Evolution, not ID
(Top Posts - Science - 122305)

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By Paul Rincon,
BBC News science reporter

Science magazine, 23 December 2005
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Research into how evolution works has
been named top science achievement
of 2005, a year that also saw fierce
debate erupt over "intelligent design".

The prestigious US journal Science pub-
lishes its top 10 list of major endeavours
at the end of each year.

The number one spot was awarded jointly
to several studies that illuminated the intri-
cate workings of evolution.

The announcement comes in the same
week that a US court banned the teaching
of intelligent design in classrooms.


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Posted on Thu, Dec. 22, 2005

Judge maps out defense of Darwin

'Intelligent design' ruling offers key
ammunition in fight to keep religion
from [science] classroom

Washington Post
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Complete article [my comments added
in bracketed inserts, not part of original

The opinion written by Judge John
Jones in the Dover, Pa., evolution trial
is a 2-in-1 document that offers both
philosophical and practical arguments
against "intelligent design" likely to be
useful to far more than a school board
in a small Pennsylvania town.

Jones gives a clear definition of science
and recounts how this vaunted mode of
inquiry has evolved over the centuries.

He describes how scientists go about
the task of supporting or challenging
ideas about the world of the senses —
all that can be observed and measured.

And he reaches the unwavering conclu-
sion that intelligent design is a religious
idea, not a scientific one.

His opinion is a passionate paean to
science. But it is also a strategic defense
of Darwinian theory.

When evolution's defenders find them-
selves tongue-tied and seemingly bested
by neocreationists — when they believe
they have the facts on their side but do
not know where to find them — this 139-
page document may be where they turn.

"That will be extremely useful not only
in future cases but to the scientific com-
munity, to science teachers and others
who are struggling against this tremen-
dous pressure to bring religion into the
classroom," said Alan Leshner, chief
executive of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, the
largest general science organization in
the country.

Halfway through his opinion, Jones asks
"whether ID (intelligent design) is science."

It is a question at the core of the case
— and he does not shy from it.

"While answering this … compels us to
revisit evidence that is entirely complex,
if not obtuse," he writes, "after a six-week
trial that spanned 21 days … no other
tribunal in the United States is in a better
position than are we to traipse into this
controversial area."

He makes plain his hope that many months
of intellectual heavy lifting "may prevent
the obvious waste of judicial and other re-
sources which would be occasioned by a
subsequent trial involving the precise ques-
tion which is before us."

The ruling gives two arguments for why
intelligent design is not science but is, in
the judge's words, "an old religious argu-
ment for the existence of God."

The first is that intelligent design invokes
"a supernatural designer," while science,
by definition, deals only with natural phe-

Second, the court found that intelligent
design suffers from blatant flaws in logic,
one of the chief tools of science.

Since the scientific revolution of the 16th
and 17th centuries, "science has been
limited to the search for natural causes to
explain natural phenomena," Jones writes,
noting that the scientific revolution was
about the rejection of "revelation" in favor
of empirical evidence.

Since then, he writes, "science has been
a discipline in which testability, rather than
any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical
coherence, has been the measure of a sci-
entific idea's worth."

As part of that fact-based approach, Jones
emphasizes, science goes out of its way to
avoid a search for "meaning" or "purpose."

By contrast, intelligent design's views on
how the world got to be the way it is offer
no testable facts, choosing instead to rely
on authoritative statements.

Adherents posit, for example, that animals
were abruptly created (many in the same
form in which they exist today) by a super-
natural designer.

- - -
[insert -- Actually, that is but one of the views
on the religious side of the argument, with
religious opinions varying widely on exactly
how and when and why the supposed su-
preme be-all end-all of all (the entity referred
to as God or Allah or Jehovah or other) inter-
acts with the naturalistic universe self-evident
to science -- end insert]
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The court found that intelligent-design docu-
ments are quite open about the movement's
goal of changing "the ground rules" of sci-
ence to accommodate much more than
natural phenomena — a broadening so great,
one witness for intelligent design testified,
that science would embrace even astrology.

The judge also cites several ways in which
he says proponents of intelligent design
failed to think logically, each example offer-
ing a take-home lesson that could prove
useful to people trying to rebut challenges
to evolutionary theory.

