Monday, November 20, 2006

Scott's lecture at Kansas University

Eugenie Scott is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc...
A not-for-profit membership organization of scientists, teachers and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution and science as a way of knowing. It opposes the advocacy of “scientific” creationism and other religiously-based views in science classes. Dr. Scott has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over 20 years.

Scott is also an activist for several church and state separation organizations. Clearly, this issue goes deeper than science for her as she is a philosophical naturalist, as are many of the other scientists who are leaders in the movement to shun Intelligent Design from being considered in the public realm of education.

Much of her lecture covered “ways of knowing” such as from authority, revelation, personal state of insight, and science. Science, she says, is different in that empirical evidence is attainable through observation, testing, and inferences. She mentioned that science is limited to the natural world and that if there are supernatural forces, you can’t hold their effects constant, which renders them unable to be tested. Therefore those forces are out of the realm of what science can explain. I’d argue with this description to a certain degree, but that is the subject for an entirely separate post.

She made the statement that “once we stop looking for natural causes, we’ll never find them“, hence keeping “the supernatural” out of the equation is positive for science because we’ll never give up researching for answers. Of course, she claims that the Intelligent Design movement is merely a religious movement that invokes the supernatural. This is far from factual, and to get a better understanding as to what ID is or isn’t, please read this article by Stephen Meyer regarding Design arguments.

Also consider these statements from the science textbook, Of Pandas and People, which is rejected by the scientific community as ID propaganda:
If science is based upon experience, then science tells us the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. But what kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. This is no different, really, than if we discovered life did result from natural causes. We still would not know, from science, if the natural cause was all that was involved, or if the ultimate explanation was beyond nature, and using the natural cause (Of Pandas and People, pg. 7, 2nd ed, 1993.)

Surely the intelligent design explanation has unanswered questions of its own. But unanswered questions, which exist on both sides, are an essential part of healthy science; they define the areas of needed research. Questions often expose hidden errors that have impeded the progress of science. For example, the place of intelligent design in science has been troubling for more than a century. That is because on the whole, scientists from within Western culture failed to distinguish between intelligence, which can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural, which cannot. Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science (Of Pandas and People, pg. 126-127, 2nd ed, 1993).

The idea that life had an intelligent source is hardly unique to Christian fundamentalism. Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic. Moreover, the concept of design implies absolutely nothing about beliefs as normally associated with Christian fundamentalism, such as a young earth, a global flood, or even the existence of the Christian God. All it implies is that life had an intelligent source (Of Pandas and People, pg. 161, 2nd ed, 1993).
If that doesn’t convince you that ID is not a religious argument which invokes the supernatural, consider the famous atheist philosopher Antony Flew’s statement:

"It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument for design."

Flew’s statement demonstrates that ID is based upon empirical science, and clearly not supported exclusively by religious advocates.

Of course, if ID is to be rejected because many of it supporters hold religious beliefs then, as I’ve mentioned in the past, it can be argued that Darwinian evolution is supported by philosophical naturalists (ie. atheists), and their bias is what leads to their rigid adherence to the theory.

Scott talked a bit about Michael Behe and his book, Darwin’s Black Box. She feels that IDists are wrong in regard to their science because “although some things are not explainable, that doesn’t mean that will always be the case“. Science is always working to find answers.

She makes it appear as if IDers are simply satisfied with stating that “the designer did it”, so they no longer have anything to research. This is, quite frankly, a bunch of bunk.

ID has actually pushed science to a whole new level of research into finding answers for questions regarding the first cause(s) of life and solving the unanswered questions regarding the evolution of “irreducibly complex” machines.

The “scientific community” has been in a frenzy searching for the answers to these problems in order to stop the intelligent design movement. IDers actually welcome this effort at further research in finding supporting evidence for the complexity of life.

