May 14, 2006

Meyer and Ward debate - Less than meets the eye

After hearing all the crowing coming from the ID camp over Stephen Meyer’s victory in Seattle I thought I’d go to the tape. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and Peter Ward, a paleontologist and author at the University of Washington got together for a lively, lightly moderated back and forth on evolution and “intelligent design” on local Seattle TV.

The discussion was generally cordial, though certainly unreserved. There was plenty of sparring and some biting humor, but as Ward noted at one point the two are friends so they were not going to come to blows.

Meyer delivered his usual polished performance while Ward was very much less effective from the point of view of presentation. He often resorted to incredulity that someone might say such a thing as had just been said, repeated himself, and several times appealed to scientists and friends in the audience for confirmation and commiseration. Meyer won on style, but then Meyer always wins on style.

The thing was, all of this didn’t really kick in until I sat down in front of the last third or so of the debate. Previous to that I’d been listening while working and kept wondering how anyone could have thought Meyer won so handily. Ward’s comments were brief, but substantial. Meyer went on at length but said very little. It really speaks volumes for the nature of this kind of event when one listens to what is said and avoids the personal presentation. One learns quickly why those who’ve been through this many times insist that the truly efficacious debate takes place in written form.

But it is true that Ward appeared to run out of spirit, and steam, as the debate wore on. He became more and more impatient. In the end, I’d have to admit that Meyer came off as more coherent and responsive, if not better informed.

There were some interesting moments, and I did manage to note a few comments.

There was this from Meyer,
“When we argue for design, we’re not arguing based on a negative assessment of the powers of various naturalistic mechanisms, natural selection for example. It’s not just a critique of natural selection – “this is so complex natural selection couldn’t produce it, therefore it was designed” – that’s not our argument.

We do critique the relevant naturalistic hypotheses, as to their explanatory power with respect to, for example, these exquisite machines or circuits in cells, or I think even more importantly the digital code in cells.”
This bit came when Meyer was trying to defend the notion that ID is more than merely a gaps argument, that they go beyond simply arguing about what evolution cannot do. Long time observers of the “intelligent design” movement will nearly gag at the audacious dishonesty of the first couple of sentences. And most will notice that the next bit, meant as a contrast, allows us to reduce Meyer’s point to – “ID is not based on an argument against a naturalistic explanation, it is based on an argument against a naturalistic explanation.”

He continues,
“But we’re also making a positive case for design based upon our knowledge, not our ignorance, our knowledge of the cause and effect structure of the world. It is part of our knowledge that there is a cause that is sufficient to produce digital code. We know that that cause is intelligence.”
Taken on its merits this means logically that Meyer is arguing that humans or some human-like intelligence created the digital code. Of course this is not what Meyer intends as he indulges in the now time-worn and very disingenuous ID tactic of deliberately conflating “intelligence” and non-natural causal agency such that an inference to the supernatural sounds altogether uncontroversial. Meyer knows that his is not a scientific argument, and we can assert that he knows this because he has argued forcefully elsewhere that scientific methodology is unfairly restrictive of ID methodology. Yet he offers his metaphysical speculation as proof of a positive case for design.

He resumes this misdirection later on when he says,
“The test is - what theory best explains the information embedded in DNA, where best is determined by what we know of the cause and effect structure of the world”
Critics of ID have been asking for an example of how the "theory" could be tested for quite some time now. Ward repeated this question and the above bit of fantasy is Meyer's answer.

Notice how any possible explanation here is restricted by Meyer to that which we already know. Meyer would have us consider an example of an unexplained phenomenon, disqualify the condition that current knowledge is incomplete (“We don’t know”), and still require that we come up with an answer. This, of course, leaves us in the epistemologically unfruitful position of accepting either that science explains the phenomenon or that we must draw an explanation from non-scientific methodology. Boiled down then, Meyer's answer amounts to "we know that humans design digital code, so in the absence of a complete empirical explanation we must conclude that the genetic code was "intelligently designed."

