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

Of course, it is just possible that they simply are dishonest, really do have hidden political and religious motives, and really are stupid and/or ignorant. Could be, right? Have you absolutely ruled that out with complete certainty? If so, how did you do that?


Could be. Or it could be that the most significantly brutal factor would be the close analysis of their claims.


And, of course, it could be that close analysis of their claims reveals dishonesty, political and religious motives, and/or stupidity or ignorance. The notion of OECs who do NOT have political or religious motivations is pretty hard to imagine, so some of that is going to come up.


That’s even sillier, because there was never an animal that could objectively be described as the first rat.

Why do you keep offering up these creationist straw men if you object to being labeled a creationist?

How was your claim that there was a first rat made in good faith?

Did it ever occur to you that no one here views YOU as the object of persuasion?

He just can’t help going back to those creationist hits. Let’s not forget that Eddie claims to be extremely well-read in evolutionary theory, so when he does this, it has to involve lack of understanding, dishonesty, or both.

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In fairness, I don’t know that he has ever claimed that, exactly. He will often excuse his reluctance to discuss the scientific specifics of evolution by saying he is more interested in the philosophical aspects of the theory.

I am not suggesting that he is actually fooling anyone with this, of course.

I do. To you!

To Taq!

So, the same person who brags like this resorts to the creationist trope of “the first rat.”

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I have used that argument, in some contexts. “Sir, do you realize how fast you were going when I clocked you?” “I really wouldn’t know. I am more interested in the philosophical aspects than in anything which can be reduced to mere measurement.”


You forgot to include the adjective “technical” in there, with a hefty helping of contempt.


What was your motive for introducing the ridiculous concept of a “first rat”?

Great. Maybe you can explain why you think there was a “first rat.” Wouldn’t that necessarily be a biological kind?

Notice, however, he refers only to “evolutionary thought”. Which I am not convinced is the same thing as evolutionary science.

Of course, that he considers the likes of Shapiro and Turner the equivalent of Gould goes some way to explain why he is so perpetually and universally confused about all aspects of evolution, whether it be in terms of “thought” or science.


Other times it’s “evolutionary theory,” as though it exists locked away in a separate, lofty tower, far away from any of those dirty “technical” lowlifes who might be testing its predictions.


That is actually not what I argued. I didn’t push back on ‘any attempt’, I said that analogs like pyramids, machines on Mars etc. etc. are quite irrelevant to the question if living creatures are designed. Which they still are, for the reasons given. The argument that we don’t know how life originated is a totally different argument that requires neither pyramids nor machine on Mars as analogs, and I get frustrated when IDers just mix such ideas together as if they are all the same, which they are not.

Nobody needs arguments like those. They don’t advance our knowledge in any way. If we find a pyramid on Mars we would conclude design just like when we find a pyramid on Earth - because it needs assembly by an external agent (I will charitably ignore your bizarre suggestion that physics on Mars might be conducive to spontaneous generation of pyramids). If we find a Martian we would be in exactly the same place we are now, aguing about evolution but this time on Mars instead of on Earth. The discussion hasn’t advanced one iota, hence these arguments are useless.

A big problem is that these are all arguments from ‘evolution can’t have done it’ - they are arguments against evolution instead of arguments for design. It would be like me saying that design couldn’t have done it, which I don’t say of course, and which you would rightly push back against if I did. I find it strange, actually, that you use ‘evolution can’t have done it’ arguments because in the past I have read you saying that you are not against evolution per se. So why you present such arguments, and why don’t you side with those of us who push back against them?

Look, I have nothing against people who accept evolution whilst believing that God is behind it all. That is not an objectionable belief. In truth we just don’t know why specific mutations happen exactly where and when they do, and I bet we never will. One man’s cosmic particle is another man’s Act of God, after all.

If you had simply stated that we don’t know how life first came into being, I would have agreed. If you say we can’t exclude design in that first life I would have raised an eyebrow, because I don’t share the metaphysical implication that there was a non-living intelligence capable enought to engineer life, but I would not fundamentally object on scientific grounds because we still don’t know enough about the subject to present an acceptable materialistic model. If you say that the complexities and intricacies of living beings lead you to the belief that God has had a hand in it, I would not have pushed back because your personal beliefs are your own and none of my business.

The best thing you have recently said (on another, now closed thread) is that “design inferences make use of data and understanding built up by science, but are more like philosophical than scientific conclusions.”
I can agree with that statement, and I think the conversations would remain more friendly if you emphasised this more, and stayed away from the stale ‘it is so complex that evolution can’t have done it’ line of ‘reasoning’ which will never get us anywhere.


The bigger issue for me is the idea that the “first rat” “needed assembly”. That suggests full on species-level creationism - which even YECs seem to have largely abandoned.

