Apr 14 2008

The Expelled Hitler Fallacy

The scientific community has been working overtime exposing the lies, errors, and fallacies in the Intelligent Design (ID) propaganda film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, staring Ben Stein. It’s no wonder – it’s hard not to be offended by this film. It is a work of deception from beginning to end. As Eugenie Scott reveals on the March 26th episode of the Skeptics’ Guide podcast, the scientists in the film were deceived as to the nature, title, and production company of the film at the time of their interviews. Simply put – they were shamelessly sandbagged. The content of the film is crafted deception. And the rollout of the film has been tainted with blunders covered up by more lies.

But what raises the entire affair to the level of visceral disgust is the manner in which this film attempts to blame “Darwinism” (their favorite term for those who accept evolution as a well-established scientific theory) for Hitler’s holocaust. This bit of propagandistic nonsense (if an ideologue loses the scientific battle of logic and evidence they have no choice but to fight a propaganda war of lies and deception) has been thoroughly refuted by others, even before this film was made. But I want to focus on one logical contradiction that, to my knowledge, has been glossed over (my apologies to anyone who has pointed this out and escaped my notice). Evolution deniers refute evidence for evolution from breeding and cultivation because the human-imposed selection is not natural selection. At the same time they link evolution to Hitler’s program of genocide – even though the holocaust also did not involve natural selection, but rather imposed artificial selection through murder and sterilization.

Many critics have pointed out the latter – that the Nazi eugenics program was more of a breeding program and actually had nothing to do with natural selection. At best it was a twisted and misguided abuse of evolutionary theory. In fact the concept of ethnic cleansing predates Darwin, it does not derive from it. The Nazis simply grafted on a superficial and pseudoscientific justification for their social and political ideology and deeply rooted antisemitism. In short – blaming Darwin for Hitler is demonstrably absurd.

As an aside I also have to point out that the entire argument is a logical fallacy – an argument from final consequences – and is therefore not valid. The ethical or moral consequences of a scientific theory do not bear on whether or not the theory is true. Even if the Nazis correctly interpreted evolutionary theory (and they didn’t) it would not affect whether or not evolution were scientifically valid. Further, there is no reason that we should apply what happens in nature to human society. The very concept of Social Darwinism is a naturalistic fallacy – that what is natural is therefore good and to be emulated. The Darwin to Hitler argument is flawed at many levels. So what is the point? To scare the faithful with the canard that accepting evolution leads to immorality and evil.

In a recent episode of Science Talk, the podcast of Scientific American, Editor in Chief John Rennie and podcast host Steve Mirsky discuss the film Expelled after their viewing. John Rennie points out very clearly that eugenics is a breeding program – and in fact it is a rejection of natural selection. (Here also is John’s excellent written review of the movie.) According to natural selection those who are unfit will die out on their own, and those whose genes are destined to dominate future generations will do so without any help. Hitler was trying to put his thumb on the evolutionary scale – to preempt natural selection by doing the selecting himself.

Now let’s take a look at a recent article by Casey Luskin from the Discovery Institute in which he writes:

“Breeders selected” and “the selective considerations of breeders” sure sound a lot like intelligently-guided artificial selection, not natural selection. But these scientists don’t let little distinctions like that get in the way of finding support for Darwinism. In fact, they claim their research demonstrates the grand Darwinian narrative: “this research once again demonstrates how selection – whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man – is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet.” So intelligent design is now cited as proof that natural selection is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life.

Luskin is arguing here that breeding is actually intelligently-guided artificial selection, which he then likens to “intelligent design.” By this argument, then, “intelligent design” caused the holocaust – since that too was “intelligently-guided artificial selection.” Like that?

Now, to be clear, I am NOT saying that ID is linked to the holocaust. That would be as absurd as saying that evolutionary theory is linked to the holocaust. What I am pointing out, rather, is that the ID baboons are propagandists who do not use consistent logic or arguments. This is because, like all ideologues, they are working backwards from the conclusions they desire, twisting logic into whatever shapes necessary to achieve their ideological goals. They are not even consistent in their unsound arguments.

The above paragraph by Luskin is a deceptive trick common to ID/creationists. Often scientists explain or demonstrate a principle by drawing an analogy. Often the comparisons are analogous in some respects but not others. The parts that are not analogous do not necessarily invalidate the parts that are. In this example, artificial selection (breeding) is often used as an analogy to evolution (not evolution – an analogy) with respect to the fact that both involve selection operating on variation. But they are not analogous with respect to the origins of that selection – breeding involves artificial selection and evolution involves natural selection – as the sentence Luskin quotes above clearly states. Also, no one is arguing that the experience of artificial selection is sufficient to establish evolution or natural selection as a mechanism (so Luskin’s argument is also a straw man) – it simply demonstrates one aspect of it. Other lines of evidence are needed to establish evolution and natural selection, and those lines of evidence exist – changes in gene frequency in response to natural selective pressures, for example.

As the saying goes – it’s easier to tell the truth, that way you don’t have to remember the lies. The same goes for logic – arguments that are based upon valid logic and reliable premises should all be consistent with each other. Unsound arguments based upon logical fallacies may conflict, and in fact are very likely to conflict. ID proponents are caught in a major contradiction – they accept breeding as evolution when they want to tie evolution to eugenics, but they reject breeding as evolution (to the point of calling it “intelligent design”) when presented as evidence for the power of selection.

96 responses so far

96 Responses to “The Expelled Hitler Fallacy”

  1. krissncleoon 14 Apr 2008 at 9:59 am

    I’ve read so many articles about the movie I feel like I have already seen it. I never understood the Darwin Nazi connection. I guess that’s because there is no connection. It’s sad that I.D. can just out right lie and then nice people like Steve, and everyone at Expelled Exposed, use there own time to battle the lies. I thought Hitler was Catholic and influenced by Martin Luther. Once again great job Steve-o, missed you the week you were gone filming your pilot, hope it becomes a series.


  2. ffalconon 14 Apr 2008 at 10:01 am

    “[A]rguments that are based upon valid logic and reliable premises should all be consistent with each other.”

    Can you prove that?

  3. Jim Shaveron 14 Apr 2008 at 10:15 am

    I concur, nice job, Dr. Novella. Problem is, every time I read something else that these IDiots have said, I get pissed off! It’s maddeningly frustrating to argue with grown men who act like children. At least when I deal with real children, I can send them to the time-out chair when they misbehave.

  4. Steven Novellaon 14 Apr 2008 at 11:11 am

    ffalcon – I know from your emoticon that you are being humorous – but that is actually an interesting point and often a point of confusion.

    Logical statements do not require empirical support – they only need to be internally valid. Saying that statements that are logically valid and based upon premises that are correct cannot conflict with each other is a logical statement, not an empirical one. Therefore it does not require “proof” of the scientific kind.

    Of course, there are logical “proofs” – which is different from scientific evidence, which is often what people mean colloquially when they say to prove something. Here’s my proof – if two statements are exclusionary – meaning that they cannot both be true at the same time – then at least one of them must be invalid, therefore two valid statements cannot conflict.

  5. josh calebon 14 Apr 2008 at 11:57 am

    The problem is, you don’t derive “ought” from “is”. So where does one get “Hitler was wrong for doing what he did” ? Wrongness, a moral quality, assumes a free agent trespassing a moral boundary.

    Darwin’s theory of evolution posits the survival of the fittest apart from any supernatural intervention, therefore, we can’t say that if one type of people chooses to wipe out another type of people, who are deemed “unfit”, that that is inconsistant with evolution or immoral. No harm, no foul… just evolution taking place.

    The unspoken premise is that what Hitler did was actually “wrong”, this is undisputable, but the question arises, does “ought” arise from “is” …or from somewhere else if only unguided processes are at work in the world today?

