not retrospective. One cannot extend in ‘no direction’ since the source of human extension is a person or persons who can speak to their own intended directions.

    If you are not yet aware of Robert Merton’s “unintended consequences of purposive social action,’ then now’s the time to check it out.

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  7. Gregory: What do you do with the field known as ‘evolutionary economics’ then, for example? Is it ‘unscientific’, simply ‘off your radar’ of interest, generally irrelevant, or something else entirely? I’m sure that simply being a ‘skeptic’ isn’t the same as preferring ignorance on a topic when there is available knowledge.

    I have no idea what that is. I certainly agree that knowledge is better than ignorance, but truth is I know next to nothing about economics. I don’t doubt you’re much smarter and more cultivated than me. All I can say is that it seems very weird to me to apply a scientific theory to economics, but what do I know. I’ll google it, but I can tell you already it will most likely go over my head.

    Gregory: Can you then please give us some obvious & common or even more detailed examples of the conceptual misappropriation of ‘evolution’, preferably with the name(s) of the misappropriator(s) attached?

    Eugenics springs to mind as the most obvious example.

    Gregory: These people need to be called to account for their loose ideological usage of ‘evolution’ that serves as a stain on the legitimate evolutionary biological & ecological science.

    Sure, but you seem to make a great deal about those people being atheists. If true, why?

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  8. Evolutionary economics looks like mainstream (i.e. capitalist) economics with a thin veneer of terminology borrowed from evolutionary theory. (Much like evolutionary psychology in that regard.)

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  9. Gregory: There’s poking holes in a person’s argument, exposing the frailty of its presuppositions, etc. but provoking people with devil words isn’t likely to endear you to online interlocutors.

    You’re very wrong. Aside from a huge waste of time and resources, “evolution” thinking has done and is doing REAL DAMAGE to mankind. And for that, let me just cite eugenics with it’s most evil incarnations: Communism and Nazism.

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  10. Nonlin.org: You’re very wrong. Aside from a huge waste of time and resources, “evolution” thinking has done and is doing REAL DAMAGE to mankind. And for that, let me just cite eugenics with it’s most evil incarnations: Communism and Nazism.

    Eugenics owes much more to artificial selection – been around for years – than the Darwinian kind. But plant and dog breeders don’t make you go GRRRR …

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  11. DNA_Jock: However, based on ‘evolution’, I could predict that those sequences that were conserved between mouse, human, sheep, cow and rat would be conserved in rabbit, and those sequences that diverged would not be. ID thinking, tellingly, makes no such prediction.

    Like I said: “And make sure it is “evolution” and not observed similarity as in: “we use the mouse model because – “evolution” or not – we know the mouse is more similar to human than c-elegans”.

    In fact, you’re simply relying on the Linnaean taxonomy and it’s modern incarnations. Let me remind you that Systema Naturae dates from 1735 – way, way, WAY before Darwin and his nonsense. You’re merely superimposing your religion on the observable evidence and then chose to refer to said superfluous religion instead of the actual underlying evidence.

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  12. Rumraket: I once attended a presentation they held where they explained how they rely on evolution by basically exposing populations of bacteria, yeasts, and phage, to novel compounds and environments in order to discover new or improve useful enzymes to use in detergents and dishwashers and many other things.

    “Exposing populations of bacteria, yeasts, and phage, to novel compounds and environments in order to discover new or improve useful enzymes” requires absolutely NO EVOLUTION. We have been exposing [your pick] to environments in order to discover new or improve [your pick] ever since the first domestication of plants and animals.

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  13. Allan Miller: That’s odd. Eugenics is evolution but evolutionary design is mere artificial selection?

    Now you’re getting it. Here’s the script:

    “Evolution”: anything that’s false and/or harmful (e.g. eugenics, Communism, Nazism, psoriasis, etc.)

    Anything that’s true and/or beneficial is (by definition) not evolution.

    Hope that clears it up for you!