As far as Scott’s demand that science must be restricted to natural causes, Behe writes in this regard:
On the other hand, like myself most of the public takes a broader view: “science” is an unrestricted search for the truth about nature based on reasoning from physical evidence. By those lights, intelligent design is indeed science. Thus there is a disconnect between the two views of what “science” is. Although the two views rarely conflict at all, the dissonance grows acute when the topic turns to the most fundamental matters, such as the origins of the universe, life, and mind.

...Big Bang theory struck many scientists as pointing to a supernatural cause. Yet it clearly is a scientific theory, because it is based entirely on physical data and logical inferences. The same is true of intelligent design.

If we limit science to natural causes and reject the possibility of design in nature, we are limiting an objective consideration of truth in scientific matters.

A portion of Scott’s lecture was comparable to a 7th and 8th grade science class. She talked about natural selection and gave an example similar to the classic peppered moth, but she used light and dark colored mice. Evidently this science lesson was given to make the point that to be considered science, the work must be testable.

Then she talked at length about British dowsers and how they find water with a fork stick. She even mentioned an experiment some “skeptics” put together to disprove dowsing.

Are you catching the implications?

She seems to be implying that science gives us facts, and religion (ie. Intelligent Design) is based on revelation, which in her mind is quite similar to the British dowsers failure to find water. Of course, she was very careful throughout the entire lecture not to exclude religion as being a way of knowing, but after considering her message in it's entirety, I’m not sure why she bothers with statements like that. She certainly doesn’t believe it as she is a philosophical naturalist like Dawkins and Steven Weinberg (who Scott mentioned as her authority figure).

She mentioned the “content of science” as:
1. Core ideas - tested over and over. The example was (of course) heliocentrism. She mentioned that in our modern world virtually every scientist supports heliocentrism as fact, although there are a few “fringe” scientists who hold a PhD and still support geocentrism (I find this doubtful). In similar fashion, she asserts that all scientists support common ancestry except for “a few fringe scientists” such as “those who support ID or creationist theories."

2. Frontier ideas - science that is changing and open.

3. Fringe science - she places supporters of Intelligent Design or creationist theories in with ESP, dowsers, psychics, etc.

She claims Intelligent design researchers are not attempting to engage in real science, so they are considered in the fringe. Yet she also mentioned earlier in her lecture that scientific inferences, assumptions, and speculation are legitimate ways in which we do science. Inferences explain facts. Intelligent Design inferences explain facts as well.

Scott also says IDers get the science wrong. At the infamous Dover trial, Behe spoke of the complexity of the immune system and the fact that we still do not understand how random mutations and natural selection explain the process which led to evolution of the immune system. The defense at that point hauled out a stack of books and peer-reviewed articles stating that evolution of the immune system had already been explained.

I urge all readers to consider this response from Michael Behe regarding the Dover decision. The book Traipsing into Evolution is also very helpful in getting an accurate view of the Dover trial.

In regard to the “pile of books” placed before Behe, here is his response:
(11) In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” (23:19(Behe)).

Several points:
1) Although the opinion’s phrasing makes it seem to come from my mouth, the remark about the studies being “not good enough” was the cross-examining attorney’s, not mine.

2) I was given no chance to read them, and at the time considered the dumping of a stack of papers and books on the witness stand to be just a stunt, simply bad courtroom theater. Yet the Court treats it seriously.

3) The Court here speaks of “evidence for evolution”. Throughout the trial I carefully distinguished between the various meanings of the word “evolution”, and I made it abundantly clear that I was challenging Darwin’s proposed mechanism of random mutation coupled to natural selection. Unfortunately, the Court here, as in many other places in its opinion, ignores the distinction between evolution and Darwinism.

I said in my testimony that the studies may have been fine as far as they went, but that they certainly did not present detailed, rigorous explanations for the evolution of the immune system by random mutation and natural selection — if they had, that knowledge would be reflected in more recent studies that I had had a chance to read (see below).

