Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Comment on AC Grayling's review of Steve Fuller's Dissent over Descent

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Want to share your opinion on AC Grayling's dissection of Steve Fuller's defence of Intelligent Design? You can do so by leaving a comment on this post.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well done! Bravo, Mr. Grayling!

Don said...

Ah, the beauty of a well-stated critique. Mr. Grayling's riposte has some of the rythm and eloquence of music, and indeed serves as a warm reminder of the majesty of rationalism. We atheists may not have all the answers, but at least we don't resort to campfire myths for spiritual sustenance...

Anonymous said...

Yes, atheists may not have all the answers, but they know enough to see that everyone who believes in a higher being is ignorant. Good thing none of them are arrogant.

Anonymous said...

I think one word destroys the concept of "Intelligent design": prostate.

aaronbeach said...

As it seems to, ID theory takes philosophy and theology as its starting point and attempts to form a scientific theory to fit, an obvious obstacle to the scientific method. However, when evolutionary theory attempts to form a philosophy or theology of itself, we see equivalent subjective stumbling.

ID theory should not direct science, and science is often artificial when it attempts to fathom eternity in philosophical or theological terms. Harmony of the two should not be achieved through a subjective dissolution into such parts that fit the other perfectly.

As to whether or not ID theory should be taught in science, no - and the sceince should avoid taking on the form of a pseudo theology.

Anonymous said...

When creationism became wholly discredited (although it limps on in occasional sightings in the intellectual backwoods) the creationists trotted out ID. This is creationism in pseudo-rational and intellectually defensible clothing.

Mr. Grayling wrote what needed to be written, and he did it well.

anewnadir said...

Mr. Grayling presupposes that human rationality is beyond consensus in order to make his arguments against Mr. Fuller sound. A brilliant article, but rather than being a good riposte it comes off as more warring-factions tripe that is so characteristic of the current dialogue between ideologues on both sides of the red dotted line.

I find it hard to believe that recent advances in cognitive- and neuro-science that demonstrate with some clarity that the Human mind is incapable of purely rational inference have not had their necessary effect on the rest of science. Humans are animals through-and-through (a recognized truth amongst all scientists, especially if they fancy themselves atheists). Yet somehow the preachers of Scientism continue to preach the doctrine of good faith in human reason. We are a future-making species, rather than a backwards-looking. If we bothered to look at our own recent history we would see that humans under the influence of science are also capable of horrible things (global warming). This man fuller is quite obviously an idiot, but the self-effacing Scientism so readily observed in Academia today (especially in the UK, with the recent spate of anti-religious literature which has fomented something of an inquisition against those poor souls who in this modern era continue to have a faith in God (if anything, the recent 'advances' in science ought to have the opposite effect).

Anonymous said...

Well done. 99.9% of all species that have lived on this earth are extinct, done in by the changing environments to which they were only imperfectly adapted. Without random evolution to sample those unforeseen environments and allow adaptations to them, we would not be here and life itself might even have long since disappeared. Some intelligence. DJK

Lee Bowman said...

A1 said:

"Yes, atheists may not have all the answers, but they know enough to see that everyone who believes in a higher being is ignorant. Good thing none of them are arrogant."

No, they're a little more humble, and I think you've put your finger on it. Since atheism is unverifiable and unfalsifiable, and with no evidence to support it, declaring carte blanch that the possibility of designer(s) over vast time periods is foolish, is in-and-of-itself, not just foolish, but arrogant.

A2 said:

"I think one word destroys the concept of "Intelligent design": prostate."

And without it, you wouldn't be here. By the way, mine works just fine!

A3 said:

" When creationism became wholly discredited (although it limps on in occasional sightings in the intellectual backwoods) the creationists trotted out ID. This is creationism in pseudo-rational and intellectually defensible clothing."

Hmmm, I've heard that it was Indefensible. While it's true that some 'creationists' have trotted out ID, the Intelligent Design hypothesis dates back to the Roman Empire, and quite likely far beyond that period. Epictetus, while a Stoic, argued for 'intelligent design', as did Socrates and Plato (Philebus dialogues).

A4 said:

" Well done. 99.9% of all species that have lived on this earth are extinct ... "

... as are 99.9% of all automobiles and computers from a prior age.