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@Eddie does not have a coherent philosophical or scientific position beyond the principle of “Own the Atheist Libtards.” Keep that in mind, and his comments will be much easier to understand.

Note that you tie “the conversations remaining more friendly” to my not saying things you consider bad or irrelevant arguments. It says something about you that you would adopt a different personal attitude to a conversation partner depending on far they agree with your overall judgments on what is reasonable, what is relevant, etc. And neither you nor anyone else is getting the point when people like Marty and myself comment on this attitude among the atheists here. It’s not the atheism that’s the problem for me – I’ve said many times that many of my oldest and best friends are atheists and agnostics, far more than are Christian – it’s the attitude.

Which is an argument I’ve never made. I have suggested that certain things are extremely unlikely to have been done entirely by unguided or unplanned mechanisms, but that is not “evolution,” since evolution (as I use the term) might be either guided or planned. Again and again I have said, the old debate between “evolution” and “creation” (which is the way things were framed by creationists, “creation science,” etc.) should be replaced by the debate between design and chance (which is the way it is framed by ID proponents such as Denton, Behe, Flannery and others).

As someone with fairly recent British ancestry, and someone who has spent a lot of time reading British scholars and philosophers of the past century, I can’t help but notice, based on self-declarations and spellings, that several people here – at least Roy, yourself, and Paul King – appear to be Brits. Traditionally I have thought of the British as better-mannered and less aggressive than Americans, but I have not noticed that distinction here; those posting from Britain seem just as verbally aggressive as those from America. This is all the more odd in that the British don’t have (or at least, not in the same degree) the “schools problem” that has so many Americans angry about creationists. The rage against Dover, various state science initiatives, etc. seems puzzling, coming from those who are insulated against these things by 3,000 miles of ocean. I might say the same about those here posting from Canada, another country that has traditionally been associated with non-assertive, gentle personal manners (especially the old Toronto of my childhood, and its tweedy Oxfordish university!), and another country where what happens in American schools has no effect on the high school science curriculum. Why an American culture war should produce such reactions in non-Americans is puzzling. I expect the answer lies in the personalities of the individuals involved.

I used to read The Telegraph whenever I was in Britain; I stopped when it became evident that its editors admire the American culture war and would very, very much like to have the same there. Our cultures may not be so different in this regard as you think.

I acknowledge the truth of your observations. The last time I was in Britain I noticed that the gap had closed considerably even between British and American academics. The British manners I learned from, say, my grandparents who emigrated to this continent early in the 20th century, seem to be dying out even in Britain. In Faizal’s own country, they for a long time survived across the land, and still in certain pockets, at least up until recently. His own university, with its tweedy Oxford roots, was until about 30 years ago still a place where one could find a lot of the old “British” conception of civilized intellectual debate. But all of this is slowly dying across Britain and all her former dominions, as a more primitive and ruthless notion of intellectual debate spreads around the English-speaking world. That Faizal at the University of Toronto, formerly one of the cultural centers of the old British set of values on this continent, has warmly embraced this primitive and ruthless conception of debate, is an indicator that the older British style is going the way of the dodo. And the world will be poorer for it.

I don’t know. I’m actually a fan of the brutality of the older British style. Watching Thomas Huxley take a machete to Henry Wace back in 1889 is the kind of blood-sport spectacle that never gets old. It is coated in the very thinnest veneer of Victorian-gentleman politeness, which if anything only puts a delightful sheen upon the hostility and contempt which underly the whole thing.

Americans, viewing the British, have a habit of mistaking politeness for kindness.

By the way, I am headed over there in a month or so, to visit a paleontologist and a musician or two. I may have to pick up a Telegraph and find out how nutty it’s gotten since my last read.

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Eddie: “You shouldn’t call ID ‘creationism’ because that’s not how the term was used before ID existed!”

Also Eddie: “Everyone should use my own special, personal made up definition of ‘evolution’ which would include if God used his magical powers to instantly turn a monkey into Adam, because that’s what I want the word to mean!”


Oh, yes, sometimes British scholars could be extremely combative. But usually the combativeness (Huxley may be an exception) contained a play-element, whereas American intellectual combativeness has tended to get personal. In old Oxford they could tell the other person (politely) that his position was completely wrong, and intellectually indefensible, and then go out and play cricket together and genuinely enjoy each other’s company personally, as if the intellectual debate had not happened. Can you imagine most of the atheists here doing that with any of the Christian ID folks here? I think there is a grand total of one atheist here who has ever had that sort of personal friendly relationship with any ID proponent. A friend of mine who did graduate work at an Ivy League school left it because he could not stand the atmosphere of bitter personal rivalry in the graduate seminars. He went to a university in a former Commonwealth country to do his PhD, and found grad students there were actually kind to each other. Of course, that was a few years back. The habit of treating intellectual opponents with personal aggression seems to be spreading everywhere now, as the university around the world becomes more and more politicized.