4) This is the most blatant example of the Court’s simply accepting the Plaintiffs’ say-so on the state of the science and disregarding the opinions of the defendants’ experts. I strongly suspect the Court did not itself read the “fifty eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system” and determine from its own expertise that they demonstrated Darwinian claims. How can the Court declare that a stack of publications shows anything at all if the defense expert disputes it and the Court has not itself read and understood them?

In my own direct testimony I went through the papers referenced by Professor Miller in his testimony and showed they didn’t even contain the phrase “random mutation”; that is, they assumed Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection was true — they did not even try to demonstrate it. I further showed in particular that several very recent immunology papers cited by Miller were highly speculative, in other words, that there is no current rigorous Darwinian explanation for the immune system. The Court does not mention this testimony.

Scott spent some time giving explanations of what ‘science’ is and what ‘religion’ is, and stated that Gould believed that science and religion were two completely different ways in which to view the world and have no correlation to one another. She also mentioned that some people use science to inform religious views (much like beliefs of theistic evolutionists). Then there are those, like Dawkins, who believe scientific explanations rule out a creator of the cosmos. Others believe the word of God takes first priority and, in her opinion, those who believe in the revealed truth of their religion must manipulate science to fit their view.

Of course, I’d argue that Scott, Dawkins, Dennett and the “scientific community” for the past 150 years have been manipulating an immense amount of scientific data to fit their prior commitment to Darwinian evolution and their philosophical leanings.

True, evolution is a “core idea” in science, but that “idea” is limited as to how far it can be tested with empirical science, and all it takes is for a person to have enough interest to research the concept of common descent to see that it does not fit in with the concept of “core ideas”. Rather it would belong to the realm of fringe science except for the fact that the leadership in the "scientific community" is dominated by philosophical naturalists. Richard Lewonin lets us know up front just how sacred this philosophical view is to him:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

And, they’ve done a good job of keeping that “Divine Foot” out of science. Whereas many scientists from the past regarded science as a way to get closer to and understand the creator and His creation, today we find scientists heading farther away from even the mere mention of a Designer. If design or creation is mentioned, it is immediately declared pseudoscience or a breach of church and state laws. The scientific community has a tight hold on what will and will not be allowed to peek through the door and be considered in the world of science.

The prestigious scientific journal, Nature provided statistics from 1998 sharing with us the fact that 72.2% of “greater” scientists are atheist, 20.8% are agnostic, and a mere 7% believe in a personal god. There is not a chance that their philosophical beliefs do not affect their science if they are considering evolutionary or intelligent design arguments, and obviously since they have had control of the “scientific community” for some time, they are not about to give up the reigns.

During the question and answer session, Scott was asked what two questions she would ask of Michael Behe when he lectures at KU at the end of November. She said she would ask him:

1. If you believe the flagellum to be irreducibly complex, how would you respond to the Pallen, Matske paper?

Well, sheesh Eugenie, let me answer that one for you...

Recently Pallen and Matske addressed the issue of the irreducible complexity of the flagellum in a paper titled, “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella.” Nature Reviews Microbiology.

This is interesting in that evolutionists have been frantically trying to refute Behe’s claims by stating time and again that “we have the answer to the IC of the flagellum”, yet they continue writing various papers concerning this subject and every time Behe and Co. refute their claims which sends them scurrying back to the lab to look for further evidence to take Behe down.

It’s kind of interesting to watch. Way back in ‘99 Kenneth Miller stated in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, that Behe was wrong about the IC of the flagellum. He gave examples of why Behe was wrong in stating that molecular machines are irreducibly complex. You’d think that would have solved the mystery and there would be no more consideration of the problem, yet here we are eight years later and they are still stating that this newest paper solves the problem. Nice try boys, but Behe has already addressed your latest claims in this pod cast, and I've no doubt there will be more to come in that regard shortly.

