Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars

Denton might be the exception that proves the rule. I’m not sure what motivates Denton. I would probably not describe Denton as a creationist.

If nothing else, he is deceiving himself. And he is clearly a creationist.

He surely is deceiving himself. He surely knows enough mathematics to know that his arguments are unconvincing to mathematicians. His reasoning is full of what mathematicians would describe as “hand waving”.

(I know that was not addressed to me, although I am a fiscal conservative but a social liberal). The problem here is that third parties don’t work well with our election system. I would like to see and end to the primary system and the adoption of some kind of preferential voting.

Seen from my perspective, the polarization is primarily due to the moral bankruptcy of conservatism.


Are the two things mutually exclusive? Could there not be both a new political party and an end of the current primary system? Would there not be support for both measures among a large number of voters? The details of how the two might be achieved together would need working out, but is there anything logically or constitutionally impossible about it?

I assume that you mean a preferential ballot used by each party in order to determine its candidate for the Presidency. Is that what you mean? I think it’s a good idea, but is it not compatible with the existence of more than two parties? Many other countries have several parties, and some of those parties in some of those countries now employ a preferential ballot to elect their party leaders.

I don’t agree with this one-sided allocation of blame (it takes two to tango), but even if it were the case, the presence of a third party, between the Republicans and the Democrats, would force the Republicans to change, for fear of losing votes to the new centrist party. They would have to become less “morally bankrupt,” or they would lose so many votes that they could not possibly win an election.

If we could replace primaries with a preferential voting system, then it would be easier for new political parties to get started.

A preferential ballot for all elections. Then primaries are not needed. Multiple candidates from one party can all be on the ballot, and the preferential system will sort them out. So no, not a party thing but a general electorate thing.

That’s not at all clear. Many voters will go with the traditional parties for fear of wasting their vote. With preferential voting, it becomes easier. You can vote for the new party, and make the traditional party your second preference. If the new party does not gain enough votes, your second preference is counted instead and you have not wasted your vote.

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Do you mean ranked-choice?

Can you make a specific argument on why you think @Paul_Nelson1 is deceiving himself? What are the deceptive claims he is making?

Do you have data to support the claim that Demski’s claims are generally rejected by mathematicians? What is the basis for this rejection. I have not seen any empirically based rejection of the no free lunch theorm and on the contrary it was supported by Dawkins weasel program that required information to be part of a successful program to find a sequence.

Yes, you have. It’s been brought up here:

And it includes Wells as a bonus.

And you attempted to defend all three with deceptions of your own.

You have admitted that your first claim was false, but you have left your second and third false claims unaddressed.

That would be better than what we currently have.

No election system is perfect. I’ll go with anything that is better than what we are currently doing.

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I have no objection to the order of events that you propose. What would be the current constitutional or structural barriers to scrapping the primary system? How would you go about abolishing it?

If the new third party is “in the middle” this is less of a concern. If the new third party were on the far right or far left, it would be a serious concern.

I agree with your suggestion, but the way you word it, I wonder if you are trying to avoid a Congress where there are three parties, all well represented in both Houses. I think that such a result would be a great improvement over what exists now.

He’s a YEC. You cannot be a YEC without deceiving yourself.

It would probably be more accurate to say that Dembski is generally ignored by mathematicians.

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Pauls arguments have nothing to do with young earth creationism as far as I can tell. Do you have evidence of him arguing for a young earth?

Dembski’s arguments are an off shoot of the Wistar conference where mathematicians started questing the viability of Neo Darwinism given the sequence problem.

Nor is that my first instinct. In the case of most of the medical quackery, it’s very much parallel to ID: long-ago debunked material. But the motives are different: where defrauding the gullible is only one of the purposes of ID, it’s frequently the only purpose of quackery.

As for Denton and Dembski, it is true that I have not read their principal works. Dembski was, of course, an author of the extremely dishonest book The Design of Life, of which I have spoken. Denton’s essays which I have seen have been astonishingly bad, and while that’s piqued my curiosity I have not bothered to read his books. But I would point out that Denton’s praise for Meyer does not speak well for Denton’s honesty, as it is hard for me to believe that he doesn’t see how dishonest Meyer is; perhaps there is some explanation but it looks bad. I think that if one of these fellows were the real deal, the “true believer” who merely has a grab-bag of bad ideas rather than a deceptive agenda, he would never associate himself with the DI or the various personalities connected with the DI. I doubt that such a person, if he exists, would even wish to refer to his ideas as “Intelligent Design” given the history of that term and the horrible associations it suggests. If I thought I had discovered empirical evidence of design in nature, I’d do anything and everything to disclaim any connection, intellectually, financially, or socially, from those people.