" ... done in by the changing environments to which they were only imperfectly adapted."

Actually I'd say it was the 'environment' that was at fault, rather than designers.

"Without random evolution to sample those unforeseen environments and allow adaptations to them, we would not be here and life itself might even have long since disappeared."

Absolutely! That's why the craftsmen of life forms (under a supreme administrator perhaps) designed IN the evolutionary process. And guess what. It works!

"Some intelligence[s]."

You got that right, DJK.

Anonymous said...

The next time one of these ID people get a life threatening illness, I believe they should forgo the normal medicinal route (which, after all, stems from science) and simply pray that they get better. That way, there will be less of these idiots around to drive the rest of us crazy.

oldmanofthesea said...

ID (Intelligence Denied) is just another of the religious wonders mind control protocols to lock their minions of sheep in the New World Order's pig pens for slop and slaughter. Basing their wars and economics on religious writings and ancient esoteric traditions, they have brought mankind closer to the brink of disaster than any timetable that evolution could even hint at. The religious leadership and their insistence on dogmatic principles is a slashing stigma to all thinkers: secular, free thinkers and men and women of good purpose. More frightening is the hard,cold fact that these religions and thus, their followers who hold high office, control the mass media and many of the major countries with chemical and nuclear power. They place their puppets in every nook and cranny of the nation to cook up a caldron of hate for real science (Oh Texas Education?). Behold, the New Inquisiton's. Pray!! War!! Pray!! War!! Pray!! War!! Down with the infidel!! Kill! Kill! Kill! And may you have peace everlasting! Frickin Hypocrites.

Pulseguy said...

So a book published 150+ years ago perfectly spelled out exactly everything there is to know about evolution. Pretty amazing! Really amazing! But, really absurd also. And, completely contrary to everything else that has ever happened in Science. At best, early works illuminate some point that someone else then builds on.

Darwin noticed something absolutely beautiful. That the world progressed from something to what we have today in incremental stages. And, then he posited an incorrect theory as to how it happened. Natural selection following random genetic mutation might count for a fraction of what we have seen, and might well account for specific changes within an already defined species. But, it cannot account for most of what has happened.

Unfortunately, the Darwinists continue to do battle with ignoramuses who contend Adam was the first human 10,000 years ago. And, I think they do this because they don't want to admit their theory has holes in it.

There is some sort of Intelligent Design. That much is obvious. But, it doesn't have to be supernatural. It might be. But, it doesn't have to be and still be valid.

The human genome project has spelled the end of Darwin's reign. Not that evolution took place, but the means by which it took place. A human eye has 30,000 genes making it up. Change any one of some of them, change a number of lesser genes, and the eye is not functional. The genes making up a light sensitive flap, would not be the genes making up what we now know as an eye. A cat has tens of thousands of genes making up its eye. But, amazingly, they aren't identical to the genes in a human eye! No species has used the same genes to make up their eyes. Or, their livers, or their hearts.

And yet, all species (pretty much) have eyes. Really, really ancient ones. Fish, insects, reptiles, mammals. Species that have no obvious connection all have eyes. That means that tens of thousands of genes in different species all 'randomly' mutated in tens of thousands of species and all resulted in an amazingly uniformly functioning organ!!!

Ridiculous.

Let's open the debate. Even to the loonies, who wish to argue in a ten thousand year old world. Something happened other than random genetic mutation. Something happened. But, we will never progress as long as Darwin is the gold standard.

He was brilliant and a hero of mankind. But, he didn't even remotely nail it.

Steve

gillt said...

Steve, I'm a geneticist and I call shenanigans on your no shared eye genes between species foolishness.

Also, you're off-base on Darwin.

First, you're wrong on the 30,000 genes in the human eye. More like 13,000.

Second, the octopus and the human eye evolved independently yet still share most of their genes--over 60% (~700 genes) are conserved between the two species.

Lastly, and shamefully for you, one doesn't have to be a scientist to see how off-base you are. An easily performed google search for conserved gene expression in eyes will take you to primary research articles with answers in their abstract.