    “argument from final consequences” is correct, it has no bearing on the truth of Darwin’s evolution. But this simply clears the way that people can justify thier actions based upon evolutionary theory. The truth of evolution is not harmed, correct, but legitimizing immoral activity must be somehow explained away, because as it is, immoral activities are completely consistent with evolution. Richard Dawkins makes this very point when he says in effect: I don’t want to live in a society that follows evolutionary theory. Hard to argue with Dickie D!

  6. Physicaliston 14 Apr 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I suggest linking to the NCSC’s Expelled Exposed site regularly with the term “Expelled” to try to boost it in the search engine ratings. It’s all the way down on p. 5, and it would be good to have a collection of rebuttals near the top.

  7. superdaveon 14 Apr 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I am just sick of people using the word Nazi as though it was a logical argument. It is truly nauseating to me. I have nothing else to add.

  8. weingon 14 Apr 2008 at 12:40 pm

    People will find an excuse to justify immoral activities, even lying to interviewees and implying associations with Nazi demons. Evolution just is. It doesn’t justify. A knife can cut bread and the ropes that bind you. It can also in the wrong hands kill you. Hitler was a vegetarian. Does that mean all vegetarians will try to get away with genocide?

  9. Steven Novellaon 14 Apr 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Why should the rules that govern natural systems in any way impinge upon human morality? Morality is simply the system by which humans live with each other with justice, liberty, and whatever other ethics we chose to value. There are ethical systems that are very thoughtful in their attempt to justify ethics based upon first principles. We don’t need nature or anything to give us morality.

    Also – I would point out, that morality is just as consistent with evolution and immorality. There is evidence that selective pressures favored within-group cooperation and altruism. If you accept evolution then you accept that humans evolved a moral sense, empathy with with our fellows, a sense of fairness and reciprocity, etc. And now we are finding that such moral feelings provide selective advantages.

    But to be clear – all of this is largely irrelevant. We can decide how best to run our societies regardless of what selective pressures existed in our evolutionary past. The only thing that is important is that we understand universal human psychology and tendencies so we can account for them. Policies that go too strongly against the human grain are likely to fail.

  10. Blair Ton 14 Apr 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Scientific American has a good podcast interview with Expelled producer Mark Mathis. I found it illuminating to hear his explanation.

    Essentially, his argument was really about Materialism – not evolution. Evolution just supports a materialist point-of-view. As Josh caleb above pointed out, what these guys believe is that without some ultimate authority for morals, everything is permitted and nothing is wrong.

    Mathis believes that without a materialist perspective you would never participate in genocide. Of course even a cursory examination of European history points to the lie of this. If you are religious, it has been easy to justify killing someone who is the wrong religion – and the Jews were the favoured target for centuries – as were heretics, sects, and those on the wrong side of Catholic or Protestant power.

    Also, I doubt that the Rawandan or Darfur genocides were committed by ardent believers in evolution.

    As Steve points out none of this has any bearing on the validity of evolutionary theory, just the supposed consequences. But I think they are fundamentally wrong on the consequences as well.

  11. Steven Novellaon 14 Apr 2008 at 1:24 pm

    The argument that materialism supports, or worse is necessary for, genocide is just rich.

    Right there in the bible, God commands the Jews to kill every single living thing in conquered cities – every man, woman, and child. Deliberate God-sanctioned genocide. He even gets pissed when they keep a goat to celebrate.

    How do you square this with a God = morality, materialism = evil philosophy?

  12. Roy Nileson 14 Apr 2008 at 1:32 pm

    There’s an assumption evident on all sides here that morality didn’t exist in nature until humans arrived on the scene. ID advocates would say it’s a God granted gift and some scientists might agree, or hold that it was a gift from their philosophies. But other scientist would say that it is in fact a gift from nature inherent in the evolutionary process.
    There are actually good reasons that we should apply what happens in nature to human society. It would help to understand the basis of behavior that we consider to be moral, and in fact why and how some of the rules that supposedly came from God are in fact less moral in their effects than those of nature.
    And social Darwinism is a bad construct because it doesn’t take into account that there IS in fact morality in nature. It was there before we ever came to believe it’s a gift to humans bestowed by the supernatural forces that apply good and evil according to some convention in the cosmos that regulates the balance of their distribution.

  13. weingon 14 Apr 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t see why morality could not be encoded in our genes if it gave us a survival advantage.

  14. Blair Ton 14 Apr 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Here is the link to the Scientific American conversation with Mark Mathis:


    He initially denies that the movie pins the Holacaust on Darwin, then proceeds to explain why Darwin was a necessary but not sufficient cause.

    This conversation takes place near the end of part 1.

  15. Roy Nileson 14 Apr 2008 at 2:01 pm

    It’s my contention that what are in effect moral strategies are encoded in the genes of every species. They are of course different for different species according to the differences in circumstances. And they do evolve. And there is a basic consistency in the calculative premises of all these strategies.
    And if I thought I knew what that was, I still wouldn’t tell you.

  16. badrabbion 14 Apr 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Exodus 23:23: God speaking…..

    “My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.”

    Of course this angel was motivated by Darwin!

  17. DevilsAdvocateon 14 Apr 2008 at 4:27 pm

    No scientific fact is inherently immoral or evil. It’s a snapshot of reality, neither moral nor immoral. A scientific fact just is. It takes a human to pick it up and misuse it to make it immoral or evil.

    A wheelbarrow may be employed to haul food to the hungry or bodies from the showers.

  18. azinykon 14 Apr 2008 at 4:39 pm

    You don’t need Darwin to tell you that if you kill every member of a race, they won’t exist in the future. In fact, didn’t the Israelites exterminate something like 7 tribes in the Old Testament? I think it’s in Deuteronomy. Since those genocides took place millenia before Darwin, we can be pretty sure he didn’t invent the concept.

    I recall Christopher Hitchens making this point in a debate, and his opponent calling him a huge anti-semite, just because he pointed out that the ancient jews had committed several genocides of their own. I don’t think it’s anti-semetic, because if we don’t blame modern Germans for a genocide their grandparents committed 65 years ago, we don’t have to blame modern Jews for genocides their ancestors committed 3000 years ago.

  19. josh calebon 14 Apr 2008 at 5:53 pm

    weing, Roy Niles,
    So by proposing genetic basis for morality you are saying that we DO get “ought” from “is”, is that correct? Refuting Hume… (and common sense)

    Then, if that is so, then i’m assuming that Hitler and the Nazis had a SNP or mutation in that gene or genes which produced the abnormal moral activity. Thus it wasn’t “wrong” of him, he was only “dancing to the music of his genes” as Dickie D says, right?

    Furthermore, its quite easy for one who is aware of the punishment, but ignorant of the crime to then assume that the punishment was unjust or even immoral. So cheap jabs at supposed immorality of Israel’s carrying out God’s directions in the O.T. Bible are par for the course right? Cuz thats a lot easier then actually understanding the Bible with respect to God’s justice and moral standards…

    But lets get back to science… does genetic basis for morality mean freedom from culpability? After all, we can’t go against our genes. I mean, temporary insanity pleas already work a little… why not just go the rest of the way and remove culpability?

  20. weingon 14 Apr 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Mutant’s like Hitler and his henchmen will always come up. I don’t think your genes should remove culpability. If you don’t understand the scientific method and want to call religion science because of your genetic makeup, you are still culpable if you force it on others.

  21. Roy Nileson 14 Apr 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Actually the genetic equivalences of morality are exactly about deciding culpability and appropriate retaliation. These mechanisms operate within species and rarely across species. The existence and function of moral rules or their equivalents is to deter acts which are deemed harmful rather than prevent them altogether. And the main means of deterrence is retaliation. And the “justice” that is applied in most species is a lot more inflexible and severe than it is in ours.