How convenient for Meyer and his ID cronies that for those cases where we may lack some detailed biological data, he has a supernatural inference all ready for us to adopt. How inconvenient for Meyer that this is not how science works.

All in all I’d have to say that if one is interested in substance this is not a particularly useful debate. This has nothing to do with the fact that Meyer is better here than Ward, I’ve watched and enjoyed many debates wherein the science side is outperformed stylistically. However, if you want to see just how little it takes for ID proponents to jump out of their seats and yell “slaaaaaam-dunk” have a look, just don’t expect to be edified.

2 Comments:

Blogger Gary S. Hurd said...

Ward has made the common mistake of assuming that he is a very smart science professor so he will easily be able to overwhelm a stupid creationist. This is what all creationists have counted on since Duane Gish first started humiliating scientists back in the 1970s.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Bunch of godless liberals. Any graduate from PCC can outdue any of you guys academically. Some of the rules are weird, but I rather send my daughter their knowing that she will keep her purity until her wedding day rather than send them to any of the heathen insitutions that teaches everyone came from monkeys and wonder why they all act like animals.
All you have to do to know the success of the PCC graduates is get a copy of the NewsLetter or look up the alumni database and you will see how "worthless" their degree really is.
Bunch of monkies.
I am of the opinion that any institution that teaches that your great granddad is a monkey has some major academic flaws.


2. Steve C wrote:
"Why bother..."
That seems to be your problem.

3. PZ Myers wrote:
"Really. When you come online to brag about your academic virtues, you'd damn well better proofread carefully."
I will leave the proofreading up to you. BTW you do well to proofread the whole blog. I am sure there are many others that could use your help.

4. Steve_C said:
"Oh and I think we are related to monkeys by a very distant ancestor millions of years ago."
Is'nt that special
There you have it folks, that's the kind of education that you will be receiving from the secularists.


5. MJ Memphis will not be quite as simplistic. He resorts to the technacalities of double-talk:
"Nope, we didn't evolve from monkeys. Monkeys (and the apes) and humans did, however, evolve from a common ancestor."
Ha! Thank you for your thoughts.


6. "The transition will have occurred much too long ago to fit on most conventional family trees, unless you have an unusually detailed pedigree."
Yes that's why evolution is nothing more than a theory for those who would have nothing to do with God. It's the best the skeptic can do to explain God away.

7. "Oh, and regarding your daughter's "purity": I'd keep her away from any preacher's sons if I were you. And probably keep her away from preachers too, for that matter."
I think I have a better chance keeping her at church than in your STD infected campus whore houses.


8. PZ Myers: "My campus is populated by bright, enthusiastic, ambitious young men and women who are here to learn. It is not a whore house."
Yeah and they happen to believe that you one can have sex before marriage. How many times does one have to have sex before she is a whore? For that matter, how many times does one have to kill before his a murderer?
But you are right in one respect. I think you all do not get paid for your promiscuity. So I digress.
Bunch of godless, fornicators!


9. "Do you believe that homosapiens evolved from monkeys?
Not directly, no, and nobody who's reasonable makes that claim."
I know, noone in their right mind enjoys the association. So just hide it behind scholastic mumble-jumble and it makes you feel better.
The devastating truth is that you will not go down very far the geological pedigree and you will run into your long lost relative: the monkey.


10. "Something you may want to check out is the National Genographic Project, specifically their Atlas of the Human Journey, which shows the migration and changes in human populations over the last 60,000 years."
60,000 years. Ha!
You are going to prehistoric times. Do you not understand what that means. Anything that goes beyond what has been recorded in history is pure conjecture. It's amazing that you would swallow this hook and line knowing that there is no record of such a migration.
Of course. Evolution is one big knotted-up conjecture.
Congratulations. You have more faith than I do with all my religion.