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  14. Nonlin.org: We have been exposing [your pick] to environments in order to discover new or improve [your pick] ever since the first domestication of plants and animals.

    So eugenics isn’t evolution either. Stop blaming it on evolution.

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  15. No, Nonlin.org, you have gotten entirely the wrong end of the stick.
    Insofar as I can tell, J-Mac made a similar error. I encourage you to read my responses to him; Linnaean taxonomy has nothing to do with it. It’s about which PARTS of the GH gene diverge the fastest. ID makes no prediction.

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  16. Allan Miller: Eugenics owes much more to artificial selection – been around for years – than the Darwinian kind. But plant and dog breeders don’t make you go GRRRR …

    What “artificial selection”? Both “NS”/”AS” come from the same diseased mind. There’s only breeding without the pretense of transmutating cats into dogs or whatnot. Eugenics is “natural selection”, “survival of the fittest”, and “struggle for survival” at its worst. You can’t blame eugenics on the spartan, etc. barbarism that had been long dead before Darwinist eugenics.

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  17. DNA_Jock: I encourage you to read my responses to him; Linnaean taxonomy has nothing to do with it. It’s about which PARTS of the GH gene diverge the fastest.

    You say:

    ” I needed to use sequences that differed between humans and rabbit, but I did not have access to the rabbit sequence back then.
    So, by choosing regions of the GH gene that diverged the most between humans and sheep and cows I was able to develop a PCR assay that could distinguish rabbit cells carrying the human GH gene from rabbit cells that did not.”

    To summarize:
    1. “human GH gene different than sheep and cows”
    2. Transgenic rabbits have human GH gene.
    3. Not based on “evolution”, would I expect regular rabbits to have GH gene different than humans?
    4. But of course if for no other reason for the simple fact that there are two kind of rabbits: transgenic or not.
    5. Also, based on Linnaean taxonomy (no “evolution” need apply), and even more so on common sense, if human GH gene different than cow and sheep equivalent, most likely that also different than non-transgenic rabbit.

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  18. Nonlin.org: There’s only breeding without the pretense of transmutating cats into dogs or whatnot.

    Since both dogs and cats currently exist , it seems pointless trying to make cats into dogs or vice versa.

    Eugenics is “natural selection”, “survival of the fittest”, and “struggle for survival” at its worst.

    Directed selection seems more like it, but I agree ,human activity is part of the natural world. With limited resources there will always be competion for those resources, maybe your gripe should be with the designer not those who describe the design.

    You can’t blame eugenics on the spartan, etc. barbarism that had been long dead before Darwinist eugenics.

    Hardly, ever heard of war?

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  19. Nonlin.org: What “artificial selection”? Both “NS”/”AS” come from the same diseased mind. There’s only breeding without the pretense of transmutating cats into dogs or whatnot. Eugenics is “natural selection”, “survival of the fittest”, and “struggle for survival” at its worst. You can’t blame eugenics on the spartan, etc. barbarism that had been long dead before Darwinist eugenics.

    If it were truly Darwinian, the environment would be allowed to sort out ‘the fittest’. If it involves the choice of a breeder, then it isn’t quite ‘Darwinian’ at all, but is simply breeding, something with a much longer … uh … pedigree. Care to try again?

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  20. Nonlin.org: You’re very wrong. Aside from a huge waste of time and resources, “evolution” thinking has done and is doing REAL DAMAGE to mankind. And for that, let me just cite eugenics with it’s most evil incarnations: Communism and Nazism.

    Anonymous internet person, please calm down & get a grip. I’m not ‘very wrong’ in my understanding of ‘evolution’ as used in social sciences & humanities; I’ve studied this topic specifically more than anyone here & certainly more than you on a professional level. The choice to communicatively hyperventilate by throwing out Communism & Nazism as if they are “evil incarnations” of ‘eugenics,’ & as if Marx & Hitler *began* their social-political-economic & quasi-religious ideologies based on ‘social Darwinism’ isn’t a nice or effective way to enter a conversation. Classism & racism were surely parts of their modus operandi too, no?