  22. Stanon 14 Apr 2008 at 7:09 pm

    The link from Darwin to the Nazi eugenic program is historical as much as philosophical. Starting with the inventor of the term “eugenics”, Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, the point of eugenics has always been to improve the race. Eugenics has always been racist and elitist. Its American history includes the forced sterilization of thousands of Americans for “feeble-mindedness” and other defects. Schwartzenegger issued an apology for the eugenics practiced on Californians.

    Eugenics was researched by the Carnegie Institute and others who wished to straighten out the race and develop better workers. This work was shared with Europeans, the most enthusiastic of which were the Germans. American eugenist Margaret Sanger reportedly conferred with early German eugenists and approved of their programs. Sanger went on to develop the “Negro Program” and founded Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion mill. Eugenics in Germany went far beyond the ultimate overt American eugenics, if one discounts the 3 to 1 abortion of blacks in the current population, compared to their ratio in the overall population. There is little doubt that abortion is a eugenic device being used against a specific demographic: unwanted babies, especially blacks. Many influential blacks now recognize this, including anti-abortion spokeswoman Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King.

    The connection between Darwinian / Galtonian eugenics and Nazi Germany not only exists, it is inextinguishable. After all, Darwin’s famous book is entitled, not “Origin of the Species”, but in its fullness, “On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. It is no use to argue that he did not mean human races; he did. And so did Francis Galton. The historical links are outlined in a number of books documenting the history of the eugenics movement.

  23. dennisron 14 Apr 2008 at 7:19 pm

    If this movie makes money I am going to make a movie blaming 9/11 on the Wright brothers.

  24. Stanon 14 Apr 2008 at 7:22 pm

    There is no more empirical reason to believe that the mind is a physical artifact of discharging neurons than to believe that software is a physical artifact of discharging silicon cmos transistors. Software is carried upon a silicon substrate; its function is non-material, in the sense that it is modualted with meaning, and meaning is non-material. There is no reason to conclude that the mind is material; there is no empirical evidence that indicates that it is, and the hope that it is, is not proof.

    A discussion that prides itself on critical thinking had best stick with proven and provable facts, not projections or extrapolations beyond that which is empirically shown. The materialist philosophy of this forum should require complete empirical proof of a thing before it is to be believed (Bertrand Russell). And for empirical proof to be exist beyond tautology, falsification must be at least possible (Karl Popper). The material mind does not qualify, because when the mind is not found to be graspable, physically, the failure to do so will be blamed on inadequate instrumentation, and the need for science yet to come. It is not falsifiable, and therefore is a metaphysical tautology: a defined truth, not an empirical fact.

    Skepticism that is skeptical of only select subjects is not true skepticism, it is merely dogma.

  25. pecon 14 Apr 2008 at 7:34 pm

    It would be silly to reject evolution just because it inspired eugenics, if it did. The scientific value of a theory has nothing to do with the political insanity it might inspire. So I completely disagree with Expelled regarding that.

    “Evolution deniers refute evidence for evolution from breeding and cultivation because the human-imposed selection is not natural selection.”

    First, Intelligent Design advocates are not generally evolution-deniers, although a small minority might be. They disagree with Darwin’s hypothesis that random mutations plus selection can adequately account for all aspects of evolution.

    Materialist skeptics conflate ID and biblical creationism because biblical creationism is simple to disprove. ID, on the other had, is a genuine threat to pure neo-Darwinism. It does not deny evolution or natural selection — both are obviously and indisputable real — it just denies that evolution has been explained by the current standard theory.

    I have seen ID advocates wailing about how Darwinism inspired eugenics and Hitler, appealing to emotions rather than science or logic. I wish that had been left out of the movie (which I have not seen).

  26. Roy Nileson 14 Apr 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say he doesn’t see that humans are a part of nature, as I’m confident he sees that as well or better than the rest of us. But occasionally we may disagree as to the particulars.

  27. Steven Novellaon 14 Apr 2008 at 8:18 pm

    pec is back, responding against his straw men without reading what I actually wrote. To repeat: “The only thing that is important is that we understand universal human psychology and tendencies so we can account for them. Policies that go too strongly against the human grain are likely to fail.”

    People are part of nature, we have a nature, it is written into our genes. Scientific knowledge of human nature informs our ethics and morality – but it does not determine it.

    The reason for this is simple – evolutionary forces only “care” that we live and pass on our genes. They do not include any calculation about our happiness and fulfillment. We can decide to transcend our nature to optimize human happiness and fulfillment. But if we understand our nature we will better be able to do this.

  28. Steven Novellaon 14 Apr 2008 at 8:23 pm

    The historical links between creationism and ID are clear and well-established. The majority of ID proponents deny evolution, in part or in whole. Their record on this is also clear. To say that only a “small minority” deny evolution is simply wrong.

    It is true that some ID proponents (like Behe) accept that descent with modification took place – that life is related through branching descent. They deny that blind natural selection acting on variation can create the complexity of life that we see. (Their arguments have all been soundly refuted.)

    But it is important to note that the purpose (of creationism and ID) is identical – to keep God in the equation. Both also share the fact that they are little more than God-of-the-gap notions – they just differ on the size of the gaps they think are present.

  29. josh calebon 14 Apr 2008 at 10:54 pm


    “both also share the fact that they are little more than God-of-the-gap notions”

    1) Any scientist admits gaps in scientific evidence, the question is what ideology fills those gaps. The hubris to say “promissory materialism” (ala Popper) is any more scientific than any other ideology strains credulity.

    2) Your notion of God-of-gaps assumes that scientific explanations showing mechanism or presence of laws of physics, chemistry or biology is incongruent with a creating and sustaining designer. The opposite is true.
    To illustrate, if we see a highly complex machine (lets say a red convertable) with engine and shiny metal and gears and wheels and variable control systems and we say “a man made that car”, and the scientist says, no way can a man cut metal and fashion it, assemble it, polish it into the finished product with his own hands!” and he goes on to discover that actually an intricate collection of machines and robots on an assembly line actually did the real work of putting the car together and the scientist says “SEE, i told you a man couldn’t do it on his own…” But thats not really a good argument because we’ve just pushed the level of causality back one or two steps, we then ask “who made the assembly line robots?” and of course the answer is again “a man”.
    So to say that God can’t use physical laws for His creation, and in that sense, the “gaps” are filled with “non-God” explanations is really quite absurd.
    Get over the God of the gaps canard…

    True, the linkages between ID and creationsim are real, implications of ID, if true, would be consistant with a creator God. However, the fundamental difference which distinguishes them are their epistemological grounds. Creationism is grounded upon a religious text, clearly religious or theological in nature. This doesn’t make it untrue, just not science. ID on the other hand is grounded upon positive evidence of molecular biology and our knowledge of the cause/effect structure of the universe, clearly non-religious. So for Darwinian evolutionists to constantly conflate ID as creationism is pretty telling of thier dishonest tactic to push it into the religious realm so that they don’t have to deal with it scientifically…
    Darwinists have a VERY hard time separating the scientific EVIDENCE for design in nature from the philosophical IMPLICATIONS of who the designer happens to be if shown to be true. For some reason, they just can’t seem to see that we deal with them separately, rather than play logical leap frog.

  30. Roy Nileson 14 Apr 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I want to distance myself a bit more from the pec versus Novella
    disputes, and better explain what prompted my earlier comments, and why I think God is too much in the equation of both sides when it comes to discussing the nature of the things that both inform, and in a way have helped determine, our ethics and morality. And I’ll make it as short and sweet as I can.