11. Of course you will try to play the race game. As a matter of fact, my Dad is black. And I have more black friends than probably you do in your elitist social club.
Jews are God's chosen people and we owe them a great thanks. It was Hitler, the evolutinist, that killed the Jews not the Christian.
Muslims... as long as they are not terrorist. They still need Jesus though.
Interracial marriage... Ha. I graduated from PCC not Bob Jones. And I am married to someone from another race.
Catholics, well, I have family who are Catholic and I love them very much.
Nice try. But you ate the bait.

It is the evolutionists who popularize race supremacy with its survival of the fittest, not the Judeo-Christian culture.
If you have any general knowledge of history, most of the modern day dictators were evolutionists.


12. DavidD : I've made a few "eye-babies" myself. So long as you keep your purity.
I rather have that happen than find out that she's been participating in those group orgies during spring break.
You guys can never understand PCC because you do not understand God. I do not know of a student that went their in my five years that completely agreed with all the policies but they were content to be there for reasons you will never understand.

Of course. I forgot technacalities:
"On
The Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection,
or
The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life."


13. "Do you think that's possible? It's true that I didn't learn that at PCC. I didn't send my daughters there, either. I'm sure they're better off that I didn't."
Yes. You can send them to a place that will teach them that the only value they have in life is knowing that they came from monkeys.
That's its OK to have mutiple partners, multiple divorces, and multiple marriages. After all, we are all animals anyway.
So sad.
Justice Jackson noted that 'The Nazi Party always was predominantly anti-Christian in its ideology', and 'carried out a systematic and relentless repression of all Christian sects and churches.'2 He cited a decree of leading Nazi, Martin Bormann: 'More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the pastors.'2 Jackson cited another defendant, the viciously anti-Jewish propagandist and pornographer Julius Streicher, who 'complained that Christian teachings have stood in the way of "racial solution of the Jewish question in Europe."'2


14. "We are evolving, everthing on this planet has evolved. It is a fact."
Name one thing that you have observed evolve?


15. "There is no devil. There is no hell. There is no heaven."
And we all came from monkeys.
That's a hopeless worldview you have.

You mock and deride Christians as if they are ignorant but history testifies against evolution.
Even these last 50 years testify against it with its degeneration in education as a whole.

If you want stupid, simply look at the product evolution has in the educational system.
For that matter, look at any part in society where evolution is strong and you will have a good idea of how degrading evolution is.

The only profit evolution has ever served is to give man an excuse to deny his Creator.



16. "But she has apparently been indoctrinated by enough uniformed people that she will never be remotely educated about a powerful idea in science.
And as her father you should be ashamed as you have not carried the water correctly."
Science. Ha! Theory. Their has not been one evolutionists that has progressed civilization through this theory. In fact you name any major scientist in history and none of them were evolutionists. Even the greatest Scientist of our time: Albert Einstein did not need Evolution to make a break in Science. In fact he gives the glory to his Creator for his breakthroughs.



17. "Oddly enough, the only people who have ever suggested that I came from monkeys were Creationists. People who are knowledgeable about evolution usually make the distinction between monkeys and apes, and the relevant distinction between apes and our proto-simian ancestors."
Yes technacalities. Excuse me. I forgot. Some of you came from monkies and others came from apes. You can pick and choose I guess where you came from.
The devastated truth is that you have more problems with STDS in any secular college that you will ever have at PCC or any other Christian college.

"Of all the reported STD's in CA: 29% are among 15-19 year olds and 74% are among 15-24 year olds. While teens and young adults have the highest rates, STDs are equal opportunity diseases affecting adults of all ages, races, and cultures."

Think about this next time you go to your whore houses during spring break and act like a bunch of horny monkeys.