Pulseguy said...

gillt:

I have read 30,000, but if you say 13,000, then fine. The point is the same. And, we share many of our genes with a Douglas Fir, so for sure there will be overlap. But, 60% overlap still can't explain it.

Random genetic mutation cannot explain what we have today.

It is really obvious. There must be more to the process than that. It could never happen with just that.

Some sort of shared group intelligence has not been proved, but it isn't absurd. This does not have to be Supernatural. We can leave God out of the equation. There is also a prima facie case to be made that all species indicate some sort of shared intelligence.

What concerns me is the rabid adherence to an orthodoxy. Why? Why is it so threatening for people to say, 'yeah, Darwin was great but he didn't cover the whole story. We are still looking for other factors?' This does not give credence to Creationists.

S

gillt said...

I'm sorry Steve but being wrong on the basic facts pulls the reality rug out from under any argument you may be trying to make. Why would anyone take you seriously now? Would you take you seriously?

Oh...and Darwin was great and science has moved on--see, I'm a scientist and I said it!--particularly in the field of molecular biology. Strangely enough, the same field where you got all your facts wrong.

You could do worse than start with a subscription to a popular science mag.

Pulseguy said...

gillt:

I'm making a point. I'm not trying to win an academic argument. I'm not a geneticist and I don't give a flying leap if there are 30,000 or 13,000 genes. The point is it is thousands of genes all of which must mutate in a specific manner.

And the point is you didn't answer anything. You attacked me as a person.

Stupid debate, typical of the 'I said, you said' level of discussion regarding Darwinism.


Which kind of proves my point.

gillt said...

I was only pointing out that you argue as if the facts don't matter--typical postmodern/political tactic.

The main point is that the major developmental genes (p53, gata1, wt1, oct4, etc) are conserved through the lineages, including the ones involved in eye development.

You don't understand the significance of this so you make wild statements about nonexistent gaps in how evolution works or doesn't work. Not surprisingly, these gaps are of your own design. Now I'm not saying that science has the complete picture, I'd be out of a job, but you aren't even getting the parts we already know right.

What you need to do is get the facts straight before you make assertions and before we can have an intelligent discussion.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing quite as good as an academic wank.

Anonymous said...

A bit over-hard on the Catholic Church, which has come a long way since Galileo. Consider the case of Georges Lemaitre, for example. It has even made its peace with Darwin. (The Church insists that God created the world and Man but, unlike Evangelicals, does not go so far as to specify what ways of doing so are acceptable for Him to use.) I don't think the Church is against stem cell research per se, just harvesting them from fetuses and, I would guess, certain of the more extreme technologies that the research might support

ral said...

This whole discussion of existence and creation is absolutely without meaning. There is no understanding of creation. Science or religion or any other organized and systematic group of ideas gives us little or no insight into the beginning. It is a mystery................ ral

emansnas said...

It appears to me that the real heat of this issue lies not so much in the possible existance of some form of ID (however tortured its protagonists' arguments currently may be) versus IDs non-existance, as it does in the philosophical stance of each sides proponents. I.e., those in the "I need a God" camp vs. those in the "I hate religion" camp. Ral nailed it, Creation is a mystery.

gillt said...

Nice emansnas, reducing the two sides to needers and haters while you, of course, rise above the fray and declare the whole thing a giant mystery beyond your ability to fathom. Ral didn't "nail it."...what you've both done is drawn an ambiguous line in the sand and boldly declare beyond this point Magic lies.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Read Fuller's reply to the review. He wants ID (or "design" or, in the end Protestantism) to receive credit for the fact that science proceeds because it assumes the world to be comprehensible--as opposed to being unknowably ruled by "chance."

This is silly. I haven't read his book, but his reply to Grayling amounts to "the assumptions of (mean, 'undemocratic') science are the same as the assumptions of religion. So it's not fair that the scientific orthodoxy doesn't allow its rank and file to acknowledge the validity of design."

As usual with these highfalutin defenses of superstition, Fuller nowhere deals with the truth claims of religion--including his enlightened Protestantism--which can be refuted by walking down the street. You call this design "intelligent"? Fire the designer, then.

Pilot22A said...

