March 20th, 2013
I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design (Social Science) in 2010. My thoughts and comments will be general since we were asked not release specifics concerning information being shared (some of it was yet-to-be published and I don’t know if it has been published yet so I’ll remain silent) and I do not want to “out” any other attendees in their academic endeavors. Once you’re labeled as an ID proponent your academic career is potentially slowed down or halted. I’ve already outed myself and I’m pretty vocal about my advocacy of design (I’m a philosopher so it’s not as academically persecuted).
I have no negative comments concerning the DI’s seminar. In fact, I have more respect for the institute and fellows. There were two concurrent seminars (natural and social sciences) that interacted with each other on a regular basis and combined on many occasions. I participated in the social science seminar and being philosophy graduate student I’m not as adept in biology, chemistry, and physics as many others are. I certainly received a welcoming abundance of science in presentations, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the lecturers included Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Doug Axe, Jay Richards, Jonathan Wells, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Bruce Gordon, Jonathan Witt, John West, and Casey Luskin.
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March 16th, 2013
Reblogged from Jonathan M. at Evolution News and Views…
I’ve been reading the recently published book Microbes and Evolution: The World that Darwin Never Saw, which combines my two primary areas of interest: microbiology and evolution. Chapter 38 of the book is written by Kelly Hughes and David Blair of the University of Utah, two of the world’s leading experts on bacterial flagellar assembly. Having followed the work of Kelly Hughes and his colleagues for a few years, I hold their work in the highest regard. I myself have a deep fascination with the subject of bacterial gene expression. I was intrigued, therefore, when I discovered the title of Hughes and Blair’s chapter: “Irreducible Complexity? Not!”
Following a very basic overview of flagellar structure and function (also described in my own detailed review of the subject), Hughes and Blair ask, “Is the flagellum irreducibly complex, or just complex?” They write,
It is clear that the flagellum is a complex structure and that its assembly and operation depend upon many interdependent components and processes. This complexity has been suggested to pose problems for the theory of evolution; specifically, it has been suggested that the ancestral flagellum could not have provided a significant advantage unless all of the parts were generated simultaneously. Hence, the flagellum has been described as “irreducibly complex,” implying that it is impossible or at least very difficult to envision a much simpler, but still useful, ancestral form that would have been the raw material for evolution.
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February 27th, 2013
Reblogged from David Klinghoffer.
Congratulations are in order. Columnist Mark Vernon in The Guardian has honored Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False with his annual Most Despised Science Book award. By that, Vernon means the book that most attracted the ire of the scientifically orthodox by violating cherished taboos — a good thing, in other words:
Steven Pinker damned it with faint praise when he described it in a tweet as “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” Jerry Coyne blogged: “Nagel goes the way of Alvin Plantinga,” which is like being compared to Nick Clegg. All in all, Nagel’s gadfly stung and whipped them into a fury.Disparagement is particularly unfair, though, because the book is a model of carefulness, sobriety and reason. If reading Sheldrake feels daring, Tallis thrilling and Fodor worthwhile but hard work, reading Nagel feels like opening the door on to a tidy, sunny room that you didn’t know existed.
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February 21st, 2013
Reblogged from Jonathan M. and the Discovery Institute.
Join Discovery Institute staff and associates in Greater Philadelphia on April 5 and 6 for the 2013 Westminster Conference on Science & Faith. The event will be held at Covenant Fellowship Church, and is headlined by Oxford mathematician and philosopher Professor John Lennox, and leading intelligent design theorist and philosopher of science Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author ofSignature in the Cell.
The theme is origins: of the cosmos, of increasingly complex life, and of life itself.
Other speakers include molecular biologist Dr. Douglas Axe, political scientist Dr. John G. West, theologian Dr. Vern Poythress, bioethicist Dr. Megan Best, and theologian Dr. Scott Oliphint. To whet your appetite for this year’s conference, here’s a short trailer featuring clips from last year:
February 11th, 2013
The following originally appeared in The New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler.
In 1974 Thomas Nagel published “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” a short essay arguing that the subjective experience of consciousness — what philosophers call the “qualia” — could not be fully reduced to the physical aspects of the brain.
