Category Archives: Behe

“Knowledge” from ignorance

Recently, I came across the very relevant statement in a paper I was reading:

“Ignorance cannot support a knowledge claim of any sort except perhaps for the trivial claim that we simply do not know.”

I think this is something we should keep in the front of our minds when we consider those creationist and religious apologetics arguments justifying anti-science positions. You know, Bill Dembski‘s “design filter” – “if we cant show something is caused by chance, or by laws of nature, then it must be intelligently designed.” Or Michael Behe‘s irreducible complexityargument. Or the “cosmological” argument, the “fine tuning” argument, etc., etc.

If we don’t have evidence we should be happy to say: “I don’t know.” And, ideally follow that with: “Let’s find out.”

To use lack of information to support a knowledge claim is just not logical.

By the way – the paper is by Carol E. Cleland & Shelley Copley (2005). “The Possibility of Alternative Microbial Life on Earth,” International Journal of Astrobiology 4, pp. 165-173. It discusses the possibility that life may have originated on earth more than once and these forms may be basically different. Peter Ward, in his book Life as We Do Not Know It also discusses this possibility.

It’s intriguing. Maybe we will discover “alien” life on earth before we discover extra-terrestrial life.

Permalink

Similar articles

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Belief not the same as truth

Going through some of notes (scraps of paper all over the place) I came across these jottings:

“To believe in something because it’s true does not come naturally to people.”

and

“Subordination of belief to what is true is not natural to people.”

Perhaps you recognise this problem?

I think I noted them down while reading Dan Agin’s book: Junk Science recently.  It’s a great book (although I think he is a bit hard on evolutionary psychology). I certainly ended up feeling very angry with the huge negative influence anti-science groups and beliefs have on humanity.

Permalink

Similar articles

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Reading in retirement

Scientific research is a very creative and personally satisfying process. However, researchers often find that the inevitable specialisation and concentration on limited aspects of reality can lead to a lack of understanding and appreciation of discoveries in other fields.

Since retirement I’ve appreciated the opportunity to read more widely. I find myself returning to subjects I haven’t considered for decades, or have neglected. I’m learning about the amazing discoveries humanity has made (behind my back) in the meantime.

I was encouraged to check out, and summarise, what I have been reading by the reading lists blogged by Damian and others. The number of books I have got through (in four years) shocked me – perhaps I’m a bit obsessive, or maybe its just the freedom retirement has given me.

I can recommend most books on the list – but definitely not every one (guess which).

Continue reading

Does intelligent design make testable predictions?

Intelligent design (ID) proponents will often claim their ideas are well supported by science. When pushed for evidence they will sometimes list peer-reviewed scientific papers they claim support ID. I think that’s a step in the right direction as peer review does make these papers far more credible than the usual book or magazine article which receives no peer review at all.

The provision of peer-reviewed papers also enables them to be checked. That is, we can see for ourselves if the initial claims made by the ID proponent are really true.

A recent blog post (Does Intelligent Design Make Testable Predictions?) claimed “Intelligent design makes numerous predictions, which can be tested. In fact, much recent evidence supports intelligent design…”.

Continue reading

Dissent from Darwinism list – further analysis

I have commented before on the dissenters from Darwinism list. It is often used by creationists/intelligent design proponents as evidence for opposition to evolutionary science among scientists. (Sometimes scientists on the list are referred to as “brilliant”, or even “modern day Einsteins!”)

Of course, closer investigation shows that this list is not credible evidence for real opposition to evolutionary science (see Scientific dissent from . . . science? and Dissenters from Darwinism in context). And the motives of the signatories are usually religious rather than scientific (see Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?).

This video from DonExodus2 provides further useful analysis of the list. It shows that as evidence for scientific dissension it is really very pathetic.

List of Scientists Rejecting Evolution- Do they really? (10 min)

Similar articles:
Scientific dissent from . . . science?
Dissenters from Darwinism in context
Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?

Expelled – the movies

Intelligent design proponents are currently promoting Ben Stein’s film Expelled. There are campaigns in the USA offering financial inducements to get the film shown to students. And many religious web sites are advertising the film, even in New Zealand where 75% of the population accept evolutionary science.

While the film has not yet been officially released it is being shown to specially selected audience in the USA, usually at Churches. Anybody likely to review the film has to sign a non-disclosure “statement of confidentiality”. However, have a read of the review by Roger Moore who was invited to a showing by mistake and managed to avoid signing the agreement.

Continue reading

Intelligent design and depression

I am currently reading Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,one of the main books advocating “intelligent design” (ID). It’s quite different to most other science books. Whereas I normally enjoy science books and find them very uplifting, even inspirational, I am finding this one depressing.

It’s not because I disagree with Behe’s conclusions – after all one doesn’t have to accept concepts or speculations to find their discussion stimulating. Consider some of the current scientific speculation around string theory, multiple universes, etc. No, it’s really that the whole style of this book is not normal for science. Rather than being inspirational or enthusiastic it comes across as defeatist and depressing. Rather than encouraging the search for knowledge and understanding it repeatedly encourages the reader to see nature as too complicated to understand. It discounts the idea that we could ever find out how living systems work, how they arose or how life itself could have originated. This book really doesn’t offer anything positive to be enthusiastic about.

Continue reading

A respectable man with a dangerous theory

Darwin DayThis Tuesday, February 12, marks the 199th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The 149th anniversary of the publication of his book The Origin of Species also occurs this year. In this book Darwin laid out his theory of natural selection which is still accepted today as an integral part of modern revolutionary theory.

The anniversary is being marked throughout the world as Darwin day – commemorating the major contribution Darwin made to science, particularly biology. The occasion is of course being celebrated by scientific organisations and activities also include discussion by the New York State Legislative Assembly of a resolution marking the day.

Continue reading

Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?

One of the weapons used by the Wedge activists is the Scientific Dissent from Darwin list. They use this to promote the idea there is a controversy about evolutionary theory within the scientific community. The idea that a significant number of scientists actually oppose the modern understanding of evolution and support “intelligent design” (ID) theory as an alternative. They then go on to demand introduction of ID into science classrooms under the slogan “teach the controversy.”

Only a small number of professionals have been prepared to support the Discovery Institute’s statement (see Dissenters from Darwinism in context). However, the understanding and motives of those who have is interesting.

  • Are they genuinely concerned about modern evolutionary theory?
  • Do they support ID as an alternative?
  • Do they even understand modern evolutionary theory?
  • What is their areas of scientific expertise?
  • Is their motivation primarily religious?
  • Or have they been duped – signing up to support the relatively innocuous statement only to find out later the real way the list is being used?

Continue reading

Dissenters from Darwinism in context

While there is no real scientific support for intelligent design (ID) theory there is certainly a propaganda campaign to give that impression. The Wedge activists centered around the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle, USA, are continually promoting campaigns with this purpose. One of these is the list of scientists, “dissenters from Darwinism,” who they claim support ID.

We could discuss the political tactics behind this list and the motivation of those professionals who have given their support to the statement of dissent. However, the undeniable purpose of the list has been to create the impression that there is a controversy among scientists about evolutionary theory. So let’s look at the “statement of dissent” and the number of signatures and compare this with the numbers who have signed statements supporting evolutionary theory.

Continue reading