Saturday, March 27, 2010

Amazon Discussion Boards

You may or may not know that Books on come with a place where you can review books and also comment on other reviews. Recently I have been engaged on several reviews of Stephen C. Meyers "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design". Needless to say I think the book is nothing but a re-statement of old arguments using more obfuscation and tons of words and prose to really say nothing new. The topic I have been involved with recently is "This book should be listed under religion". Of course not everyone agrees. Just yesterday I posted this comment there:

"Most of you know what I think of Meyer's book. I made no bones about my expectations and how disappointed I was when he lived up to them. Rather than re-hash the discussion over information. How about head over to Chapter 7,"Of Clues to Causes". This is chapter basically says that ID is a possible explanation, I will even go as far as agree that his wording of ID being a possible scientific explanation is a perfectly valid opinion to make. My issue is it's too general to be useful. Time-traveling aliens are also a possible scientific explanation, so what? How many other 'possible' explanations are there for just about anything. Do we have to accept all of them?

I think the real issue here is expectation and usefulness. Can we 'expect' divine intervention? Is there utility is using divine intervention as an explanation?

Let me see if I can explain my point better. In science when you form an explanation and you support it. It becomes accepted because it is repeatable and useful. We can take the explanation and use it to . . . well anything! We build things based on engineering, which is an applied application of science. Can we build things based on the expectation of divine intervention? I don't believe so.

Supernatural causation has always been a poor explanation -- and not without reason. It's not repeatable nor particularly useful -- in any hard engineering area. You aren't going to build a building and 'hope' that a supernatural causation will keep it standing. It stands as long as it was built on sounding engineering. It may collapse during an earthquake because the damage exceeds the engineering standards built into the building. Is this starting to make more sense?

From a philosophical view point considering ID as a possible scientific explanation for anything makes perfect sense. But as a realistic, acceptable, and useful explanation it doesn't add up.

Meyer's doesn't make the case for usefulness in any form. He wants people to equate the 'philosophical' with the 'scientific', to accept that 'possible' is the same as 'probable' and yet doesn't manage to support his argument outside the philosophical. Yes he uses a lot of words to make this claim, but he's not dazzling anyone with his 'brilliance'."
Just today I can across a commentary on the book by Dr. Francisco Ayala, University Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Among other things he is also an ordained Catholic priest and has been critical of Intelligent Design ( I was intrigued by a couple of things he said:
"The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume. Why, then, spend chapter after chapter and hundreds of pages of elegant prose to argue the point? It is as if in a book about New York, the author would tell us that New York is not in Europe, and then dedicate most of the book to advancing evidence that, indeed, truly, New York is not in Europe."

The rest of his article discusses a few of the problems with some of the implications of ID as an explanation.
"Christians and other people of faith should be troubled about Signature of the Cell for several reasons. One is that Meyer avoids consideration of the negative implications of ID as an explanation of the origin of genetic information, which is his main subject."

While I didn't cover his objections, I do like the idea that rather than tear into Meyer's book with a formal review, he's doing what folks at the DI NEVER do and looking at the larger picture. Lately they seem to spend more time tearing all the evidence of evolution into as many small pieces as they can -- and then posting arguments against the pieces themselves. They can seem to see the inter-related and interlocking evidence that builds a picture much more complete than any single piece of evidence.

BTW Dr. Ayala is also the most recent winner of the annual Templeton Prize ( Interesting that the Templeton Foundation was also one of the original funding sources for the Discovery Institute and also the sponsors of a meeting last year at the Vatican on Science and Religion . . . to which the Discovery Institute was not invited.

I saw the announcement of the Templeton prize on PZ Myers blog and one of his commenters said
"Ohhhhhh, Ayala has been "mean" to Stephen Meyer over "Signature." Send in the attack gerbil, Disco Tute!" (link here)
and lo and behold David Klinghoffer responded. Typically lame Klinghoffer sticking to the DI's party line. Nothing interesting or even original in anything he says. My guess is Toothless Casey will respond next. probably suck up to Klinghoffer and tell him how smart he is.


  1. I'm wondering, would you spend any time writing about a book that claims the earth is flat?

    Intelligent design = magic. There's nothing more to say about it, except that people who believe in magic are retarded.

  2. I don't know how you could use Intelligent Design to make any sort of predictions that can be tested. No proposed mechanisms, no identified design features, no intelligible time line, no nothing. ID is a big bag of empty.

  3. Human Ape,I would spend equal time on a book about the Earth being flat IF some people were insisting that school districts allow that into the science class as if it were a viable scientific theory.

    My issue really isn't Intelligent Design per say. I lump it into the same pile as tarot cards, phrenology, and astrology. Until there is undeniable scientific support, it's all junk and doesn't belong in science class.

    Now if by some incredible stretch of the imagination Meyer and his cronies over at the Discovery Institute actually discover something -- something that meets scientific principles, then I would be happy to push for their inclusion in the science curriculum. But I have no expectations that the spin doctors at the DI will actually accomplish anything worthwhile.

  4. I agree with you that ID isn't a tool that can be used to make any predictions, nor will it be the ground work for advances in engeneering. That isn't the issue.
    The issue is one of origins. I agree that the laws of science are in place and that we can study them and make predictions based on them. Creationists aren't claiming that God is continually manipulating the laws of the universe. What they are claiming is that He set those laws in motion.

    What you are doing is equating evolution with other emperical sciences and then pretending that Creation is a philosophy. I'd say neither are strictly speaking, empirical sciences. Let me use your own words to explain as I apply this fact to evolution. "In science when you form an explanation and you support it. It becomes accepted because it is repeatable and useful. We can take the explanation and use it to . . . well anything!". So evolution is repeatable? Evolution is useful? Evolution can be applied to anything? No, No, and No. Evolution has only caused the degeneration of society into every form of immorality, violence, and racism. Evolution gave birth to Eugenics and the Holocaust. If you want to look at its uses, evolution has only caused evil and harm since the beginning. It has given an excuse for people to live without morals. It has become the religion of the Atheist. So in those several ways, evolution is not science. It is simply a naturalistic and atheist PHILOSOPHY for explaining origins.

  5. Charles-Alexandre, I couldn't disagree more. Evolution is repeatable, testable, and is used on a regular basis. Many of the foods we enjoy today are a direct result. Most of the beef produced in the US are from a subspecies of cattle that didn't exist just a couple of hundred years ago. The wheat we use in our bread is another example. Many of the medicines are yet another result. We also use evolution in environmental and ecological sciences. It's for more than just Biology you know.

    No, I guess you don't know. You want to blame an empirical science, such as evolution, for the sociological problems of our society. What that tells me is that you have bought into marketing campaigns by folks like the Discovery Institute.

    Many of these sociological issues existed well before the birth of modern science. Are you going to tell me there was no immorality, racism or violence before the 1850's? Sorry my history books tell a very different story. Just a study of . . . oh I don't know . . . how about Rome, or Egypt, or Babylon, or Greece, or the British Empire of the 16, 17, or 1800's, or . . . geez, gonna run out of room.

    Biology is a science and subject to the same disciplines and processes other sciences use. When you make false claims against evolution you are also making them against every other empirical science. In fact evolution's support comes from many of those other scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology, climatology, astronomy, and cosmology -- to name a few.