When I read stuff like this, I always think back to what someone once said to me. Intelligent Design or Creationism, or Evolution. All things being equal, if humans suddenly disappeared from the planet, which of these three would remain.

emansnas said...

Well gillt... Stating that Creation is a mystery provides no more basis for your presumptive conclusion that those who would state same believe in "Magic" than does Pulseguy's error in gene count provide legitimate basis for invalidating ALL further independent points by Pulseguy. Such "logic" is not only distortive but seems carried with a focus and tone unworthy of one who claims high scientific credentials. Regarding my point concerning "true believers" vs. "true non-believers", it was a simply meant observation that dogma, on both sides, is non-conducive when seeking truth. Concerning ability to fathom Creation, I do admit to musing on the comparison of a chimpanzee sitting before a tome of Shakespeare. Shakespeare is not magic (well, not in the strict sense here) and is not unfathomable - by us, but as distasteful as the thought is, in our currently evolved state, the human mind may indeed have prohibitive limits. Which is not to say we should give up in our quest to understand. As for rising above the fray, hah, apparently not.

Anonymous said...

An elegant and effective review, with which I largely agree. I couldn't help but wonder though at the discussion of Popper. Grayling is right when he talks of "Popper’s killer point, namely, a theory that explains everything explains nothing." Since all possible evidence is consistent with ID, nothing could count against it. It is thus scientifically empty; its scientific credentials it can be no better supported than those of its rivals, such as flying spaghetti monster theory.

But Grayling goes on to claim that ID
"behaves logically as a contradiction does (unsurprisingly, because the idea is indeed contradictory): anything whatever follows from it." If this is true, then any observation whatever would be inconsistent with the theory, and it would be falsifiable, indeed falsified. Perhaps one should say that ID behaves logically as a tautology, which follows trivially from anything at all. But even that isn't right, since we are supposed to be objecting to ID, and no one in the right mind would object to a tautology. Better, in the end, to skip this 'behaves logically as' talk altogether: normal standards of scientific evidence demand that one's theory be capable of being differentially supported by the evidence, and as ID conspiciously lacks this capacity, it doesn't count as a theory worth taking seriously.

Anonymous said...

Given that there are between 10 million and 100 million species (counting everything) would Fuller, using principles of "Intelligent Design", whatever they are, please explain how they originated?
Nature is an endless, non-linear process and species arise, exist, and then die, including Homo Sapiens. It's like the EverReady bunny with an infinite battery. It goes on, and on, and on .......

gillt said...

Pulseguy claimed that eyes have no conserved genes and used this silly fabrication to support an even more inane and wholly wrong-headed presumption about mutations. I called him out on making stuff up. How is this difficult to understand: if you're going to make wild claims you really ought to get the facts correct.

And now you're wrong about atheism: it isn't a set of dogmatic beliefs. It's not even a nonbelief, but a lack of a belief in theism, pointed and specific, nothing more.

Fossil said...

Fuller, the ultimate academic main-chancer, has been turning out twaddle by the freight-car load all his academic life. Long before he climbed into the sack with P.E. Johnson & Co., taking up the cause of "Intelligent Design", he had a noxious reputation amongst scientists and philosophers alike as device for turning out reams of prose blilthely indifferent to the claims of fact and logic alike.

He is interesting only in that he provides a specimen case of the gullibility of an intellectually enfeebled academic community, comprised of "Science and Technology Studies" zealots and, more generally, the more cerebrally-challenged wing of sociology, who have allowed him to play King of the Hill, not noticing that the hill in question is composed of ordure.

That he seems to be pulling a Tony Blair, with the added element of an explicit endorsement of some of the most politically repellent circles in the US, is no particular surprise. Thar's gold in them thar hills!

Anonymous said...

Atheism has been around for sometime. Pepys remarked that his cousin Lord Sandwich was "A complete Sceptic", by which I think he means Atheist.

emansnas said...

I stand by my use of the term "dogma", especially in the context in which I used it. You might want to look it up, e.g., MW Online Dictionary, 1a: "Something held as an established opinion, especially, a definite authorative tenet". Does not this definition imply a high probability of close mindedness? Does not close mindedness inhibit search for truth? On atheism, I did not use the term, I believe I actually used the phrase "true non-believers" which to a reasonable person I believe would imply a nuanced bias confluent with dogmatic belief. You might want to look up "atheism" as well: it's a disbelief in the existence of a deity, a *doctrine* that there is no deity. But so much for nitpicking, it is too often a refuge for those incapable of seeing the forest.