18. For that matter, my fundamentalist parents weren't in the least apprehensive about me attending that den of iniquity, because they trusted that I could take care of myself and could make my own decisions about right and wrong. So again, do you trust your daughter or don't you?"
And where are you now. Certainly not in church. You've probably left everything that your parent's instilled in you to fornicate with your boyfriend.
Lady, that is nothing to brag about. You left God for worldview that teaches you that you came from monkeys.
But, I guarantee you that your parents are still praying for you. I gurantee you that Jesus still loves you. And after you spend all your living, you will not have the world their to help you.
It's a story that has been played 100 times over and over again.
Apparently, your parents trusted you too much. But the issue is not about trust its about love. I doubt you would allow your 2 year old to play outside by himself. Yes, you love him enough to place restrictions enough to protect him from harm.
But of course, you do not like restrictions do you?



19. "Dang, Caledonian, he even suckered me into using his incorrect acronym! Thanks for catching that."
I told you are a sucker. Just like they suckered you to believeing that you came from a monkey.



20. "To him science is evil. Secular education is evil. Liberals are evil."
Ha! Nice try.
All of out greatest scientists acknowledged their Creator. It's not science that's evil. It's evolution that's evil. Evolution is a theory, nothing else. It can never be a Science because it can never be tested nor observed. I hate to break it to you, but you guys have more faith than I do.
Secular education is evil. Well, if its foundation is evolution than yes. You are learning.
Liberals are evil. Some. Their greatest problem is that they have a fanatical hatred towards God.



21. "Einstein thought nature was God you dolt. He rejected all religions."
I find it quite humorous how the only thing you guys can come up with is calling me stupid, ignorant. And then you have the audacity to say stuff like the above quote.
GH you have been stupified by the God-hating skeptic.
Their is unquestionable proof that Einstein believed in his Creator. This is clearly reflected in an interview which Einstein later in life gave to an American magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, in 1929:
"To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?"
"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."
"Have you read Emil Ludwig's book on Jesus?"
"Emil Ludwig's Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot."
"You accept the historical Jesus?"
"Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life." 7

"On the subject of Einstein and God Friedrich Dürrenmatt once said, "Einstein used to speak of God so often that I almost looked upon him as a disguised theologian."
Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Albert Einstein, Z ürich, 1979, p.12, cited by Max Jammer, op. cit. p. 54: "Einstein pflegte so oft von Gott zu sprechen, dass ich beinahe vermute, er sei ein verkappter Theologe gewesen."

Do you believe in the God of Spinoza?" Einstein replied as follows:
I can't answer with a simple yes or no. I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.

Denis Brian, Einstein, A Life, New York, 1996, p.128

Here let me refer to a very interesting letter, recorded by Helen Dukas, which Einstein wrote to a child who asked him whether scientists prayed.
I have tried to respond to your question as simply as I could. Here is my answer. Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being. However, it must be admitted that our actual knowledge of these laws is only imperfect and fragmentary, so that, actually the belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 33

Dukas and Hoffmann, op. cit. p. 32f. of Princeton Theological Seminary.



22. "I don't hate god. There is no god. It's like hating Santa Claus or unicorns. What's the point?"
Yes you do. If you deny the existence of your son or your father, you do so for no other reason but because you hate him my friend.
And that's the way the cookie crumbles.



23. Carlie: I have friends that attended State Universities as well and are doing quite well. But you know that the environement is pagan. And I am sure that your friends would say the same thing.
And if you are trully a Christian, I find it quite disturbing that you should side with infidels rather than reproving their error.
It goes to show how far away from God you have really gone.



24. Well if you want to ignore Einstein's own testimony than it goes to show you your darkened spiritual state.
And it serves to prove my point that people do not believe in God because they cannot believe in God, they do not believe in God because the do not WANT to believe in GOd.

No one would deny the existence of people they see daily, an invisible being is not even analogous."
Yep but you are sure quick to believe in the apeman, though noone in recorded history has seen one.
You are sure to believe in the big bang even though yu have never seen one.
You even are willing to believe that your granddad is a monkey, though you cannot trace your geneology that far.
You believe that you are evolving though you have never experienced and evolutionary process.
It goes to show you that you do not believe in God because you cannot believe in him. You do not believe in God because you DO NOT want anything to do with him.

3:34 PM  

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