    We differ from other species the most in these areas because we see ourselves as needing rules not for just ourselves, but for the forces of nature as well. Unlike most other species, we have assumed that destructive acts of nature are often a form of retaliation for breaking some rule that we knew nothing of in advance.
    We have tried to figure out ways to convince nature that whatever we did either wasn’t intentional, or was a mistake, or it wasn’t really us that did it, or it’s not fair to deter us from doing something without warning us of the penalties in advance, or it really wasn’t all that bad to begin with, and it’s perhaps nature’s own fault for making us imperfect.
    And if atonement will serve to alleviate the punishment, will nature perhaps accept the sacrifice of our first born as a gesture of both our sincerity and our promise to reform. Or would nature prefer some virgins and in that case, how many.
    If we deny that this apparent belief in the supernatural had and has an influence on forming our ethical and moral senses, ask yourselves how many of us believe in good and evil as independent forces. How many of the rest are really certain that there are no such forces?
    It is in this way that we differ profoundly from the methods that other species use to regulate themselves. And we need to understand what those rules are, and what their common basis is, before we can understand how better to form the rules by which we, and not our Gods, can determine our own best prospects for the future.

  31. Blair Ton 15 Apr 2008 at 12:55 am


    1) Your first point seems wrong-headed. If there is a gap in knowledge – then we don’t know. You don’t need to fill a gap with ideology.

    2) I think you second point is just postulating a prime mover god which would not be incompatible with natural laws. If so, then I would say, yes you are right, you can make up any god you like – including one that is compatible with the physical laws.

    3) My reading on the subject of ID was that it was created specifically to address the legal barrier to teaching creationism in American public schools. The Discovery Institute’s infamous ‘wedge document’ exemplifies this. ID’s origins are not from science but from a legal necessity and a desire to politically frame a theistic position with scientific respectability.

    Now just because ID was created for legal and political purposes, doesn’t mean that there could not be scientific substance to it. But so far, proponents seem to have provided little science and a lot of politics. This is, to say the least, unusual for a scientific endeavor. I think that is the dishonest position, not the biologists who look at ID and don’t see any science.

  32. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:39 am

    Josh wrote
    “ID on the other hand is grounded upon positive evidence of molecular biology…”
    Show us the evidence. I haven’t seen any. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. To me evidence is God.

  33. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:48 am

    BTW, Isn’t ID science immoral and an abomination to God? Remember when Jesus was starving in the desert and the Devil tempted Him? Jesus replied “It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” I believe that’s in Matthew 4:7.

  34. Chris Nobleon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:37 am

    The argument that materialism supports, or worse is necessary for, genocide is just rich.

    It is interesting that the same argument, that materialism leads to immoral actions, is used by some “psi” proponents on the Skeptiko forum.

    It is an extremely dangerous belief indeed. The materialists would have it that we are soulless robots living out our purposeless lives in a purposeless Universe with the added promise that soon we will cease to exist forevermore. They would have it that everything we ever perceive is a comprehensive delusion. That everything that we ever see is a lie. That our loves, hopes, fears, aspirations, everything that we have ever thought, felt and experienced is nothing over and above meaningless atoms in motion or meaningless chemical processes.

    They deny everything and anything that appears to be truly real, and which truly matters, and substitute their lies, and then they have the effrontery to deride anyone who calls into question their wholly unwarranted crazy interpretation of reality.

    Unfortunately many people are unskilled in philosophy and implicitly tend to suppose that science has shown materialism to be correct. In fact there are many reasons and a great deal of evidence demonstrating that the above interpretation of reality is absurd.

  35. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 4:11 am

    That is a typical straw man argument. You are telling us what materialists would have us believe, and then saying how awful and wrong that is. You should instead tell us what you would have us believe and tell us how good or bad it is. Let the materialists speak for themselves. You wouldn’t want me to say that I you would have us believe in the tooth fairy and that the stork brings babies, would you?

  36. Chris Nobleon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:08 am

    I was quoting somebody from another forum.


    I used italics for the quote but did not make it obvious that they were not my views.

    I agree with you entirely.

    Both these “psi” proponents and ID proponents try to argue that if you don’t believe in their supernatural entity then you can’t be a moral person.

    Materialism = immorality

    The Darwinism=Holocaust is just this idea taken to the extreme (Materialism = Immorality)^n

  37. deciuson 15 Apr 2008 at 6:07 am

    Talking about historical creationist links, I can’t help being reminded of PZ’s invitation to post this one.


    Forgive my interruption.

  38. Johnon 15 Apr 2008 at 7:57 am

    Stepping up to the plate on this one.

    First of all, what is “permissable” is a subjective measure. When I was 18, it was permissable for me to buy and drink a beer in my home country, but not in the USA.

    There is no objective measure of what is permissable, anywhere. There are certain standards that are agreed upon by all (or nearly all) modern societies – don’t steal, don’t murder and so forth. These standards are agreed upon because if they are violated then the inhabitants of the society and even the society itself could be seriously harmed.

    Your challenge stems from an assumption: that there is a universal moral code. I say that your assumption is flawed.

    What truly disturbs me is the implication that without God – the certainty of being caught – you would commit heinous acts.

  39. Johnon 15 Apr 2008 at 8:03 am

    To clarify – I should have said “your belief in God” in the last sentence.

    I would argue that human morality comes from empathy – being able to think “what if I was that person”. Using your mind to put yourself in the place of another is a characteristic that has been observed in several primates – I don’t have studies to hand but will endeavour to track them down.

  40. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 8:57 am

    You have to be really pathetic to rely on hell fire and damnation to keep you from “what-can-I-get-away-with-morality”.
    Yet you disobey the commands of your own faith by trying to put God to the test. God or a Designer has no place in science even in numerous passages in the Bible.

    I should have known better. I suspected as much, but the fonts looked too similar. My eyes are getting worse and worse with old age.

  41. Stanon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:16 am

    Weing, you seem to have read the bible in order to use it as a weapon. But your argument fails on the subject of ID testing the creator, because you are conflating the creator with the created. Testing material items does not test the creator. The point of ID is to determine whether the claims of “evolution by natural selection of mutations” can indeed produce that which it claims.

    However ID fails as a science because it cannot prove a negative any more than an atheist can. There is no way to prove that it – let’s say “complexity evolved one mutation at a time” – cannot have happened, if one considers that science might improve some day to be able to prove that it did. This is, of course, science of the gaps, a blind faith in science, or “scientism”. The only rational response is the we do not know.

    But, the fear and loathing of ID is not rational, it is an emotional response. This is a further indication of the religion of scientism at work. Even evolutionists must admit that not all evidence is empirical. All paleo-evidence is circumstantial, and all inferences drawn therefrom are extrapolations: guesses. Even Hume showed that empiricism is conditional and not absolute, with his argument that cause and effect, even though found in “constant conjunction”, cannot be proved to be true for all – or any – future cases.

    Science is a process; it should not be held to be a religion, or treated as if it were one. Materialism is a philosophy that has heavy religious overtones, especially in the sense that it cannot be proven to be true, empirically. Yet it is held true, philosophically.

    Empirical science voluntarily accepts a material stance, purely because it cannot test that which it cannot grasp, measure, weigh or develop machines that can. But empiricism is not capable of adressing non-material issues, such as philosophy itself.

    Conflating the philosophy of Materialism with the voluntary material stance of empiricism is an error. It leads to false philosophies and false worldviews.

  42. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:24 am

    Again, getting it wrong. ID makes no claims as to the identity of the designer, only that the causation is intelligent rather than mindless processes ala Darwinian evolution.
    Get your facts straight.

    You think I’m pathetic, …great argument tactic. Show me the relevance to the topic.

    Let me feed it back to you: “you have to be really pathetic to rely on speeding tickets or jail time to keep you from breaking the law with your car”
    The fact that “punishment or reward” is one type of motivational structure that is pervasive in all cultures in all times must really make everyone in the world pretty pathetic accourding to your logic.

  43. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:37 am

    Stan and Josh,
    You mean Satan? According to the Bible we can and should test everything except God. Science is all about testing. So you who are trying to test for God are blaspheming. Read or reread your Bible. Leave science alone. BTW I didn’t call you pathetic, I said you have to be pathetic if that is your only brake on heinous acts.