    Again, who do you seek to represent if you’re going to use such rude language when you make attempts with people to start a conversation? Maybe you ought to consider what ‘anti-social behaviour’ means?

    The mere idea of evolution can of course be countered & over-turned in the history of ideas. It is the way one positions the term ‘evolution’ in the broader context, pointing out the many cases where it doesn’t apply & is not needed, that helps change the way people speak. Do you have a ‘key term’ that you instead propose for the kind of ‘change-over-time’ we see in natural history since you absolutely & with rage of a flaming tongue HATE the concept of ‘evolution’?

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  21. newton: Since both dogs and cats currently exist , it seems pointless trying to make cats into dogs or vice versa.

    Pointless. As in no design reason. But you’re supposed to be talking about evolution.

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  22. dazz,

    “it seems very weird to me to apply a scientific theory to economics”

    Weird or not to you, I’ve followed these people somewhat closely over the years. Just got an invite by email this morning to next year’s EAEPE event: https://eaepe.org/. Btw, the yearly Bank of Sweden prize in memory of Alfred Nobel is awarded for ‘economic sciences.’ Historically there have been conceptual borrowing & metaphors used both ways in biology & economics.

    You know more economics than you think as it’s a ‘one-trick pony’ at the end of the day. I’m not asking for knowledge of economic theories, only to raise awareness that not just in economics, but also in sociology, linguistics, psychology & anthropology, some ‘misappropriations’ have occurred.

    “Eugenics springs to mind as the most obvious example.”

    That’s the easiest one. There are many more & it’s endemic in some fields of study in the social sciences & humanities. Ok, what about this? https://evolution-institute.org/toward-a-new-social-darwinism/

    Or this? https://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/the-literary-darwinists.html

    Or, to keep Darwin’s name largely out of it, which hosts the mediocre & confused ‘philosophy of social evolution’ of Jonathan Birch: http://extendedevolutionarysynthesis.com/ & http://extendedevolutionarysynthesis.com/the-philosophy-of-social-evolution/

    So let’s turn back to Swamidass: is he sooner or later going to address the EES at a deeper & more mature level than he has yet done on his ‘science vs. religion’ site? Likewise, is he going to give the so-called “Third Way of Evolution” more than just a passing comments? http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/ Swamidass’ complaints about BioLogos’, specifically their racism towards him & their problematic sectarian theology are much different than his protective Dr. Jon Garvey or Eddie ‘Religious Studies and Natural Theology’ from Jon’s Hump, who both argue that BioLogos is not addressing ‘good science’ like that from James Shapiro, who co-founded the Third Way. What kind of ‘scientific’ ship is Joshua actually steering?

    “you seem to make a great deal about those people being atheists. If true, why?”

    Well, the social fact is that they are almost all atheists or agnostics & they’ve clustered within a few specific fields using particular jargon to self-identify & to define their ‘paradigm’ & ‘know-how’ of their own specialist field. They are now proselytizing to others to adopt their chosen language & I’m one of those who has had enough of it. Many of the most outspoken cultural evolutionists are anti-religious or distort religion on purpose to suit their worldview, which is absolutely obvious in the case of D.S. Wilson, Steven Pinker & Sam Harris. I’m a sociologist, which means simply noting the fact that they are atheists or agnostics is part of my field’s work, it is that obvious; not something that needs to be politically questioned or ‘scientifically’ scoffed at.

    On the other side, I note the dissimilar sociological features of the IDM, which are of course almost the polar opposite, as the IDM is made up largely, though with a lower overall % of non-mainstream evangelical protestant Christians. Behe, for example, is a Roman Catholic & there’s a Roman Catholic priest promoting ID. & just like there are few to no atheists promoting uppercase ‘Intelligent Design’ (neo-creationism), likewise, the cultural evolutionists don’t usually, & certainly not properly or authentically promote Islam, Christianity or Judaism, even when they sometimes address those religions.