But, much as it may seem as though I have limitless time to spend on these books, I don’t. I’m still running a business and I actually spend more time reading books about actual biology, just because I’m interested in that, than I do reading ID books. I picked up Jeanson’s Replacing Darwin a while back and found it so uninterestingly poor that I just stopped reading. I have had analogous experiences in connection with religion: back when I was still curious about the possibility that actual evidence for Christian belief existed somewhere, I used to read on that topic, and when I would express my disappointment at the uselessness of the literature I’d read, there was always someone with another book: THIS book, it would always be said, was the one that said what the others didn’t, that held the key to the whole shebang, that would unlock the doors that other books did not. And I would read that book, and find more of the same. And so while I will probably get around to reading Denton one of these days, I have very little reason to think that it will be very different.

But you will note, if you do note such things, that I do not accuse anyone of dishonesty without having read his works. I do not believe I have ever accused Denton of dishonesty, though I have found his essays bizarre. My citation of Dembski’s lie about the mammalian jaw in The Design of Life was laid out in full in other threads here, and there is nobody who will defend Dembski on that. And it should not be assumed that that’s the only lie I found there: it’s a long time since I’ve read the book, but I chose to cite that one in particular because a non-specific accusation of lying will not carry much weight, and because it was crystal-clear.

I regard myself as a conservative liberal: concerned with limiting the power of the state to do harm, but also acutely aware that it is sometimes the institutions of the state themselves which promote liberty; concerned with protecting free markets and civil liberties, mostly of the “negative liberty” variety, especially where those protections are against oppressive institutions. If a third party would work as a solution to our problems, I would be for it. I suspect it wouldn’t work. I think the culture-war wave has gone too high for too long, and that an attempt to assemble a coalition of conservatives would have to draw more from the Democrats than from the Republicans, with the result of throwing elections to the Trump-humpers. As matters stand, I am expecting to be a hostage of the Democrats for the rest of my life: voting for people with whom I have limited agreement, mostly because my agreement with the other people has been reduced to nearly nothing. America today has no “conservative” party in any meaningful sense. Since I live in Seattle, frankly, I have little choice in practice – my congresswoman will probably win 85% of the vote in November.

Part of the difficulty in forming a party of “moderates” (or, as I would like to see, “conservatives” in a principled sense of the term) is that it’s very easy to get people to say they don’t like either party, but it’s often the case that when you ask those people what they agree with each other about, they find they have little in common with one another. Unfortunately, one thing about dissenters – among whom I include myself – is that they can be quite cantankerous.


This. Also, they tend to be acknowledged for reviewing each others’ books, which makes them complicit in any deceptions.

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I agree with all or most of this.

I guess it depends on what sort of voting system you are imagining, but in the one I’m imagining, this would not happen. Let’s say 40% of the seats in Congress went to Democrats, 40% to Republicans, and 20% to the “New Centrist” party. Or even 45% to each of the old parties, and only 10% to the new one. That would give neither Republicans nor Democrats a lock on power, and that to me would be a good thing. And I think that if a preferential system were adopted, as Neil Rickert suggests, the “New Centrist” Party would score much higher.

I understand your analysis, and even sympathize with your general problem. Remember, though, that this can work both ways. Back in the Reagan years, many traditional Democratic voters, aligned with the Democrats on issues of wages, jobs, medical care, etc. switched to Republican, because of their perception (right or wrong) that the Republicans opposed easy access to abortion and would fight to reverse it. I’m sure many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, had to hold their nose to vote Republican, but did so because they thought the sanctity of the life of the unborn was a moral issue that trumped (no pun intended) all other concerns. I’m not asking you to agree with those people on abortion, but only to recognize that being held hostage, and feeling forced to vote for the least of two evils, rather than something one really believes in, happens on both sides. That’s another reason why a third party would be welcome, so that this would happen less often.

Yes, I like your terminology. I wonder if you would agree with some of the writings of Roger Scruton, who has defended “conservative” political thought, but by that does not mean Donald Trump and his ilk.

I recognize that phenomenon, but I still think that a large number of such people would, at least for one election, give a new, moderate party a tryout. If the new party fizzled, well, that would be the end of it, but it’s better to try and fail than never to try at all.

