Thursday, December 29, 2005

It Would take a Scientist To Explain

Simply stated, the scientific method consists of the following.
  1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
  2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
  3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
  4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.
When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.

The Flying Spaghetti MonsterI bring this up because Mary-Ann, a swell gal, has brought up the issue of whether Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution as an equal scientific theory. I have a big problem with ID being taught in schools, since it is based upon faulty assumptions that can't be proven scientifically. The main holes in this "theory" are (The bolded information here is not my own work, but comes from How Stuff Works.):

1) Irreducible complexity: States that there are biological structures that could not have evolved from a simpler state. It couldn't have evolved from a simpler state because it couldn't have worked in a simpler state, and natural selection can only choose among traits that are already functioning.

The scientific community responds to irreducible complexity by stating that while it is true that natural selection can only choose among traits that are already functioning, the traits don't have to be functioning in their current form. They could have been serving other purposes when they were chosen as
advantageous for their current function.

2)Specified complexity: Means a system could not have occurred by chance and it is not the result of any natural law that says it must be the way it is. A biological system exhibits specified complexity if it meets three criteria:
* Its makeup is not merely the result of a natural law. * Its makeup is complex. * Its makeup reflects an "independently given pattern or specification."
The scientific community sees this argument as inherently flawed. It is a negative hypothesis: Anything not created by chance or law must be designed. But scientists claim that chance, law and design are not mutually exclusive, and they are not the only possibilities. So the process of elimination cannot be applied. And in any event, they say, science does not accept the process of elimination as proof of anything. The scientific method requires a positive hypotheses -- you cannot prove one thing simply by disproving another.

Therefore, since we can't explain it, God must've done it!

3)The Law of Conservation of Information: At its most basic, the law states that nature cannot create new information (as in information contained in DNA); it can only work with the information it already has. Therefore, a more complex species -- one that contains more information -- could not have evolved from a less complex species.
The scientific community believes that this is a repackaging of the creationist
argument that the theory of evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, which states that there is a tendency in nature for complexity to decrease. It claims that science has understood for a long time that this theory applies "only to closed systems, and biological systems are not closed" In order to prove design, ID proponents have a three-step process to test for it:

1. Does a law explain it?
2. Does chance explain it?

3. Does design explain it?

The response by the scientific community to the three-pronged approach to identifying design is essentially the same as its response to his argument for specified complexity. Most scientists note that it is not, in fact, a positive test for design, but in fact a negative test for eliminating chance and necessity. The process of elimination can not lead to any definitive conclusion in the world of science.
Overall, the most significant objection by the scientific community to intelligent design as a scientific theory is that it not empirical. Scientists cannot test for the presence of design, nor can they disprove the presence of design. By its very nature, scientists claim, intelligent design is not a scientific argument but a philosophical one.

Hi there, me again. That's just fine, but it boils down to creationism, not science, and should not be taught as such.

Evolution, as a theory, also has some holes. However it is a theory that has basis in scientific research and is considered the most likely explaination for the diversity of life on Earth. Some of the holes in the theory are (Oh, and to prevent scope creep, I'd like to refer you to the How Stuff Works article I just linked for information on scientific research in progress to answer these questions):
  1. How does evolution add information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms?
  2. How is evolution able to bring about drastic changes so quickly?
  3. How could the first living cell arise spontaneously to get evolution started?
1) Evolution's mutation mechanism does not explain how growth of a genome is possible. How can point mutations create new chromosomes or lengthen a strand of DNA? It is interesting to note that, in all of the selective breeding in dogs, there has been no change to the basic dog genome. All breeds of dog can still mate with one another. People have not seen any increase in dog's DNA, but have simply selected different genes from the existing dog gene pool to create the different breeds.

2) Imagine that you create a very large cage and put a group of mice into it. You let the mice live and breed in this cage freely, without disturbance. If you were to come back after five years and look into this cage, you would find mice. Five years of breeding would cause no change in the mice in that cage -- they would not evolve in any noticeable way. You could leave the cage alone for a hundred years and look in again and what you would find in the cage is mice. After several hundred years, you would look into the cage and find not 15 new species, but mice.

The point is that evolution in general is an extremely slow process. When two mice breed, the offspring is a mouse. When that offspring breeds, its offspring is a mouse. When that offspring breeds... And the process continues. Point mutations do not change this fact in any significant way over the short haul.

On the other hand, we know that evolution can move extremely quickly to create a new species. One example of the speed of evolution involves the progress mammals have made. You have probably heard that, about 65 million years ago, all of the dinosaurs died out quite suddenly. One theory for this massive extinction is an asteroid strike. For dinosaurs, the day of the asteroid strike was a bad one, but for mammals it was a good day. The disappearance of the dinosaurs cleared the playing field of most predators. Mammals began to thrive and differentiate.

In order for the principles of mutation and natural selection in the theory of evolution to work, there have to be living things for them to work on. Life must exist before it can to start diversifying. Life had to come from somewhere, and the theory of evolution proposes that it arose spontaneously out of the inert chemicals of planet Earth perhaps 4 billion years ago.