That essay framed a landmark challenge to the materialist view of the mind that was then prevailing and helped cement Mr. Nagel’s reputation as one of the most incisive and imaginative of contemporary philosophers.
But since the late October release of his latest book, “Mind and Cosmos,” reviewers have given Mr. Nagel ample cause to ponder another question: What is it like to be an eminent (and avowedly atheist) philosopher accused of giving aid and comfort to creationist enemies of science?
Advocates of intelligent design have certainly been enthusiastic, with the Discovery Institute crowing about Mr. Nagel’s supposed “deconversion” from Darwinism. The book, subtitled “Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False,” has also drawn appreciative notice from conservative publications that might normally disdainMr. Nagel’s liberal writings in moral and political philosophy.
The response from scientists and most of his fellow philosophers, however, has ranged from deeply skeptical to scorching.
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January 14th, 2013
There isn’t a straight line of demarcation between science and pseudoscience (PS), which is universally applicable in all fields categorized as scientific. A general guide for demarcating between the two is that the theory should have observable evidence, provides predictions, uses non-controversial reasoning, and is repeatable. These are simply guidelines and do not necessarily count as criteria for disqualifying a theory if all aren’t met because some are simply untenable depending on the field in which they are applied. Falsification is not necessary for a scientific theory but it does help substantiate the theory as a robust scientific theory.
When considering the criterion of observable evidence I make the distinction between observation and what is empirical. Something may be observed and qualify as evidence even though it’s not related to material causes. This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science. This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports. Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science. In the mid 1800’s William Whewell was the first to restrict science to only mean natural science. Pierre Duhem followed this idea and constructed a methodology, which barred explanations to material causes. For instance, agent causation is completely compatible with Augustinian science but is prohibited as a scientific explanation in Duhemian science. Agent causation is something that can be observed but isn’t necessarily reductionistic in the material sense as with material causation because agent causation has metaphysical import.
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November 26th, 2012
This is a call for papers to be submitted to me for online publication with Sententias. I’m looking for about ten papers. Please include an abstract and Turabian format. The paper can be a minimum of 4 pages but there’s not maximal limit. I will compile the papers and put them in the first volume and issue of the Sententias Journal (Free online PDF file). This is just to kickstart more activity for Sententias to take part in. Depending on the feedback and participation we can make this a peer-reviewed process so we can have some respectable esteem. But, for now, we need to start modestly. Theists, atheists, Christians, evolutionists, and intelligent design proponents are all welcome. Here are a few suggested options:
- What’s a scientific theory?
- What’s a scientific explanation?
- Breaking down a particular interpretation of quantum physics.
- Brak down a model of cosmological origins.
- Argue for Darwinism
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September 24th, 2012
I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast on Sean Carroll on Science and God Part 1 this morning as I was walking from the parking lot into my office at University today, and I was quite surprised to hear a generalization Dr. Craig made concerning intelligent design.
Dr. Craig discusses how no models of the universe involve God. (This discussion begins around the 7 minute mark.) I think he’s correct in that we don’t have a physical theory of the universe that uses God as an entity in its explanation. For instance, you’ll find no entity in the standard model of particle physics that denotes God. However, Craig says that you do find this in the proponents of intelligent design theory “who want to postulate God as an entity in a scientific theory–that God would be like a quark, or a black hole, or a quantum field. He would be a theoretical entity postulated in a scientific theory.”
I have no doubt that there are intelligent design proponents, i.e. [young earth] creationists, who do this, but importing creationism into intelligent design theory strips ID for what it actually says.
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September 6th, 2012
A groundbreaking paper in Nature reports the results of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, which has detected evidence of function for the “vast majority” of the human genome. Titled “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” the paper finds an “unprecedented number of functional elements,” where “a surprisingly large amount of the human genome” appears functional. Based upon current knowledge, the paper concludes that at least 80% of the human genome is now known to be functional:
The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions. Many discovered candidate regulatory elements are physically associated with one another and with expressed genes, providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation.(The ENCODE Project Consortium, “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” Nature, Vol. 489:57-74 (September 6, 2012) (emphasis added))
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