I think it might work with some sort of ranked-choice voting system. Without that, you wind up with the problem that two parties splitting the “reasonable people” vote may mean that the unreasonable people win.

We did have almost a three-party system just prior to the “southern strategy” on the part of the Republican party: the southern and northern Democrats were together on some issues, but the southern Democrats worked with the Republicans on some issues while the northern Democrats did on others; a coalition of northern Democrats and Republicans was how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came about.

Yes, it does happen – heck, democracy invariably puts everyone at least somewhat in the position of having to choose between, as a columnist put it in the Philadelphia Inquirer once, “the evil of two lessers.”

I’m not familiar with him, so can’t say.


Isn’t it odd how @Eddie starts a topic about science, and then for almost 500 comments does his best to avoid any discussion of science whatsoever?


My take would be that @Eddie started a culture war thread and has been consistently arguing culture war positions throughout the thread.


The topic was not about the contents of any science, but about the funding of science and the institutional arrangements pertaining to that. Try reading the title at the top of the page!

What I “avoided” was your attempt to divert the discussion to arguments for and against intelligent design in nature, which was not the topic. But of course, topic diversion is a standard technique of yours, and of several other people here. Among the leading topics diverted to, no matter what the ostensible topic of discussion, are “peptidyl transferase” and “the Wedge Document,” though “why ID is bad science, or non-science” is also high on the list. I quite rightly ignored your diversion.

In that case, I highly recommend How to Be a Conservative, which I recently read. I think, based on your comments, you would agree with at least half of what he says, and be stimulated by the remainder. And if my expectation is correct, you might, sensing the agreement between us on many things, finally realize that I’m being “up front” when I say I’m interested in arguments for design but not in extreme right-wing politics. I realize that for most people here it is considered impossible that such a combination could exist, but, given your difference from most people here, for you it should be possible. If you get around to reading the book (or anything else by Scruton – I’ve heard most of his books are good), let me know.

In the meantime, I’ve started a new topic dedicated to Neil’s proposal.


I am also interested in – well, not “arguments” for design, but evidence for design. And I think it is when one changes the focus from arguments to evidence that it becomes clear that the output of ID proponents isn’t helpful in any way on that point. But evidence of design? If it’s there, I would love to see it – sincerely – because it would help to answer many questions. Of course, unlike the cdesign proponentsists, I would never claim that the “designer,” whatever force or entity that might be, was beyond the scope of investigation – it is obvious that upon discovery of design, the identity and nature of its designer would be the first and most important of all tasks.


I agree that “upon discovery of design” the identity and nature of the designer would be a logical and vital follow-up question, but given that the opponents of ID don’t admit that there is any design, there is no point in going into that deeper (philosophical and theological as much as scientific) investigation. It would be akin to arguing about who the murderer of a dead man was, when everyone else in the room thinks there was no murderer because the man died of natural causes.

In any case, it’s clear from responses here that no amount of evidence would ever sway anyone. One biologist here admitted that he thought it wouldn’t strengthen the argument for design one bit whether Denton came up with a hundred “anthropocentric coincidences”, or with ten billion of them, because any number of such coincidences, no matter how large, can either be explained away by an undesigned infinite multiverse, or negated by the consideration that since we don’t know how many logically possible universes there are, we can’t say how improbable it is that one universe would contain so many billion coincidences (i.e., we have no denominator to go with our numerator), and so the astounding fitness of the universe for human life proves nothing, and not only proves nothing but doesn’t even count for evidence for anything. So why bother presenting evidence? If “Cartesian certainty” is demanded before any case for design can be accepted, then no case for design could ever be judged sufficient. Even in murder trials the standard is only “beyond a reasonable doubt” not ironclad, epistemologically guaranteed certainty.

For my money, Nature’s Destiny and the multi-volume series on fine-tuning by Denton constitute, though not a “proof” of design, a very strong case for it, one that stands completely independent of any religious commitments or premises, and any reasonable person who did not have prior prejudice would admit that he has provided some evidence (not proof, just evidence) for design in nature. But I will never get that admission from any atheist/materialist here or anywhere else. So why go through the motions of pretending we are having an open-minded discussion, when no imaginable amount of evidence could ever convince one side? Given this situation, the repeated complaint that design is an invalid inference because ID proponents refuse to talk about the nature of the designer is a transparent dodge.