Klinghoffer: Adam and Eve and “Mainstream Science”

The Discovery Institute breaks its silence on the GAE by highlighting @Pnelson’s review of it: Paul Nelson: Which Rules? Whose Game?.

I’m having a hard time parsing some of this summary…

Philosopher of biology Paul Nelson contributed a superb response to computational biologist Joshua Swamidass’s book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve . Writing in a symposium for the journal Sapientia , Dr. Nelson notes that the book’s use of the concept “mainstream science” artificially constrained Swamidass’s possible choices in seeking to preserve a historical first couple. The question is whether we will allow our own views to be similarly constrained.

Read the rest and enjoy the diagrams over at Sapientia . Paul notes that methodological naturalism in particular “tailors reality before reality has a chance to speak for itself.” He concludes by asking:

Swamidass is hailing us from within the circle defined by MN and CA. What can I say over here where I’m standing, he asks us, that you folks — outside the boundaries I have assumed as given — will find acceptable?

Science, of course, isn’t a game. It is, or should be, an unfettered search for the truth. In the search, though, we must be very careful to see what rules we are permitting to constrain us.

It will be interesting to see how they cover (or do not cover) my response to @pnelson tomorrow.

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The DI claims to be a “big tent” group, but here they are apparently taking sides in favor of YEC. Odd.



I’m a little disappointed in his “hocus pocus” kind of talk - - considering he has a Philosophy degree from U of Chicago.

Science, of course, isn’t a game. It is, or should be, an unfettered search for the truth.
Is science "unfettered"? Should it be? Unfettered in its figurative sense means unrestrained or unrestricted.

But the word I see more frequently to science (and a better fit to my mind) is “rigorous”, which means (according to the OED) “rigidly severe or unbending; austere, harsh, stern; extremely strict” – a word seemingly at odds with “unfettered”.

Isn’t science meant to be carefully fettered to eliminate assorted biases and sloppy thinking? Is an “unfettered search for the truth” necessarilly an efficient or effective search for it? Does MN handicap science, or does it streamline it by eliminating blind alleys?



The days of yore, when Alchemy was considered a good career path, are gone. Rigor ended Alchemy and pushed Chemistry into the fore - - changing lives and the world every day.

The irony is that the words Alchemy and Chemistry used to be synonymous. But at some point a consensus for how to separate the one field into TWO fields was finally established.

Not odd. Nelson is a DI Fellow, and they want the YECs inside their tent. What’s odd is that ID and YEC are rather contradictory.



I think the next round of discussions about I.D. should invest more heavily in that truth.

For example, if an I.D. scientist feels strongly that human evolution is impossible without God’s intervention, if we ask what kind of intervention - - all of a sudden there is sound of crickets!

Is the I.D. scientist saying God manipulates the Evolutionary process (which is what Behe says)… or is he saying that God skips right over the Evolutionary process and simply creates a new hominid species de novo?

I have yet to read an I.D. scientist (other than Behe) willing to accept Evolution-even-by-God!

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Both ID and YEC do nothing but attack evolutionary theory.


That’s a good point. At Peaceful Science we value rigor as an end itself. We are not for unfettered science, which often becomes unethical and sloppy. We advance, instead, rigorous science.



But I.D. thrives in a conversational context where they are combating a model of nature that has no God. And, unfortunately, the well intentioned Atheist participants of this group fall for the bait just about every time.

We need to learn to ignore I.D.'s attempt to make the discussion an either/or.

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I was aiming at the evolutionary time versus 6000 years thing, but that works too. :slight_smile:

But I.D. thrives in a conversational context where they are combating a model of nature that has no God.
How does this distinguish Evolutionary Theory from the rest of Science? Isn't Chemistry "a model of nature that has no God"? Isn't Statistics? But I see no Christian chauvinists complaining that we've kicked God out of casinos.

Creationists aren’t complaining about Evolution because its treated differently from other sciences (for all Ken Ham’s huffing and puffing about Operational and Historical sciences), they’re complaining because they want it to be treated differently.

For all Nelson’s complaints about MN’s iniquities, and the DI’s calls for “unfettered” science, the only fields creationists seem to want to unfetter is Evolutionary Biology (for OECs, Evolutionary Biology + Geology for YECs).