Ursa said...

Mr.Grayling's critique and reposte are masterpieces of exceptional clarity, logic and erudition. The travesty of the ID "argument" - for it's not even a theory - is once again amply demonstrated.

A more-than-worthy successor to Russell, Dawkins et al. Bravo!!

gillt said...

Oh emansnas, no wonder you're confused. Dictionaries are for connotations, not denotations. You know, word usage not definitions. That's why they always use said words in a sentence.

Disbelief implies not having a certain specific belief (not nihilism mind you), therefore it can only make sense to say "true disbeliever" if it is synonymous with "true skeptic." And it's absurd to call skepticism dogmatic or having a doctrine. "Until someone shows actual evidence, I choose not to believe...in bigfoot, jesus, unicorns, whatev." How is that dogmatic?

Anonymous said...

Anewnadir said: "I find it hard to believe that recent advances in cognitive- and neuro-science that demonstrate with some clarity that the Human mind is incapable of purely rational inference have not had their necessary effect on the rest of science"

You must have missed the past two or three hundred years of scientific development. Science uses peer review and repetition of experimental results to eliminate or reduce the impact of human irrationality.

Religion, in contrast, has no such error-checking mechanisms.

Pulseguy wrote: "There is some sort of Intelligent Design. That much is obvious."

If its obivous, it should be easy to point out evidence. Show us the designer's tools for genetic manipulation. Or his lab. Or tell us when he did the designing. Or where.

None of this evidence exists. I think what you mean when you say "obvious" is "I can't personally believe any other explanation, so I default to design." Its called the argument from personal incredulity.

But maybe I'm wrong and you have a 20 million year old PCR machine hidden up your sleeve. If so, trot it out!

Anonymous said...

Emansas wrote: [on Dogma] "Something held as an established opinion, especially, a definite authorative tenet". Does not this definition imply a high probability of close mindedness? Does not close mindedness inhibit search for truth?"

Er...no. Sometimes having an established opinion improves the search for truth by allowing discussion to move on. Laying to rest an untruth is not closing one's mind.

For instance, is it dogma that the earth circles the sun? Does establishing this opinion as definitive hinder the search for truth, or does it help the search for truth by allowing truth-seekers to spend their time on more fruitful questions?

I'd argue the latter. Sometimes the search for truth involves laying to rest ideas for which strong evidence indicates no merit. Creationism is one such idea; observably it has no merit. So honest truth-seekers should put it in the same category as geocentrism and move on to more fruitful questions.

Your approach to seeking truth - to close off no question out of a fear of being dogmatic - would leave us still arguing about whether the earth was flat and whether blood circulated in the body.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Mr. Grayling. Your quotes, all of them, are excised from Fuller's introduction. Shame, shame...your readers would no doubt appreciate knowing that you in fact read the books you critique.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grayling,

Even distinguished professors of philosophy sometimes need a friendly helping hand. Don't allow the previous comment to get you down in the dumps; there's no shame to be had, really. I admire your effort and I realize it has been a long, time since you were a school boy and had to worry about inconvenient concepts like academic honesty.

Now then, please allow me to assist you in composing a first rate book review which sufficiently masks the embarrassing fact that the book has not been read. Don't worry, I assure you that I am an expert. When you have mastered these few simple steps you too will be able to compose a convincing review within an hour of class, as it were; you'll be happier than a heifer in red clover.

You were off to a perfect start. Reading an author's introduction is a wonderful place to begin; it's quick, usually to the point, and requires looking up fewer big words in the dictionary.

Next, you have to come up with several quotes to discuss. This helps assure your readers that you have given some serious thought to the piece at hand. Of course this is the trickiest part, believe me you.

Now, with well written introductions, which provide essentially a complete outline of the text, the reviewer is faced with a very tempting alternative to intellectual rigor. Yielding to such temptation is of course what everyone is doing in Academia today but you have to be careful to cover your gluteus.