  44. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:51 am

    Whats your deal with “testing for God”. ID doesn’t do that as already explained.

    ID tests features of molecular biology to see if they exhibit design or information, and then make inference about the source of design and information.
    This makes ID science, not religion, because we are testing the empirical evidence not “testing for God”.

    Reading the Bible is encouraged, but it has nothing to do with whether biological features exhibit design or information.

  45. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 11:38 am

    Must be my upbringing. I was taught it was a sin.
    Again you are baffling me with BS instead of dazzling me with brilliance. Design vs information is totally beyond me. You are looking at molecular biology features that have design and serve a purpose to see if they have design or information? Hmmm. OKay.
    What experiments are you running on these features?

  46. Johnon 15 Apr 2008 at 11:50 am

    Thanks for addressing my earlier reply, Josh. :rolleyes:

  47. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 11:57 am

    sorry, i didn’t see anything worth replying to, just a lot of subjective (although heartwarming) emoting.
    Could you rephrase?

  48. pecon 15 Apr 2008 at 12:57 pm

    “The majority of ID proponents deny evolution, in part or in whole.”

    That is absolutely not true. Dembski, for example, does not deny evolution. Leading ID proponents who are scientists do not deny evolution. No one who cares the slightest bit about scientific evidence denies evolution.

    Unless you use your favorite trick of defining evolution as the current standard neo-Darwinist theory. Then they deny evolution, defined in that way.

    Why not stop playing with words? ID is NOT a denial of evolution, as least not among scientific ID advocates. They should not be held responsible for the irrational beliefs of biblical creationists. The two groups agree on one point — the current standard theory is inadequate. They disagree in most other respects.

  49. Stanon 15 Apr 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Weing, you apparently did not even read what I wrote. Let’s try it again, this time simplified for you.

    (a) testing the creation is not the same as testing the creator.

    (b) testing for a non-material entity in a material environment is irrational.

    (c) ID does not qualify as empirical science, because the conclusion cannot be falsified. Evolution also does not qualify as empirical science, because it cannot be falisfied.

    ID extrapolates based on principles it considers to be sound, in exactly the same way that “evolution science” extrapolates on its chosen principles. Neither is falsifiable, and neither is empirical. Both do qualify as forensic, however, and forensic science is always based on circumstantial evidence, which is then extrapolated to a supposed – but unproven – conclusion.

    Your understanding of science seems limited and is hampering your understanding of evolutionary science as well as ID. This is all too common amongst those who think that “science is testing”, but ignore the historical aspect of forensic science, which finds and explains (extrapolates).

    The “testing God” argument does not even apply to the issue of whether the findings of ID can be extrapolated in the manner they say. The “testing God” argument is a Red Herring used to derail the real issue.

    Perhaps you have other, non-emotional reasons to object to ID. If so, go ahead and present them.

  50. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Don’t you hate it when somebody steps in and comments before the person who was asked the question has had a chance to answer? I always do, but I wanted to remind everyone that there is a principle of our logic that is often overlooked because it is so intuitive that even the best logicians have been unable to codify it, and that is the plausibility principal.

    “ID extrapolates based on principles it considers to be sound, in exactly the same way that “evolution science” extrapolates on its chosen principles.”

    Well not exactly. “Evolution science” has given a little more consideration to the soundness of its principles.

    It has given considerable attention to the plausibility principal in the bargain.

  51. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:08 pm

    (a) testing the creation is not the same as testing the creator.
    Agreed, so what’s your point? Did I say it was?

    (b) testing for a non-material entity in a material environment is irrational.
    No problem with this either.
    (c) ID does not qualify as empirical science, because the conclusion cannot be falsified. Evolution also does not qualify as empirical science, because it cannot be falisfied.
    This one I have a problem with. ID is not science because it doesn’t have testable hypotheses that could falsify it. Evolution is a scientific theory and could easily be falsified by finding, for example, fossil evidence of a modern horse dated 2 million years ago, or evidence of a modern human a million years ago. They would be evidence for the falsification of evolution.

  52. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I would argue that ID is science. Could you address my comments above (@ 10:51am) with respect to this?

  53. Jonon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Just beat me to it Josh… lets wait for Stan on this then….


  54. Steven Novellaon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Criticising a scientific theory does not make a claim its own scientific theory. To the extent that ID criticizes evolution it is simply wrong.

    But ID has no theory of its own that can be tested or falsified scientifically. Saying that proving evolution falsifies ID does not make ID a scientific theory – that’s just a false dichotomy logical fallacy.

    ID makes no predictions about what we should or must find when we examine life. Evolution does.

    and pec, what exactly did you not understand about “in part”?

  55. pecon 15 Apr 2008 at 2:45 pm

    “The majority of ID proponents deny evolution, in part or in whole. ”

    The majority of ID proponents DO NOT DENY ANY PART of evolution. If you stop playing with words, and define “evolution” accurately, you won’t be so confused.

  56. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I would say ID would be inconsistant with evolution’s 1) atheistic overtones as a “mindless, unguided process” and 2) over confident claims of the factual basis of universal common ancestry. 3) lack of mechanism or really any evidence for abiogenesis.

    I would further assert that true observations (the “facts”) supporting (micro-)evolution are as follows:

    1. Descent with modification – offspring are not identical to each other or their parents. There is always some shuffling of DNA and genes from one generation to the next.
    (horizontal gene transfer – obtaining genetic material from non-parental sources like plasmids, viral transposons or other HGT mechanisms in prokaryotes deserves a footnote here)

    2. Natural Selection – certain traits or phenotypes are preserved in the gene pool due to selective advantages or adaptations to habitation, limited resources or competitors/predators.

    3. Random mutations – when DNA gets replicated, sometimes mistakes are made; these mistakes can be silent, harmful, fatal, or more rarely, advantageous (as in the case of antibiotic resistance of some bacteria).

    4. Homology – similarity of morphological features like skull shape or limb structure. It explained, at least partially by similarity of DNA sequences.

    Darwinian (some call macro-) evolution provides the capstone of universal common descent to draw all of these points together into one theory, however, I’d posit that universal common design would explain them just as well.

    How does that hit the rest of you?

  57. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Even if that litany of “true” observations were accurate and other than selective, universal common design would not qualify as an explanation, unless you yourself are playing with the accepted meanings of words.

  58. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:21 pm

    It would indeed count as an explanation, maybe not a materialistic explanation accourding to some (like you, i suppose), but an explanation nonetheless.

  59. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Josh: Would that explanation be that God created the first atom, and it all played out from there? And that there was no necessity for anything to create God? (Begging the question that an explanation should involve more detail than simply stating that it exists.)

  60. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:56 pm

    A large part of the epistemological grounds for that position are currently theological in nature, not empirical, therefore i doubt the theologically-based aspects would not appeal to you.

    However, the empirical evidence that I do see supporting that position is the specified and irreducibly complexity found in many features of molecular biology. Living cells themselves are irreducibly complex, see Craig Venter’s minimal genome for evidence of this.
    Is the irreducible complexity of the living celll falsifiable? I’m not sure, are the wave-like properties of light photons falsifiable?

  61. Steven Novellaon 15 Apr 2008 at 3:58 pm

    universal common design? – does that hypothesis generate any predictions about what we should find when we look at life?

    Universal common descent does.

    Look at the links on this page: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    for molecular evidence: protein functional redundancy, DNA functional redundancy, transposons, redundant pseudogenes, and engogenous retroviruses.

    In short – these lines of evidence from proteins and DNA fit a pattern that is predicted from common descent. In fact, common descent is the ONLY viable explanation of the patterns that we see in proteins and genes.