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  23. Nonlin.org: To summarize:
    1. “human GH gene different than sheep and cows”

    Yes

    2. Transgenic rabbits have human GH gene.

    Err. No transgenic rabbits in this scenario. Rabbit cells carrying the human GH gene. In mice. Hey, not my experimental design…

    3. Not based on “evolution”, would I expect regular rabbits to have GH gene different than humans?

    Different in what way? Be as precise and detailed as you can.

    4. But of course if for no other reason for the simple fact that there are two kind of rabbits: transgenic or not.

    Nope, still no transgenics. Some rabbit cells carry the human GH gene in addition to the rabbit GH gene.

    5. Also, based on Linnaean taxonomy (no “evolution” need apply), and even more so on common sense, if human GH gene different than cow and sheep equivalent, most likely that also different than non-transgenic rabbit.

    Well, Linnaean taxonomy does not help. You are trying to distinguish a primate from a rodent and a lagomorph, using information from a primate, a rodent and a couple of pecora.
    You still seem unable to cotton on to the idea that ‘evolution’ makes rather specific predictions about the pattern of divergence, and predicts that particular PARTS of the GH gene will diverge more than other parts. I suspect that you would like for ID to make predictions as similar as possible to the ‘evolutionary’ predictions, and when you finally do figure out the nature of the evolutionary prediction, then that prediction will suddenly, after the fact, become an ID prediction — a “post-diction”. Happens a lot. But the reality is that ID thinking makes no such prediction.
    Here’s a test: imagine that when the rabbit GH gene was finally sequenced, it turned out to be absolutely identical to the pelican gene. Would this constitute evidence against intelligent design? Be honest now.

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  24. DNA_Jock,

    Can you please take this genetic stuff to another thread or just drop it from this one, unless that is something you’re skeptical about at Peaceful Science? http://peacefulscience.org/

    IDism is nonsense. O.k. – we agree? No need to respond to that person’s rude irrelevant puffery, & thus divert the thread.

    Dr. Swamidass, DNA_Jock, skeptical about his PS, are you? Do you visit there?

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  25. You’re right — sorry about the thread-jack.
    I have visited PS, and I share some of your doubts about JS, but I believe he is genuinely trying to do the right thing. Perhaps his ego gets in the way sometimes, but far, far less often than his critics’.
    I find on-line motive-mongering unfruitful.

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  26. Kantian Naturalist:
    Evolutionary economics looks like mainstream (i.e. capitalist) economics with a thin veneer of terminology borrowed from evolutionary theory. (Much like evolutionary psychology in that regard.)

    Darwin acknowledged Adam Smith as providing a key insight into how natural selection, the invisible hand, creates wealth. I believe Wallace also cited Smith.

    The key point is whether the direction of change is governed by selection or by foresight.

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  27. petrushka,

    “The key point is whether the direction of change is governed by selection or by foresight.”

    Both. Externalist logic alone won’t cut it in economics. Human agents are involved.

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  28. DNA_Jock,

    “I believe he is genuinely trying to do the right thing.”

    So do I. The ego part is in parcel with him solving his YEC family & LCMS teachings, against which he is pitting his ‘Genealogical Adam’ story. That is the main challenge here, not convincing everyone else that there is no centre or that Adam & Eve are not just ‘anything goes’. The professional defense of evolutionary biology is really not that difficult to make; it’s just a different audience Joshua is trying for than BioLogos’, the latter which is mainly if not solely non-mainstream evangelical protestants who reject evolutionary science. Joshua suggests he is aiming to do much more, yet the largely evangelical protestant-leaning cast (like his initial ‘partner’ at PS, JES the YECist moderator) he has gathered thus far betrays his ’empty chair’ claims. He’s pitching the same solas as RTB, AiG, DI & BioLogos, after all.