Pulling quotations from the introduction is generally just a bad idea, period. Especially if it happens to be your longest quote. You see, your professor or casual reader, whichever the case may be, has probably read and stopped with the introduction also. Introductions are essential for providing central themes and the overall gist of the work but they must not be relied on for quotations. (Incidentally, the outline of the review should not reflect too closely an introduction's outline...it's okay, we all make mistakes.) Back to quotations. Quotations must sadly come from deep within the text itself.

Here are a few tips then to help you find nifty quotes that will impress your readers:

First, skim the index. This will alert you to the specific topics and subtopics within, which allows you to focus on the issues you know something about while avoiding all the others. For example if you don't know much about history you can conveniently skip all historical references. Most often it is best to hop, skip, and jump over the complicated passages than to hazard an educated guess.

Secondly, you should go to Amazon.com and read all the book reviews written by enthusiastic school children and retirees who have nothing better to do. Sometimes these are surprisingly insightful and inspirational. No one ever reads more than the first few reviews so it is generally safe to steal the ideas of these unsuspecting suckers.

That's about it. I wish I could make it even simpler but academic honesty has become such a big deal these days and they have all these nifty gadgets for catching you now. Admittedly, it requires that some dots are connected but nothing in life is free you know. Only the 'fittest' have the ability to climb the ladder of academic success. Cliff's Notes, in the bygone days were traditionally relied on to level the playing field. But challenged students today have to be more clever. Did you ever use Cliff's Notes? They must have been a delightful resource...wink, wink. ;)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grayling,
Even distinguished professors of philosophy sometimes need a hand. I admire your effort and I realize it has been a long, time since you were a school boy and had to worry about inconvenient concepts like academic honesty.
Allow me to assist you in composing a first rate book review which sufficiently masks the embarrassing fact that the book has not been read in the first place. Just wait...these tips will make you happier than a heifer in red clover.
You were off to a perfect start. Reading an author's introduction is a great place to begin; it's quick, usually to the point, and requires looking up fewer big words in the dictionary. However, pulling quotations from the introduction is generally just a bad idea, period. Your professor, or casual reader, has probably read and stopped with the introduction also. Introductions are essential for providing central themes and the overall gist of the work but they must not be relied on for quotations. Quotations must sadly come from deep within the text itself.
Here are a few tips then to help you find nifty quotes that will impress your readers:
First, skim the index. This will alert you to the specific topics and subtopics and allows you to focus on the issues you know something about while avoiding all the others. For example if you don't know much about history you can conveniently skip all historical references.
Secondly, you should go to Amazon.com and read all the book reviews written by enthusiastic school children and retirees who have nothing better to do. Sometimes these are surprisingly insightful and inspirational. No one ever reads more than the first few reviews so it is generally safe to steal the ideas of these unsuspecting suckers.
Quick note: Cliff's Notes, in the bygone days were traditionally relied on to level the playing field. But challenged students today have to be more clever. Did you ever use Cliff's Notes? They must have been a delightful resource...wink, wink. ;)

Joey Urban said...

No offense to you obviously educated people, but I have a question that isn't clarified on this planet. And that question is why does this debate really matter in life. How does it help me become a better father or son or husband? I mean atheism, theology, yippie skippy. What difference does it make? I f you have a belief great keep it to your self, that is why it is a self belief. If you believe nothing, great keep it to yourself. Maybe at this point we can start paying attention to more pressing matters such as, outside of the over-educated circles poverty is at an all time high globally. Countries are at war. Underage pregnancy, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, hate crimes, crooked cops politicians that steal. And you guys insist on a pointless debate. You look to the sky and question what is or isn't with no fact to really argue either side just speculative assumptions. Why not pay attention to what actually is fact based in front of you? Why not use all that energy and brainpower to find a way for all of us to just be better humans. And when it is all said and done when we all inevitably die. If there is a heaven and we go we will be rewarded for our work that was done to make the world a better place. And if you believe you just die.........well then you just die! Either way there are more important things in life to worry about....really.

Anonymous said...

There are so many dizzying non-sequiturs in Fuller's book reading it risks serious vertigo. This critique restored my sense of balance - even though it is virtually shooting fish in a barrel.