First, Jones writes, people would be well
advised to remember that an argument
against one thing cannot necessarily be
interpreted as an argument for something

For example, the fact that the fossil record
is incomplete

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[insert -- Uh, well, since almost all matter
decays to a non-fossilized form, it's worthy
of note that it's the rare *exception*, rather
than the rule, when a set of naturalistic
events leads to fossils surviving -- in other
words, fossil finds are but a glimpse into
a tiny fraction of life that has existed in the
billions of years since life first appeared
on the planet --

Furthermore, multiple mass extinction events,
occurring more frequently at first, the latest
well-known one being the impact event 65
million years ago, the earliest most devas-
tating one being the impact of a small planet
upon the earth shortly after its formation,
an impact which eventually led to the forma-
tion of the earth's moon, a moon which orig-
inally was so close to earth, it filled the night
sky, are part of the scientific exploration.

In addition, continent formations and drift,
the presence of exotic life forms near vol-
canic ocean ridges and in the deep dark-
ness of the world's oceans and far below
the earth's land surface, the presence of
life chemistry in the far reaches of the par-
ticular solar system we reside in -and- in
distant solar systems, massive freezes
causing the entire earth to be locked in ice,
and much much more ...

... makes the scientific exploration in the
past few decades far more dynamic than
that which is implied by IDers who surmise
now, as IDers have been doing for centur-
ies, that God is the answer to all mysteries
-- end insert]
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is not evidence that human beings must
have been created in their current form.

The world, in other words, is not a zero-
sum, dichotomous one in which a vote
against one candidate equals a vote for

"Just because scientists cannot explain
today how biological systems evolved

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[insert -- Uh, well, scientists can, in detail,
explain how biological systems may have
evolved, but convincing evidence regard-
ing the precise naturalistic modality re-
mains one of the most captivating and
exciting exploratory endeavors at the cut-
ting edge of scientific research -- end
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does not mean that they cannot, and will
not, be able to explain them tomorrow,"
the judge says.

Another logical failing cited by the court
concerns one of intelligent design's cen-
tral arguments: "irreducible complexity."

That argument states that some biological
systems — such as the bacterial flagellum,
a whiplike appendage that offers some
microbes a means of propelling them-
selves — are made of components that,
individually, do not have any purpose.

Because there would be no evolutionary
advantage for those individual parts, they
must have arisen all at once — and ex-
pressly for the purpose of serving in that
complex organ.

But Jones notes that just because a
complex organ cannot work today with
one component removed, that does
not mean the component did not evolve
independently to serve a different pur-
pose and later took on a new role when
combined with other parts.

The judge notes multiple examples
involving the immune system, the blood
clotting system and even the bacterial
flagellum itself, in which this appears to
have been the case.

Irreducible complexity is in many ways
a theological argument — and a rather
old one.

A theologian testified at the trial Thomas
Aquinas argued in the 13th century that
wherever there is complex design, there
must be a designer and that because
nature is complex, it must also have a

While many of the scientists who defend-
ed intelligent design in the Pennsylvania
trial stopped short of saying the idea re-
quires belief in God, the defense's chief
expert, biochemist Michael J. Behe of
Lehigh University, noted intelligent design's
plausibility depends on the extent to which
a person believes in God.

- - -
[insert -- Michael J. Behe, by the way,
the instigator of the recent so-called "Intel-
ligent Design" movement, a Roman Cath-
olic adhering to the Roman Catholic theol-
ogy that naturalism -and- evolution has, at
its core, an ultimate cause, God, with God
itself the ultimate mystery ...

... (even -if- one buys into a particular ver-
sion of it, its existence is perilously close to
dubious, at best, the more one researches
the notion -and- the way the notion has

been used, in contradictory and irrecon-
cilable and oft-times illogical ways, over
historical time, by the assorted versions of
religious entities in their disparate theolog-
ical attire) -- end insert]
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"As no evidence in the record indicates
that any other scientific proposition's val-
idity rests on belief in God … Professor
Behe's assertion constitutes substantial
evidence that in his view … ID is a reli-
gious and not a scientific proposition,"
Jones notes in his opinion.


Science magazine's breakthroughs of 2005

* Winner: Evolution in action. Genome
sequencing and painstaking field obser-
vations shed light on the intricacies of
how evolution works.


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