    Which critics of Swamidass &/or PS are you referring to? J-Mac & nonlin.org don’t really count as critics worth taking seriously. Who do you count as an actual critic of PS? The site is still rather new & he manages dissenting views tightly.

    The motives do of course matter in the long run. We won’t be mongering them here, besides Joshua has been rather open sharing them on his site & blog anyway.

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  29. Allan Miller: If it were truly Darwinian, the environment would be allowed to sort out ‘the fittest’. If it involves the choice of a breeder, then it isn’t quite ‘Darwinian’ at all, but is simply breeding, something with a much longer … uh … pedigree. Care to try again?

    Artificial selection by human breeders is an instance of natural selection. Humans exist in the environment of the animals in question, and have a huge effect on the fitness of different alleles in the animal population.

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  30. Allan Miller: Eugenics owes much more to artificial selection – been around for years – than the Darwinian kind. But plant and dog breeders don’t make you go GRRRR …

    Seems like a frame of reference issue. To the breeder, the selection is artificial. To the subjects of selection, the breeders are simply the environment.

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  31. These two comments reveal how important it is to understand who it is that is speaking on a given topic to be able to interpret what they are actually saying. It surely makes a difference if one is an evolutionist or naturalist or not on this topic.

    “Artificial selection by human breeders is an instance of natural selection.”

    “To the breeder, the selection is artificial. To the subjects [non-human animals or plants] of selection, the breeders are simply the environment.”

    To the latter one can respond: ah, yes, the exercise today in naturalism class is to ‘think like an animal or plant.’ Dehumanise the human into a mere environment; get outside of your humanity & think like the planet, etc. ; )

    Typically, the notion of ‘natural selection’ does not include the minds & thoughts of active agents, which is why we see the terms ‘undirected,’ ‘unguided’ in the literature, & therefore implying in some sense ‘blind’ or ‘random’ wrt ‘fitness.’

    Otoh, the term ‘artificial’ is defined quite opposite ‘natural. Certainly ‘artificial’ things are created &/or designed, manufactured, implemented, etc. Indeed, one of the fairly standard definitions of artificial is ‘unnatural.’ Are we seeing an attempt to rewrite the dictionary in a way that might seem necessary or flattering to ‘naturalism’?

    Thus, to try to swallow ‘artificial’ with ‘natural’ may come across to people as rather absurd, depending on one’s starting point. After all, as we learn at PS, Rumraket is an “Atheist Molecular Biology Technician”. The ideological ‘naturalism’ that almost ‘naturally’ becomes involved in such a person’s ‘worldview’ might be considered as a sign of prejudice against the ‘artificial’ which is designed & manufactured by mind(s), rather than only materially so that it can be called a ‘scientific conclusion.’ For naturalists, what is ‘natural’ is all they can see, hear, taste or touch, & often they think biology-first which limits their vision of ‘the natural world’.

    Other people, non-biologists, & all the many non-naturalists, are of course free to consider ‘artificial’ & ‘artifice’ as human-made creations, designs, inventions, etc. as the English language signifies them. We don’t need to bother changing ‘artificial’ to fit the jargon of materialist biologists who are only trained to view the world at the biological level. Biological anthropology would be an elevation from dirt to humans, then higher to persons in cultural, economic, political, linguistic, symbolic & religious anthropology, or seeking the divine in theological anthropology; we are more often elevating our humanity in such discussions.

    But that is not common here at TSZ.

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  32. Rumraket: Artificial selection by human breeders is an instance of natural selection. Humans exist in the environment of the animals in question, and have a huge effect on the fitness of different alleles in the animal population.

    Sure, but evidently no-one called this ‘Darwinism’, pre 1859, yet it still took place. He is wrongly blamed for eugenics. His invention was not the breeding of plants and animals, but the recognition that those things that breeders do are also done by other environments.