    Common design does not predict such a pattern. There is marked divergence from common design – in a pattern of branching common descent. (not just recent random drift or “micro” evolution – which has no operational definition, BTW).

    Evolutionists are not “overconfident” – we just understand the evidence. Not to be confident in the fact of common descent is to be either ignorant of the evidence or in denial.

  62. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Novella said:
    “There is marked divergence from common design”

    I like how you assume to know what the initial design was and are already drawing conclusions that it has diverged! thats awesome, how’d you know that?

  63. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 4:20 pm

    we deal with causation one level at a time, forensic scientists and archeaologists do this all the time, they aren’t required to know WHO did it, only that the evidence points to intelligent causation rather than unguided. Make your beef with them, not me.

    My answer to your first question would be no and to the second, yes.

  64. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Josh: So there was no necessity for anything to create God. Actually I could agree with that if the assumption is that God always was. But that assumption is still lacking in detail as to how creation played out, when God decided it was needed, how we presume he managed it, what took so long, ad infinitum.

    And are you proposing a form of determinism nevertheless?

  65. Steven Novellaon 15 Apr 2008 at 4:37 pm

    josh – you keep missing the actual points.

    I did not assume anything about any initial design – I said it diverged from COMMON DESIGN – if two proteins that are identical in different species and serve the same function were the product of common design, wouldn’t you expect that the base pair sequence that codes for them would also be identical? Or perhaps each would be entirely unique, if there were no common relationship between the species. But would you predict that they would be mostly the same but not quite? And would you predict that the amount of genetic difference among species would follow a branching pattern of descent?

    The only reasonable answer is no. What we can say is that the pattern is consistent with branching descent. Therefore the only possibility for design is if the designer (for some unfathomable reason) decided to design life to look exactly as if it evolved through common descent. But of course – that is not a falsifiable hypothesis – it is therefore not science.

    And again – if you disagree with me, give me another interpretation of the genetic evidence and give me a prediction about what it should look like given the common design hypothesis.

    Otherwise you are just spinning deceptions and diversions.

  66. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Thats why God is infinite and humans are not, if we knew all the details about everything, then we (or at least I) would not be in the science research field. Discovering the mechanisms and the how’s and when’s of God’s creation is what fuels my desire to do research (as opposed to the false notion of STOPPING scientific investigation, as Darwinian evolutionists like to say).

    Proposing a form of determinism? In the sense that God has an over arching plan (prescriptive will) for everything, then yes, but that humans don’t still have to respond relationally to His decrees (preceptive will), then no.
    Sorry for the somewhat confusing answer, but paradox is not just present in physics, but theology as well.

  67. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Josh: You seem to be advocating that there’s a sort of off and on switch to determinism that only god can control.

    Otherwise with god having always existed, you would have had to consider another proposal – that the universe had no beginning, and no initial choice to have determinism allow it to unfold. So choice in our creation, whether through a supernatural conduit or not, would not have been an option.

    But if god was required to give himself that option, would not his choice of when to exercise that option have been predetermined as well?

  68. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I’m glad to see you have a lot of questions regarding this possibility. I do too. I guess the question I would be most ready to answer yes to would be “But would you predict that they would be mostly the same but not quite?”

    “What we can say is that the pattern is consistent with branching descent.”

    My question would be, what data are you feeding into you phylogenetic algorithms to reach this conclusion (individual gene sequences, genome sequences, morphological data?) since phylogenetic trees are notorious for disagreement.

    I don’t have such predictions, and currently, our measures of homology between species are the best we’ve got. This is quite close to my own research field which involves the predictive power of surrogate species in pharmacology and toxicology; finding species-specific and divergent regulation that could aid in our selection of rodent vs. canine vs. other species to test drugs and chemicals on for human safety and efficacy. So you see, the applicability of the Darwinism comes down real fast and hard when you start actually using what we know about homology to inform predictive models for pre-clinical trials. Think about that the next time you take Vioxx (woops, bad example… haha, exactly my point).

  69. orDoveron 15 Apr 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I see that the comments section has turned into yet another ID/Evolution debate, and I hope it’s okay if I turn back to the concept that evolution allowed for or fostered eugenics.

    I’m currently taking a History of Science course and part of our assigned reading was Daniel J. Kevies’s In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. The book and accompanying lectures demonstrated that eugenics developed with little or no help from evolution. They were born from the work of Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian (Christian) monk, who worked on the problem of heredity before Darwin had published Origins.

    Kevies’s book has this to say about those who supported eugenics:
    “Eugenics enthusiasts in the United States and Britain were largely middle to upper middle class, white Anglo-Saxon, predominantly Protestant, and educated.”

    That’s right! Those who favored eugenics were not immoral atheists, they were wealthy Christians.

    In 1926 an American eugenics society published what they called A Eugenics Catechism that answered questions raised by the practice. It reads:
    “Q: Does eugenics contradict the Bible?
    A: The Bible has much to say for eugenics. It tells us that men do not gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles…”

    They used THE BIBLE to support eugenics, not the writings of Darwin. That same society also sponsored a eugenics sermon contest judged by several of its members, including a Baptists deacon. They received over 300 sermons written by Christian church leaders who used Biblical evidence to support eugenics. Kevie’s writes:
    “If the Protestant sermons were to be believed, the Bile was indeed a eugenic book and Christ was born into a family representing ‘a long process of religious and moral selection.'”

    I think that the entire concept of Darwin’s theory of natural selection being the cause of eugenics needs to be completely reconsidered from a historical standpoint as well as a logical one.

  70. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, my apologies for the double negative.

    Also, glad to see the genetic fallacy works well for you!

  71. orDoveron 15 Apr 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Sorry! I mistyped the name of the author of the book I was citing, it is Daniel Kevles, not Kevies. (I’m working with a poorly copied class reader)

  72. Johnon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:56 pm


    I like that we’re now talking about GOD’s creation, as opposed to an unidentified intelligent designer. Please, enlighten me as to how you eliminated the competing theories of life being born from the sweat of a dying giant, or from animated earth, or from panspermia, or from the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    I also liked your use of “subjective (although heartwarming) emoting” – is this Creationist-speak for “I don’t have a good answer so I’m going to ignore you”?

    To rephrase, your challenge says that without the ultimate judge and jury of God, any action is “permissable” as long as it is not detected. My response is that humans (and certain other primates) have evolved the ability to think about what it would be like to be someone else.

    To use an example, if I think about stabbing Bob (sorry Bob), my brain will involuntarily think about what it would be like to be Bob being stabbed, return with the conclusion that I would not like being stabbed and that Bob would therefore not like it, and thus reduce the likelihood of me stabbing Bob. This is an entirely internal process that we think of as “morality”. It is not perfect, which is why our society has punishments in place for Bob-stabbing, but for the majority of humans it does the job.

    As for your later comments… you’re talking about using scientific, empirical methods to discern the plans of a being who according to all definitions is INEFFABLE – unable to be known in any way, shape or form. You’re either pursuing an impossible goal or you’re on a flight of pure fancy. Either way, it’s a fools errand.

    I await your wall of deafening silence refuting this post.

  73. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 5:58 pm

    You have interesting questions for sure, but i don’t know how important they are, for most of them are answered epistemologically rather than ontologically as you are, I’m assuming, trying to sort it all out theoretically. When we have questions about God, why not consult the revelation He says He gave to us for that reason?

  74. TheBlackCaton 15 Apr 2008 at 6:01 pm

    But, the fear and loathing of ID is not rational, it is an emotional response. This is a further indication of the religion of scientism at work.

    Yes it is rational. For someone who values science for the well-established benefits it has provided, and a groups comes up and says they want us to abandon all science and all knowledge derived from it, fear and loathing of that groups is perfectly rational because they directly oppose something we value.

