Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Matzke v. Luskin -- No contest!

Nick Matzke has a very nice take down of Casey Luskin on Panda's Thumb. Luskin will probably miss the point -- but that is not unexpected. Luskin whiffed when he missed the point of the original article, plus I don't think any criticism will be well received -- but then it never is. Personally I'm not sure Casey writes his own stuff, but then who would let him ghostwrite for them? I mean this is a man who called a bicycle irreducibly complex. (Carl Zimmer:Oh No! I’ve Seen the Impossible! My Eyes!)

Well, as I read it I thought of something else and then his closing really tied into a few other things I have posted. It also occurred to me because I've been re-reading some of the Dover Trial transcripts recently and this point stuck in. Well here is Nick's closing paragraph that kind of jelled the thought for me:
"Everything I’ve said above is made even worse by the fact that the issue at trial was not “is there some marginal chance that ID might have the tiniest smidgen of credibility, if you squint just right, if you ignore everything inconvenient, and if the wind is blowing the right direction and the moon is in the correct phase.” Rather, the issue was “is this ID stuff on the level of what is typically expected to be taught in public school biology classrooms and textbooks?”"
I think Luskin, Meyer, and the others confuse 'possible' with 'probable' and seem to think that getting someone to admit that something is possible is the same thing as accepting it as an explanation, even the best explanation. Is Intelligent Design a possibility? Yes, an emphatic yes! So are ghosts, time-traveling aliens, and skiing through a revolving door. Coming up with some 'perspective' all things are possible! But the ONLY way to increase the probability that they are a viable explanation of something is to offer evidence. That is the step that trips up the most ardent Intelligent Design proponent. I have mentioned before my wife believes in ghosts and while I admit the possibility of the existence of ghosts, I am not hunting up random heat sources to prove the existence of ghosts and I certainly don't jump to ghosts as any explanation of a noise or moving curtain. The possibility is not the same thing as acceptance of an idea as an answer to a question.

I recently re-read a post of Richard Dawkins who was describing his experience viewing the Ben Stein abortion, towards the end of his post he discusses the interview that was 'used' in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed". The editing made it look like Dawkins accepts ID as a viable idea/theory. (Is Richard Dawkins a Raelian? and Richard Dawkins Misrepresents position of ID proponents on the identity of the Designer) But when looked at in a more honest perspective, like the question that he was actually asked and how he answered it, you realize that he was laying out an extreme possibility . . . not the acceptance of the idea as a useful or viable explanation. Even listening to that part of the mockumentary, I never thought for a second that Dawkins was explaining a viable concept, just musing possibilities. in my opinion, only someone looking to misrepresent him would take it seriously.

I found a similar theme while looking through the testimony again of the Dover trial, and I agree completely with Nick's point. The testimony of the defense experts was designed [pun intended] to raise the possibility of ID, as if the reasonable doubt that ID was possible made it OK to teach in it science class. But when nothing was presented on the viability of ID as an explanation -- that is where the plaintiffs tore them up!

It was so noted in Judge Jones decision that ID might be correct -- but it is a religious proposition, not a scientific explanation. Or to borrow Nick's words “is this ID stuff on the level of what is typically expected to be taught in public school biology classrooms and textbooks?" 5 years ago I was perfectly willing to answer is "No, not yet!", but after the last 5 years of pronouncements of the demise of evolution, the continued publishing of philosophy dressed up as science, the lack of any actual work to support their ideas, and the tactics of the DI in Texas and other states, I think the 'not yet' can be safely put aside. The answer is a resounding "No!"

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