    One can make a reasonable case that there is just one thing, NS, with AS as a subset, but it is equally valid to regard them as separate – as, I think, Darwin himself did. I think the subtlety would be lost on nonlin either way.

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  33. There is a big distinction between selection and detailed design. If we impose a scheme of truncation selection, such as breeding from the heaviest 25% of a herd, we are not dictating which genotypes will achieve that, because we don’t know enough about genotypes to say that. Both natural selection and straightforward forms of artificial selection are alike in that.

    When natural selection and forms of artificial selection such as truncation selection bring about changes, they do so without a detailed blueprint of the genotype. That is why the opening chapter of The Origin of Species discusses artificial selection and makes the analogy with natural selection. The success of both is for the same reason, selection on a phenotype whose genetics we do not know in detail.

    On the other hand, if we design a genotype by having in hand a detailed genotype blueprint, or changing only particular genes for which we know the desired genotypes, this is not analogous to natural selection.

    The same distinction holds for design by genetic simulation of the antenna of a satellite where the detailed design was not imposed by the engineers. They used a prediction of the ability of the antenna to be multidirectional, without knowing in advance which shape of the antenna would achieve that best.

    A similar point applies to the program BoxCar2D, where there is no detailed design waiting inside the program.

    Creationists and ID advocates here seem very reluctant to acknowledge this big distinction. They wave away the first chapter of the Origin as not being an argument for natural selection because the selection there is artificial. In the present discussion Gregory also classifies artificial selection as essentially the same as human design, though he does so for a different reason.

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  34. Gregory: Typically, the notion of ‘natural selection’ does not include the minds & thoughts of active agents, which is why we see the terms ‘undirected,’ ‘unguided’ in the literature, & therefore implying in some sense ‘blind’ or ‘random’ wrt ‘fitness.’

    Quoting from the Wikipedia page for Gould’s “Structure”

    “According to Gould, classical Darwinism encompasses three essential core commitments: Agency, the unit of selection (which for Charles Darwin was the organism) upon which natural selection acts;[6] efficacy, …”

    So agency is the first listed. The involvement of agency is at the core of natural selection, at least according to Gould.

    Sorry, Gregory, but a lot of what you say about evolution is just wrong. Perhaps you are correct about technical usage of “evolution” within sociology. But, as used in ordinary language and in biology, you cannot exclude agency.

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  35. Mung: Pointless. As in no design reason.

    Among human designers, I agree. No reason spending the time and money.

    However with an unknown designer with unknown abilities and unknown methodology and goals, we cannot know what the reasoning is behind particular designs.

    But you’re supposed to be talking about evolution.

    Which per nonlin only occurs if one can make a cat into a dog, just saying Human Intelligent Design shows little interest in that endeavor as well.

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  36. Neil Rickert,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’re correct about this specific point. When Gould is using “agency” all he seems to mean is “where does selection happen?” — on individual organisms, on lower-level processes (e.g. genes), or on higher levels (e.g. families).

    When Gregory is talking about agency, he’s talking about intentional agency: intuitively, what’s the difference between a wink and a blink? A blink is a mere happening, a reaction — it doesn’t mean anything. A wink is done on purpose, for a reason — it means something (to flirt, to conspire, etc.).

    If there’s a difference between a wink and blink, then there’s a difference between breeding (“artificial selection”) and evolution (“natural selection”).

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  37. Gregory:
    petrushka,

    Both. Externalist logic alone won’t cut it in economics. Human agents are involved.

    Adam Smith’s insight was that wealth creation is independent of the best laid plans.

    Both artificial selection and economic planning produce brittle systems.

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  38. petrushka: Adam Smith’s insight was that wealth creation is independent of the best laid plans.

    Both artificial selection and economic planning produce brittle systems.