    Science is not a religion, it is a way of testing knowledge. Calling science a religion is just an attempt to shift the discussion away from evidence and data. It is empty rhetoric designed to change the subject rather than dealing with the real issues at hand.

    Even evolutionists must admit that not all evidence is empirical. All paleo-evidence is circumstantial, and all inferences drawn therefrom are extrapolations: guesses.

    Here we go again. “Evolutionists”, another term invented by creationists for the sole purpose of smearing their opponents so they don’t have to deal with the evidence. The proper term is “biologist”.

    And yes, paleontology is very empirical. Changes in the lengths of bones, changes in habit, changes in the relative percentage of different organisms. All science is extrapolation, there is nothing unique about paleontology for that. Of course paleontology is a standard target for creationists simply because it provides such strong and easily understandable evidence for evolution. Claiming that it is “just guesswork” or “circumstantial” is standard smear techniques. There is nothing fundamentally different about paleontology as a science compared to any other science, other than the strength of evidence it provides for evolution.

    Even Hume showed that empiricism is conditional and not absolute, with his argument that cause and effect, even though found in “constant conjunction”, cannot be proved to be true for all – or any – future cases.

    No one claimed otherwise. Science does not deal in absolutely, it does not deal with proofs. It deals with different degrees of confidence. The better a scientific principle is able to predict future data, the more confidence we can have in it. Once again, the only ones talking about proving things are opponents of science.

    Science is a process; it should not be held to be a religion, or treated as if it were one.

    The only ones trying to treat science as a religion are its opponents.

    Conflating the philosophy of Materialism with the voluntary material stance of empiricism is an error. It leads to false philosophies and false worldviews.

    Once again, the only ones trying to conflate the two are opponents of science. Scientists are well aware of the difference.

  75. josh calebon 15 Apr 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Gotta run, real life calls. Feel free to take spineless pot shots at my leaving the discussion, i wouldn’t expect less!

  76. Roy Nileson 15 Apr 2008 at 6:25 pm

    In lieu of any answer from Josh to my previous question, which may be just to repeat that “paradox is not just present in physics, but theology as well,”

    “Paradox” has been defined as an assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises.

    But all that really tells us is that these assertions (in this case theological), are unreliable.

  77. Johnon 15 Apr 2008 at 6:25 pm


    I think I’ve perfectly nailed your style of debate. Saying “yes, I concede your point absolutely, but I’m going to completely ignore it”.


  78. Steven Novellaon 15 Apr 2008 at 6:37 pm

    When it comes down to it – josh could not make a prediction from the design hypothesis. If you can’t say anything about the designer, or about what designed life should look like – it’s not a testable theory – it’s not science.

    And his dodge of the genetic evidence is not compelling. The patterns of branching descent from proteins, genes, morphology, and paleontology actually agree quite well. Josh just reiterates another creationist canard. The molecular evidence clearly agree with morphology on the large scale – primates are closer to each other than other mammals, to other mammals than reptiles, to other vertebrates than invertebrates – etc. This has held up to countless individual observations. When we get down to the very fine scale (are orangutans closer to chimps or apes?) then the signal gets lost in the noise. But evolution deniers use this to dismiss the broad agreement at higher levels.

    Seriously – if you read and understand the molecular evidence and do not agree with common descent, you are delusional.

  79. Stanon 15 Apr 2008 at 9:49 pm

    John said,
    “To rephrase, your challenge says that without the ultimate judge and jury of God, any action is “permissable” as long as it is not detected. My response is that humans (and certain other primates) have evolved the ability to think about what it would be like to be someone else.”

    Kindly share the empirical studies that prove this is the case, categorically.


  80. Stanon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:07 pm

    …a groups comes up and says they want us to abandon all science and all knowledge derived from it, fear and loathing of that groups is perfectly rational because they directly oppose something we value.

    Science is not a religion, it is a way of testing knowledge. Calling science a religion is just an attempt to shift the discussion away from evidence and data. It is empty rhetoric designed to change the subject rather than dealing with the real issues at hand.”

    Again the reading deficit. I didn’t say science was a religion, did I? I said scientism. If you believe that there is no non-physical existence, that is not science. It is scientism. It is a faith in something you cannot prove. Perhaps you wish to quibble about definitions of words. I do not.

    If science cannot deal factually and calmly with opposition without panic attacks and emotional outbursts, then it must not have much to say. In fact, the fear and loathing defense is detrimental to opinion forming in noncombatant observers. It betrays an underlying weakness, a fear of contest with interlopers, who the “science” platoon wishes to smash into complete silence.

    My field is R & D engineering. I have done science all my life. Yet I find that a great many so-called scientists can’t tell the difference between practice and philosophy. Plus they publish junk papers just to fill the quota. If you wish to talk science with me, lets go. I may only have an hour or so per day, but I’ll be back.

  81. weingon 15 Apr 2008 at 10:49 pm

    I thought of that as soon as I wrote it. No, such evidence wouldn’t be enough to falsify evolution but it would raise doubts about it and would definitely require more research. What if you found fossils of modern horses in the cenozoic and then nothing but transitional species until modern times? Would it mean devolution?
    It would definitely require a lot of splainin. Like you, I feel science cannot be applied to religion and questions of non-physical existence or nonexistence cannot be approached by science but faith. That is my problem with IDers, they are trying to call faith, science. I do not see any fear, loathing, or panic; derision, maybe. But I can’t help myself when I see something so stupid. Can you give examples of some junk papers to fill the quota?

  82. badrabbion 15 Apr 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Actually, some forms of Intelligent design are quite testable and falsifiable. If by “intelligent designer” we mean the God of the bible, then the following is testable:

    Exodus 22: 22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

    This is quite clear and quite falsifiable. If we find someone who takes advantage of widows and orphans, than God himself, according to His words, will come down to kill the perpetrator with a sword.

    Can you think of experiments to test this out?

    ID is indeed falsifiable. The problem is that it is falsified!

  83. Stanon 15 Apr 2008 at 11:39 pm

    The NY Times ran an article on a JAMA paper that claimed a high percentage of papers submitted to JAMA turned out to have fatal errors and be…just false.

    I’ll see if I can find it.

    I can’t find it, at least not easily. So I retract the statement.

  84. mindmeon 16 Apr 2008 at 8:19 am

    There is a point where a theory has passed the major falsification tests. That’s not to say the theory got it right on everything from the start. Newton was not falsified, just shown to be a special case. Relativity could have been falsified early on. Does dark energy falsify Relativity? Well, no. It doesn’t falsify the idea that gravity is a result of warping of space/time. It just introduces, possibly, a new force.

    This is what happens in science. As theories get closer to being true descriptions of reality, they stop being wholly over turned and start being modified. “There’s something a little more going on underneath. And there’s something a little more going on underneath that.” Maxwell is still pretty useful today, tho, no?

    As BC notes, evolution has passed the major falsifiable hurdles. Mammal fossils found long before simple vertebrates could have evolved. Surely, Noah’s flood would have deposited some of those in out of order places. When genetics emerged, lo, a dolphin actual has more in common with a mouse than a shark. This again could have falsified evolution.

    Genetics has modified our understanding of natural selection and will continue to modify it. Notions of what constitutes survival pressures today may seem quaint 100 years in the future.

    Anyone claiming evolution is not falsifiable is simply talking 100% out of his ass. One merely needs to peruse the 29 Evidences for Evolution link. Each and every line of evidence there has an accompanying write up about what would falsify it. I would challenge jacob to investigate that link and explain why each one is false.

    It’s a shame, for the creationists, a good theory can account for a lot of what is observed. Some parts are certainly “just so” stories. But unlike creationists, evolution doesn’t walk away from the table with a good just so story. Science does the hard work to get the evidence.