And, unfortunately, the well intentioned Atheist participants of this group fall for the bait just about every time.
Speaking for myself, I tend to only 'take the bait', when I see religious participants making claims for their religion (e.g. its morality, veracity, or growth rate) that are unsubstantiated from empirical evidence.

This post was censored by Joshua, because it quoted a meme, prominent in atheist circles, which likens public displays of religion to public genital nudity, that he deemed to be “uncivil.”

I would point out that George’s implied call for atheist self-censorship is arguably equally uncivil, particularly given the prevalence of (frequently unsubstantiated) religious claims on this forum.

I would further point out that there are a well documented number of public religious displays, notably those by the Westboro Baptist Church, Abortion activists, and some of the more extreme street preachers, that would likely be considered by their victims to be more distressing than a little bit of public nudity.

Further addendum: does the meme have a degree of shock value? Yes, but legitimately so. Part of its intention is to point out that public display of religion are frequently, and coerced indoctrination is always, transgressive.



I agree with that statement!

All the more reason to not “take the bait” when they say that such-and-such mutation could only have happened with God’s involvement.

Atheistsm, naturally, jump to refute that principle.

But a more disciplined response - - one that is easily available to Christians (but difficult to find in Atheist participants) - - is to say to the Creationist:

"It is irrelevant to criticize scenarios that do not include God - - because @swamidass
IS a Christian and fully includes God in the mix!

All the more reason to not “take the bait” when they say that such-and-such mutation could only have happened with God’s involvement.
No George.
  1. If by “atheists”, you mean atheists-on-this-forum, then I’d suggest that (i) the Creationists-on-this-forum tend to be sufficiently ardent in their viewpoint that, even if all the atheists disappeared in a puff of smoke, you still wouldn’t get any movement from them. (ii) That the real problem isn’t atheists providing ammunition, but the willingness of creationists to tap dance around, or even blatantly ignore, contrary evidence and logic.

  2. If by “atheists”, you mean atheists in the US, I’d suggest that they see the main issue as Christian Nationalism, not Christian Creationism.

  3. I disagree that the theists on this forum are any more “disciplined” than the atheists – they simply have somewhat different priorities, and so are perhaps more focused on emphasising areas of agreement with their creationist co-religionists.

  4. I also would tend to disagree that, to the degree that he “fully includes God in the mix”, Joshua is doing science. This is particularly true with GAE, which appears to me to be an exercise in apologetics rather than science. The motivation for its hypothesis is blatantly religious, and it is carefully situated such that science can do nothing to confirm nor disconfirm it. Thus, apart from its religious implications, it closely resembles Russell’s Teapot. That said, I am not against it, if it allows some Evangelicals to accept Evolution. I just don’t think that it is of much interest to those who aren’t both Biblically Inerrantist and strongly motivated to keep their views consilient with mainstream science – an intersection that would only be a small subset of either group. I am not, and never was, one of the former, so I am not its target audience.


I don’t think evolutionary “science” knows what rigor is. Many qualified individuals agree. Guillermo Gonzalez knows rigor, so does @PdotdQ who has made a statement to that effect on this very forum. I like the way it is phrased below.

“Dubious procedures like these would be unthinkable in other natural sciences, such as physics. They call into question whether evolutionary biology really qualifies as a hard science at all. Arguably it is not a testable theory, or even a well-defined one, but merely a loose collection of narratives that are forged to fit the evidence — any evidence whatsoever.”

Add to that the fact that Nelson himself is a YEC, as I suspect are a number of other prominent DI members, and the fact that the DI is careful to avoid highlighting any contradictions becomes even more explicable.

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Dubious procedures like what? It appears that the dubious part is adjusting hypotheses to fit new data. For shame that a scientist should ever do such a thing!

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Why are you surprised when hypotheses sometimes get modified with the discovery of new evidence? All of science works that way, not just evolutionary biology or paleontology.

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@r_speir, I have indeed made statements about the lack of rigor in philosophical discussions in this forum, but I did not level such a charge on evolutionary science.


Indeed. The Evolution News article was little more than an incoherent rant. It was nothing but another predictable sermon preached to the evolution-denying choir.

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