    Of course, Smith’s insight was that markets are more efficient and robust (i.e. less brittle) without protections and tariffs. But it’s still the case that individual actors are acting on the basis of their perceived rational self-interest. That’s just not the case for evolving organisms like yeast or oak trees. Yeast neither have self-interest nor the capacity to perceive it.

    I know you know this perfectly well — I’m only emphasizing it because Gregory is interested in where the analogy breaks down and I worry you’re interest in the analogy itself is preventing you from engaging with Gregory’s point.

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  39. Evolution as a description of changes in populations says nothing about how novel indididuals are produced.

    From Adam Smith’s perspective, new products or inventions could be produced by gods and appear spontaneously on earth, but they would still compete in the marketplace. The workings of the market determine success or failure, not the intentions of designers.

    Designed organisms would still face the sieve. Humans may temporarily produce an artificial niche, but when human support collapses, the populations either go extinct, or change toward a less brittle form. Feral dog populations, for example drift toward a form typical of wild dogs.

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  40. Gregory: We don’t need to bother changing ‘artificial’ to fit the jargon of materialist biologists who are only trained to view the world at the biological level.

    It’s as if they never read Darwin, who arrived at “natural selection” by way of analogy.

    Could you imagine what Darwin’s argument would have looked like if he had instead insisted that artificial selection was in fact natural selection?

    It is this constant double-speak from evolutionists that lead me to be a critic/skeptic. If the theory is sound it should be able to survive without the rhetorical games it’s proponents resort to.

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  41. Mung: It’s as if they never read Darwin, who arrived at “natural selection” by way of analogy.

    Could you imagine what Darwin’s argument would have looked like if he had instead insisted that artificial selection was in fact natural selection?

    It is this constant double-speak from evolutionists that lead me to be a critic/skeptic. If the theory is sound it should be able to survive without the rhetorical games it’s proponents resort to.

    There’s nothing amiss with the use of analogy to construct novel scientific concepts. “Natural selection” is just one example. The kinetic theory of gases treats molecules as if they were balls bouncing around an enclosed space. Niels Bohr’s first model of the atom was an analogical extension of the solar system. The concept of the ether was an analogical extension of perceptible fluids like air and water. Scientists invent novel concepts through analogy all the time. Sometimes those analogies end up being helpful; sometimes they don’t. But to forbid scientists from using analogies would be forbid people from doing science.

    That said, I really don’t think it’s helpful to regard natural selection as anything more than an analogy — any more than Mother Nature is a metaphor. What we’re really talking about is how differential reproductive success across variable phenotypes can, under some conditions, accumulate sufficient changes as to result in a speciation event.

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  42. Mung,

    It is this constant double-speak from evolutionists that lead me to be a critic/skeptic. If the theory is sound it should be able to survive without the rhetorical games it’s proponents resort to.

    I think you are being uncharitable. As I said above, it is possible and valid to regard AS as a subset of NS; it is also possible and valid to regard them as nonoverlapping. No-one is out to hoodwink you in taking either position; it’s just the position they take, and I think either is defensible.

    Surely to God you are bright enough to comprehend the underlying concepts, without constant suspicion that someone is out to trip you up? Or, if you have that suspicion, and yet are far to astute to be fooled by these supposed shenanigans … who are you concerned for?

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  43. Neil Rickert: Sorry, Gregory, but a lot of what you say about evolution is just wrong.

    You mean it’s not true? So now all of a sudden you know what truth is?

    Neil Rickert: Sorry, Gregory, but a lot of what you say about evolution is just wrong.

    A lot of what is said about evolution is just wrong.

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  44. Mung: A lot of what is said about evolution is just wrong.

    Mmmhmmm. e.g. AiG, evolutionews, Hunter, UD … join the fight for better educational standards!

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  45. Kantian Naturalist: What we’re really talking about is how differential reproductive success across variable phenotypes can, under some conditions, accumulate sufficient changes as to result in a speciation event.

    Sorry no, disagree with that. Evolution need not be coupled with speciation, and speciation need not be due to NS.

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