Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

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Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

Post by kennyc » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:59 am

Reviewed by The New Yorker:
JULY 2, 2013
DOUBTING “DARWIN’S DOUBT”
POSTED BY GARETH COOK

In the eighteen-eighties, workers carving a path for Canada’s first transcontinental railway began to notice odd creatures in the rocks. A geologist working for the railway, which would run through the Kicking Horse Valley, in British Columbia, examined the rocks and was astounded. The shale of the nearby Mt. Stephen was overrun with the fossilized remains of extinct marine animals, particularly trilobites, which look like a cross between horseshoe crabs and centipedes. Word of the Mt. Stephen trilobite beds spread, and Charles Doolittle Walcott, a prominent fossil expert and the onetime director of the U.S. Geological Survey, came to investigate. In 1909, exploring north of the mountain, he found shale filled with a variety of fossils that had never been seen before.

Walcott’s discovery, called the Burgess Shale, became one of paleontology’s most important sites. The rock preserved animals in remarkable detail, in some cases including soft tissue. It contained an exceptional number of species from the Cambrian period, which began roughly five hundred and forty million years ago. The layers of Burgess Shale also added to a mystery known as the Cambrian explosion. Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests that life evolves gradually—a finch’s beak morphs over time; a wholly new bird does not suddenly appear. Yet that Cambrian layer of rock seemed to explode with new kinds of life. Darwin himself puzzled over what this might mean. If life evolved gradually, he asked in “The Origin of Species,” what would account for an explosion of it?

This question is the starting point for a new book that aims to rekindle the “intelligent design” movement. “Darwin’s Doubt,” by Stephen Meyer, which will début at No. 7 on the New York Times best-seller list this weekend, argues that scientists have found no way to account for the Cambrian explosion. Life-forms appeared with no obvious precursors, it says, too quickly for a random process of mutation and survival of the fittest to explain it. The only alternative explanation, Meyer writes, is the involvement of an intelligent designer (read: God) who rushed along the story of life on Earth.

We’ve been here before. The intelligent-design movement was born more than two decades ago, in the wreckage of creation science, and the idea is closely associated with the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank where Meyer works. The scientific arguments have changed over the years, but intelligent design is probably best understood as the central element of a cunning legal argument. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that creation science could not be taught in public schools because it was a poorly disguised version of the Bible, so the engineers of intelligent design improved the disguise: a theory that made room for the Bible without any explicit mention of the book. Advocates were thus able to argue that intelligent design should be taught in public-school biology classes. Their agenda was dealt a serious setback in 2005, when a federal judge declared that intelligent design was religion, not science, and barred it from schools.

Scientific readers will likely find that “Darwin’s Doubt” has an inspired-by-true-events feel: a few elements are recognizable, but the story makes no sense to anyone who was there. The problem for Meyer is that what has come to be called the Cambrian explosion was not, in fact, an explosion. It took place over tens of millions of years—far more time than, for example, it took humans and chimpanzees to go their separate ways
....
Meyer goes on to build a grander, more bizarre argument that draws from the intelligent-design well. The genetic machinery of life, he writes, is incapable of grand leaps forward, meaning that any dramatic biological innovation must be the work of the intelligent designer. Yet scientific literature contains many well-documented counterexamples to Meyer’s argument, and the mechanisms by which life’s machinery can change quickly are well known. Whole genes can be duplicated, for example, and the copy can evolve new functions.

Most absurd of all is the book’s stance on knowledge: if something cannot be fully explained by today’s science—and there is plenty about the Cambrian, and the universe, that cannot—then we should assume it is fundamentally beyond explanation, and therefore the work of a supreme deity

But do not underestimate “Darwin’s Doubt”: it is a masterwork of pseudoscience. Meyer is a reasonably fluid writer who weaves anecdote and patient explanation. He skillfully deploys the trappings of science—the journals, the conferences, the Latinate terminology. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science.
.....
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/e ... doubt.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

also: http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/07/idiot-irony.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:30 pm

Calling modern evolutionary theory "Darwinism" is like calling modern aeronautical engineering "Wrightism".
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Re: Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

Post by Gord » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:38 am

kennyc wrote:
In the eighteen-eighties, workers carving a path for Canada’s first transcontinental railway began to notice odd creatures in the rocks. A geologist working for the railway, which would run through the Kicking Horse Valley, in British Columbia, examined the rocks and was astounded. The shale of the nearby Mt. Stephen was overrun with the fossilized remains of extinct marine animals, particularly trilobites, which look like a cross between horseshoe crabs and centipedes. Word of the Mt. Stephen trilobite beds spread, and Charles Doolittle Walcott, a prominent fossil expert and the onetime director of the U.S. Geological Survey, came to investigate. In 1909, exploring north of the mountain, he found shale filled with a variety of fossils that had never been seen before.
Bah! Those are all clearly made-up names. They're inventive enough for "kicking horse valley" but then the best they can come up with is "mount Steve"? Pffff. Lazy maker-uppers.

It was the "doolittle" that really gave it away though....
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Re: Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

Post by Martin Brock » Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:02 pm

... intelligent design is probably best understood as the central element of a cunning legal argument.
Intelligent Design is best understood as an update of the Teleological Argument, or Argument from Design, associated with William Paley's Watchmaker Argument in the nineteenth century but with a much longer history, going back to the ancient Greeks, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The cunning legal argument is best understood as a conspiracy theory among people who believe that everything is political.

As always, I am less interested in what teleology tells us about traditional theology or God (other than the pantheistic notion) than in what it tells us about Intelligence. I understand intelligence itself in completely naturalistic and ultimately materialistic terms. Intelligence in the (essentially Darwinian) process by which living forms develop is no more fundamentally miraculous than intelligence in the flow of signals through a person's neural network. Intelligence in the development of living forms requires a Holy Ghost in the Machine only if one believes that human intelligence requires a dualistic ghost in the machine, and I don't believe so.

The differences between intelligence in a human head and intelligence in the biosphere involve information processing architecture and time scale, not miraculous intervention. Evolution by Natural Selection is itself a model of computation amenable to the same analytical techniques that computer scientists apply to other models of computation, like the Turing Machine, particularly the Non-deterministic Turing Machine.

The Watchmaker Argument and Behe's Mousetrap Argument and other variations on the theme are compelling for many people, because living forms are remarkably complex, and their complexity does in fact resemble the complexity and utility of artifacts that humans call "designed" and associate with "intelligence". The question is: why? Answers lie in our rapidly developing understanding of "intelligence" and "design", in contexts like "artificial intelligence", and we shouldn't simply rule out the association biological complexity and intelligence because we don't like the religious sensibilities of someone like Behe.

Rather than banning discussion of Behe's ideas in schools, we should be countering them without simply refusing ideologically to attribute complex living forms to "intelligence". Young people today are much more open to the idea of a naturalistic, even mechanical, intelligence, because they see machines doing apparently "intelligent" things routinely, and this trend can only continue.
Last edited by Martin Brock on Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Doubting Darwin's Doubt from the Creationist Institute.

Post by Austin Harper » Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:59 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Calling modern evolutionary theory "Darwinism" is like calling modern aeronautical engineering "Wrightism".
I am a proud Wrightist but I would rather be a von Braunist
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