Could life arise spontaneously? If you read How Cells Work, you can see that even a primitive cell like an E. coli bacteria -- one of the simplest life forms in existence today -- is amazingly complex.

Hi there, I'm back! Holes in a theory do not amount to double suicide, they just mean there is more work to do. I challenge ID proponents (not you bloggers/other readers, but the people who call themselves scientists) to actually do some freakin' science here and shore up your theory before you go around saying that teachers should be presenting it to impressionable youngsters. This is not a high school science project, this is real life. I want someone teaching my kids science who knows how to use the scientific method, not someone whose world is populated with capricious, vengeful, imaginary beings.

Regardless of the theory, I don't understand the religious community's disdain for science. Science doesn't disprove the existence or even active involvement of God. In fact, science could be taken to be proof of god's existence. Isaac Newton himself believed he was observing God's work. I don't understand why science and God are mutually exclusive.

What I do believe is that it is incredibly scary for people to think that they are working without a net and this one life is all there is. Perhaps this has all happened by chance; maybe we're unique and maybe we're not; maybe death really is the end of life.

I'm not going to argue faith, as it is pointless. What is at issue here is whether to teach a half-baked psuedo-theory as fact to our nation's children in our government run schools. I say no. Teaching that, if you can't explain it, it must be the work of a theoretical higher being is no different from teaching that God, as you perceive him, did it. Or Krishna, or Allah, or Xenu, or Zeus, or whatever. And it is exceptionally lazy science.

I'm all for teaching skepticism and inform them of weaknesses in evolutionary theory, by all means. Science is science for a reason. Theories can be works in progress, as our understanding of the way the world works changes. Nonetheless, science is not based upon belief, but upon what can be proven. Science can't prove design, which is why it must be taken as faith.

EDIT: And now for something completely different... I'm trying some new title logos for the blog, to keep myself amused. What do you think of the one that's up there now? What about the last one?

Or this one?

Plenty more where that came from after I've made them.

UPDATE: There seems to be a wave of ID posting on the Inter-webs. Here's some more -
Lone Pony: Am I wrong about Intelligent Design?
Crazy Politico's Rantings: Intelligent Evolution Anyone?
Havenstone, my bestest friend (and Best Man 2 of 2): Kitmiller Dissent and Kitzmiller Comments


Blogger Lone Pony bloody well said...

I like the red one that was up last. It looks clean and kindof jumps out at ya. But the blue goes more with the fish theme. :-) I would like to learn how to do that too. I would also like to learn how to make the buttons that everybody has.

29 December, 2005 00:19  
Blogger Rebekah bloody well said...

Oh, gosh. I'm getting cross-eyed here. I'll come back and reread the post again when I feel like arguing. My main problem is that evolution has many holes, too, only the pro-evolution people have been so successful keeping them quiet.

29 December, 2005 09:22  
Blogger TexasFred bloody well said...

Both look good to me but with em set in the *body* of the blog, it's blown your format on IE anyway... And i am on a big screen and big resolution....

29 December, 2005 10:53  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Rebekah: Not that successful, I remember dicussing the three points I brought up in my post in my science classes through out my education. The problem is that ID's holes can't be plugged with scientific research, only belief in an all-powerful presence. Maybe if we were all running around with lightsabers and fighting the Sith, I could buy it, but real life presents no evidence to support ID.

And rightly so. Proof denies faith. How could you possibly have faith in a higher being that you could prove exists? You can't disprove that there was involvement in creation on God's part, and we can't ever really know for sure what actually happened 4 billion years ago without the benefit of a wayback machine, but that doesn't mean we can't try to figure it out.

If there is indeed a God that created us, then he gave us brains and wants us to use them. Not just throw up our hands and answer the hard questions by saying, "Well, God did it." That we are still willing to do that indicated that we are not nearly advanced as we think we are.

29 December, 2005 11:09  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox bloody well said...

By the way what does People Covered in Fish mean anyway??

30 December, 2005 22:28  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox bloody well said...

Also, have you ever read any of "Answers in Genesis" stuff? They have a lot of really good materials:

30 December, 2005 22:32  
Blogger Lone Pony bloody well said...

I wondered what it meant too Matt.

31 December, 2005 01:18  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

"People Covered In Fish" is briefly the name of a character in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's fantastic satire about the end of the world, Good Omens. It seems the antichrist comes to Eart and is subsequently misplaced.

Anyway, there are four motorcyclists who become four horsemen of the apocalypse and choose names for themselves based on thing that really bug them, since the good names are taken (War, Pestilence and Famine). The one keeps changing his name based on stupid things that happen to him. I don't want to ruin it because I highly recommend people read it.

I had described it in somewhat less detail in my first post. I chose the name because it's funny and the blog is about things that vex me, but I don't really take myself too seriously.

Another hilarious religious satire, by the way, is Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, y'know, if you're into that kind of thing.

31 December, 2005 09:04  
Blogger Lone Pony bloody well said...

Ok, I can understand that. Where are you Matt? It's 0100 in Missouri and I wanted to wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

01 January, 2006 02:54  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Happy New Year to you too, Becky! Same to everyone else. I'm in Newport, RI, so we got it the same time as New York.

01 January, 2006 08:28  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home