  85. Steve Pageon 16 Apr 2008 at 11:18 am

    One of Richard Dawkins’s points about evolution is that it’s similar to finding a crimescene and an abundance of evidence. Obviously, if someone was murdered and the police found a murder weapon, a motive, DNA and fingerprint evidence, video footage of the suspect entering the building at precisely the right time (when the victim was definitely alive) then leaving with the victim’s blood all over his clothes, etc., the police would not have to let the suspect off simply because they hadn’t seen the actual point of impact between weapon and victim. The same applies with evolution, inasmuch as all of the evidence for and against it is pooled together and subsequent conclusions can be drawn; furthermore, based upon the evidence, hypotheses can be made (such as where an intermediate fossil will be found) and time and time again, the hypotheses are supported.

    I firmly believe that evolution is supported by science. Then again, I firmly disagree with Rutherford’s somewhat arrogant statement, “All science is physics or stamp collecting.”

  86. Badon 16 Apr 2008 at 2:41 pm

    josh caleb: I have to give respect to you as someone who, despite having all his arguments demolished right from the start, has kept on making them heedlessly.

    “So now, as was my original position, what restrains men from (my now coined ethical term) “get-away-with-it-if-I-can” ethics?”

    Let’s ask a better question: what restrains people from this even if a punishing God exists. How does that actually make this or that behavior moral, if it wasn’t before? And insofar as Christian theology goes, if people know that it’s at least possible that they will someday repent and all will be forgiven, then it certainly seems like what YOU are advocating includes all sorts of clauses and incentives to allow people to “get away with it.”

    Meanwhile, we have folks that already care about moral values and the lives of their fellow men right off the bat, for their own sakes, rather than out of some selfish fear of punishment or bribery.

    “Or more pointedly, who is the arbiter of justice in those cases? If no one else knows about it, what is the harm?”

    Whoever is harmed.

    “Because after all, God is not around to judge, so what then, karma?”

    What then even if your God is around? What actual moral purpose is served by a distantly removed “judging” someplace down the road? None that I can see.

    “As has been demonstrated though out pages of history, where rule of law is not well established, men run wild with vigilante justice.”

    That’s why civilization has advanced with better and better rules of law and means of civilizing people’s values and empathy, rather than with increasingly more firery threats of damnation.

    Strange that you should mention Rwanda and Sudan. In Rwanda the number of people who are not religiously affiliated is around 1.7% at best, and that’s not even all non-believers (many are just unclassified believers). Sudan is much the same, but with a far higher percentage of indigenous religions. Neither of these places have lots of open non-believers. Meanwhile, societies like Japan and parts of Europe that have very high rates of non-belief are some of the most peaceful and crime-free places in the world.

  87. Chris Nobleon 16 Apr 2008 at 8:08 pm

    “Or more pointedly, who is the arbiter of justice in those cases? If no one else knows about it, what is the harm?”

    Apparently Josh must be the sort person who if he encounters somebody dying on the street has to ask himself whether God is watching before he goes to help. After all if no one knows about it what’s the harm? Why not get to your important meeting on time? Why waste time helping a stranger?

    People like Josh scare me.

  88. Stanon 16 Apr 2008 at 8:37 pm

    You have made my point for me. Let me stretch this out some to be more clear than I obviously was.

    A statement was made that was made as fact. It is not a supportable premise, under current knowledge as far as I know. I seriously doubt that an emotion has been captured for analysis. When statements of fact are made that are challengable, then a request for verification is valid. What I did was to make a smart-alec comment designed to decorate the fact that there won’t be any forthcoming truthvalues assigned to that statement. I am totally aware of the probablistic nature of both empirical and forensic science. I should have said that rather than what I did because what I said confused the issue, apparently leading you to believe that I believe the opposite.

    I do believe that correlations are more easily arrived at in physics than in paleontology. And I disagree that expecting cause and effect to be valid is actually an extrapolation. It is more on the order of an axiom. And it appears to me that in paleontology, extrapolation must be used, for example, the development of the ear mechanism from jawbone(s). Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the more fossils that are found, the shorter the extrapolation and the higher the correlation. But it is still a necessary extrapolation, and it won’t likely be produced experimentally in a lab.

    Now, go ahead and tell me that I am inferior and not capable of the standards you hold. Then try to get over it, if you care to discuss any of this. Or maybe just tell me to leave, so you can chat undisturbed with your buds.

    One more thing, then I have to go. I am not a creationist. I do not think ID could ever be considered a science, and I do think it is a shallow cover for creationism. But I am also highly sceptical of the statement that “evolution is fact, get over it”. You have not made that explicit statement but the general attitude here is of that nature.

    Gotta go.

  89. Chris Nobleon 16 Apr 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Now, go ahead and tell me that I am inferior and not capable of the standards you hold.

    Considering that you are arguing that hundreds of thousands of scientists working in biologically related fields are all inferior and incapable of meeting your standards of science you shouldn’t really complain too much if people tell you that you don’t understand science.

  90. Roy Nileson 17 Apr 2008 at 2:39 am

    The theory of evolution IS a fact. It’s the theory that is the fact. Is it an incomplete theory? Of course, that’s the nature of all theories. Have we ever found one that was true to a certainty? If we have, there’s no way we have found to know that. Has it been a theory that has met the most rigorous tests of its reliability to date? Yes.

  91. bkmdon 17 Apr 2008 at 10:26 am

    Stan: But I am also highly sceptical of the statement that “evolution is fact, get over it”. You have not made that explicit statement but the general attitude here is of that nature.


    You are making a mistake in dismissing scientific facts and the theory of evolution, induced from them, as only probabilistic…and therefore not proven.

    You are asking for an absolute assurance of truth, but that is impossible with induction.

    With religious beliefs it is the norm, but with scientific knowledge there is always an open door to new facts, new variations of theories, new theories…if the facts change or new facts are discovered. Highly probable is not “I don’t know” or “It might be”. Highly probable means that the evidence is conclusive, although not absolutely true. That’s the nature of induction.

    The evidence for evolution from palentology alone is overwhelming in favor of evolutionary processes shaped by natural selection on variations of structures by genes, and variation of environmental pressures. The numerous other areas of science concur.

    The question for you, Stan, is “compared to what?”

    In the less-than-totally-true-forever “theory” of evolution there are minor gaps here and there, but what’s the alternative? Ben Stein’s ID or Creationist version of the changes in living creatures and the origin-of-life-in-one-fell-swoop, with no evidence but for the Bible, isn’t even a wrong theory. It isn’t a theory. It’s a belief, with scant evidence.

    Stan, you are not playing fairly, or thinking logically, with your use of probabilities and conclusions. The criticisms of your thinking is fair and appropriate. To call you names is not.

  92. Oracon 17 Apr 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Perhaps someone could explain to me why Ben Stein doesn’t blame Robert Koch or Louis Pasteur for the Holocaust. After all, Hitler never likened himself to Darwin, but he did liken himself many times to Koch or Pasteur.

  93. […] happens frequently over at the Discovery Institute. I recently pointed out that ID proponents, on the same DI blog, reject the evidence from breeding for the power of […]

  94. claims madeon 24 Apr 2008 at 4:26 am

    […] Darwinian evolution is to blame for the Holocaust. For more information on Expelled please see www.http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=272Claims Made Vs. Occurrencehttp://www.harperrisk.com/Articles/6claimsmdvsocc.htmNJ PureClaims-Made. […]

  95. pjojalaon 29 Apr 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I quote from

    Marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural
    states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived
    hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between “white” and “colored races” was self evident
    (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

    In 1917 the immigration of “defective” groups was forbidden even in the United States by a
    law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
    Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law
    was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country
    based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the “nordic” balance in population, and was hold
    through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

    Richard Lewontin writes:”The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working
    class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
    and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the
    Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.)

    Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the “yellow” group (Kemiläinen
    1993, p. 1930).

    Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

  96. […] The Expelled History Fallacy (Steven Novella, 4/08) […]

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