It’s a never ending battle, with the evolutionists coming out with a solution to the IC problem of the flagellum, and Behe et. al. in turn taking down the arguments. Round and round they go, where they stop nobody knows. But, what we do know for a fact is that at this point in time, the evolution of molecular machinery is a mystery. In the conclusion of his response to the Dover trial, Behe writes the following:

On the day after the judge’s opinion, December 21, 2005, as before, the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would immediately be recognized as designed. On December 21, 2005, as before, there are no non-design explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories.

The second question Scott would ask of Behe was this:

2. Why did Behe and Minnich remain on as witnesses for the defense at the Dover trial when some of the other Discovery Institute fellows pulled out of the trial?

The Discovery Institute has already put forth a statement in regard to that query as well.

From the link:
Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute's Role in the Dover School District Case.

3. Mr. Thompson blames Discovery Institute for the non-participation of Discovery Institute Fellows Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and John Angus Campbell as expert witnesses on behalf of the Dover board. However, the non-participation of these scholars was due to Thomas More, which discharged them.

Meyer, Dembski and Campbell were all willing to testify as expert witnesses. They simply requested that they have their own counsel present at their depositions in order to protect their rights. Yet Thomas More would not permit this. Mr. Thompson has been quoted in media accounts as stating that to permit independent counsel to assert the witnesses' rights would create a "conflict of interest"--a claim for which he can offer no legal justification. When the witnesses refused to proceed without legal counsel to protect them, Thomas More cancelled the deposition of Prof. Campbell and effectively fired all three expert witnesses. After dismissing its own witnesses, Thomas More made an 11th-hour offer to Dr. Meyer alone to allow him to have counsel after all. But Meyer declined the offer because the previous actions of Thomas More had undermined his confidence in their legal judgment.

Since Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell were discharged, it has been reported that two other expert witnesses for the school board have withdrawn from the case. These two witnesses are not affiliated with Discovery Institute, and Discovery Institute had nothing to do with any decisions surrounding their withdrawal.

Casey Luskin, from the Discovery Institute, also addresses the same issues here.

But, of course, Eugenie Scott is more than aware of these answers, so her “questions for Behe” were posed only in order to make the audience think that these questions have not been addressed. That’s the really interesting thing about this debate. For every dart that has been thrown at the Intelligent Design movement, the aim has been off and the dart never finds it’s way to the bull's-eye.

I did learn one thing. The reason why the Darwinists are so adamant about exactly how high school standards are phrased is because they want to give the teachers a way to ward off students who question the evolutionary paradigm. Scott said that if a teacher is being asked questions by the student or the student's parents, they can simply say that the standards require that I teach the science that is approved by the consensus of those in the “scientific community“.

So in other words boys and girls, don’t think, don’t ask questions, never question the “consensus” of the authoritarian leaders of the “scientific community” (who, by the way, are composed of 90% atheists and agnostics who supposedly have no bias whatsoever when it comes to how they view evolution).

Scott was asked if she believes science supports the belief that there is no God, and of course she had to be honest and admit that she believes that it does. Yet, she said many of her friends would state otherwise. When asked what they support their beliefs upon, Scott stated that they consider probabilities, anthropic principles, and other Intelligent Design arguments. Scott said, with a wave of her hand, that those type of arguments “make no impression on me”.

It simply amazes me that those type of arguments “make no impression” on her. She believes that all questions in life can be answered by invoking natural causes alone. Amazing. I ask you....considering first causes, does it take more faith to believe that something comes from nothing, rather than to believe that something comes from something? Either way, we are considering a miracle (which philosophical naturalists adamantly reject).

Philosophical naturalists (ie. atheists) turn their back on natural causes as soon as they consider the first cause of their evolutionary paradigm. NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING...yet you’ll never convince them of this, and that is why I find this debate so extraordinary. For as much as these philosophical naturalists insist that all of life is the product of natural occurrences, they one up the theists as far as miracles are concerned when they claim that our entire universe, from a scientific perspective, was the byproduct of ~nothing~.

Simply blows the mind...