Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" on NOVA

I received the following email from NOVA and, since it's about something that is extremely interesting to me, thought I'd share it with the millions who read my blog. Don't believe I have millions? Well, you want me to take your word that there is a god and I want you to take my word that I have millions of visitors. I think that's a fair exchange.

On Tuesday, November 13, NOVA will be presenting a special two-hour documentary on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the first legal test of intelligent design as a scientific theory. "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" uses trial reenactments and interviews with expert scientists as well as with Dover parents, teachers, and town officials to capture the story behind the controversy that erupted in Dover in 2005. We think readers of your blog will be interested in the show, and we hope that you'll consider posting about it!

I've attached our press release and e-card to this email and I invite you to check out our companion Web site, http://www.pbs.org/nova/id. You can also watch a preview of the show on YouTube:



"Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" will premiere Tuesday, November 13 at 8PM ET/PT on most PBS stations. Please check your local listings to confirm when it will be broadcast near you: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/schedule-local.html.

Thanks, and please let me know if I can provide any additional information on "Judgment Day."
Kate


Kate Becker
NOVA Promotion
617.300.4383 kathryn_becker@wgbh.org
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

I'll be extremely interested to see how much attention they give to Eric Rothschild's brilliant cross examination of Michael Behe, considered one of the turning point moments in the trial and a big part of Judge Jones' terrific decision in on the side of reason.

23 comments:

ordinarygirl said...

I'll be flying when it's on, but I set it to record. This should be an interesting show.

A. said...

You would think the Scopes Monkey Trial had never taken place. Sad that the country had to go through this, but I'm glad it was decided in favor of real science. I'm definitely going to check it out!

PhillyChief said...

Busy week. 13th for this, 14th for Ninja Warrior. :)

mynym said...

You would think the Scopes Monkey Trial had never taken place.

So often it seems that people with progressive tendencies craft progressive myths and artistic imagery which is essentially fiction which others with the same tendency then believe is fact, from the notion that people used to believe in a flat earth in the "Dark Ages" but then became Enlightened, to Galileo, to the myth of victories past and so on and so forth. At any rate, in this case what is your impression of that trial and its role in progress?

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym

My impression is that whenever law stands on the side of reason, rationality, common sense, knowledge - we have moved forward in a way more probable to insure that future generations benefit from those same valuable societal characteristics.

In the case of Dover, a silly idea that had no value and would only have served to confuse the minds of young people on their quest for knowledge was rightfully shot down by a CONSERVATIVE JUDGE. This was a tremendous victory for those who care about the values I set out in the first paragraph. It was a distinct blow to those who would attempt to undermine those values. The war is far from over, but just as we look back to a trial in Tennessee 80 years ago as a landmark decision, so will future generations look back at Dover.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I have it on my calendar. I got to attend one day of the trial. It was the only day I could justify taking off, and it turned out to be one of the boring days. I wish I had been able to get down there (it's only about 15 blocks from my office) and see the Behe cross examination. Here's what Edward Humes wrote about it in Monkey Girl:

The Courtroom was riveted by the exchange between Rothschild and Behe. Word had gotten out, and the lawyers in the courthouse came in to watch what Judge Jones would later call the most effective cross-examination he had ever witnessed in a quarter century of legal practice. “It was rather painful at times to be that close to it,” Jones said. “When all the hoopla dies down and you take apart what will endure, what will be featured in the law books, it’s his cross-examination.” p. 305

homar said...

well, i could vouch for that. indeed, this blog have millions opf readers because i am one of them. i firmly adhere to this belief and anyone who quetions it shall be smitten under the hooves of her holiness, the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

i wish i could watch the trial, at least on tv. this might be worth of another "Inherit the Wind" type novel or movie.

John Evo-Mid said...

Homar: " wish i could watch the trial, at least on tv. this might be worth of another "Inherit the Wind" type novel or movie."

Read SI's comment right above yours. He also has a review of the book on his blog, which you can find a link to on my sidebar (Spanish Inquisitor).

John Evo-Mid said...

Or just click on his name... duh! LOL!

mynym said...

i wish i could watch the trial, at least on tv. this might be worth of another "Inherit the Wind" type novel or movie.

Ironically that would only show that the current trial is another instance of progressives inventing myths consonant with the myths that they typically believe about science and Progress. E.g.At the time, the trial was the most public confrontation between religious fundamentalism and modern science. By 1955, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee had written a play about the trial called Inherit the Wind, and film treatments of that play followed. These fictionalized accounts helped to create a mythic view of the case in popular culture. Today, the case is usually seen as a fable [Although it seems to be seen by most as historical fact.] that cautions against the dangers of religious establishment.
This interpretation of the case, however, omits key facts. Most importantly, the motivations of the Christian fundamentalists in seeking to ban the teaching of evolution must be questioned beyond the commonplace myth because, prior to the turn of the twentieth century, fundamentalists voiced no opposition to Darwin's evolutionary theory.* It was after the First World War and after the legal environment for the poor and labor had been transformed through the rising tide of legal formalism that the fundamentalists began to reject theories of evolution. Without such crucial historical facts, the case appears to convey a simple and clear polemical message: fundamentalism ignores reason, and evolutionary theory is scientific, rational, and progressive. When one considers the complaints that the fundamentalists had against evolutionary theory, the popular account of the case seems at best incomplete. [...]
As some historians have noted, the case took place in a period when the theory of social evolution that is associated with Herbert Spencer deeply influenced social thought. Spencer's philosophy of social evolution would later come to be called Social Darwinism...

(Capital University Law Review (2004) Inherit the Myth: How William Jennings Bryan's Struggle With Social Darwinism and Legal Formalism Demythologize the Scopes Monkey Trial
by Kevin P. Lee) (Emphasis added)

*It's important to note that historically fundamentalists originally supported Darwinism. For example:The most notable evolutionist contributor to The Fundamentals was George Frederick Wright, a renowned glacial geologist and professor of the harmony of science and revelation in Oberlin College. Wright had been a Darwinian for more than forty years when The Fundamentals appeared. In the mid-1870s he joined with Darwin’s most prominent American supporter, Asa Gray, in publishing a collection of Gray’s essays on Darwinism and natural theology.
...we shall have to look to the decade after the First World War to find a movement militantly opposed to evolution, a Fundamentalism that supplied the imagery to reinforce the metaphor in which the post-Darwinian controversies had been cast.

(The Post-Darwinian Controversies
by James Moore :72-73)

Note that eugenics and so on emerged from Darwinism after WWI when people like Williams Jennings Bryan opposed it. And note that in this very case the textbook which Darrow taught from supported eugenics, yet apparently you'd rather believe accounts written by Darwinists and proto-Nazi anti-Semites like H.L. Mencken who argue that science will inevitably bring Progress, etc.

mynym said...

...we have moved forward in a way more probable to insure that future generations benefit from those same valuable societal characteristics.

Move forward towards what? Life? But can't reason, intelligence and science be applied by technically proficient barbarians without any spiritual or moral sense to make things like biological weapons and bigger bombs?

The Courtroom was riveted by the exchange between Rothschild and Behe. Word had gotten out, and the lawyers in the courthouse came in to watch what Judge Jones would later call the most effective cross-examination he had ever witnessed...

You have to laugh. That is "mythic talk" which may as well read: "And then the forces of reason ascended to the highest heights ever against the dark forces which just want to kill us all, I says!" Such talk indicates that the trial may be like the Scopes trial.

DaVinci said...

I dont know if you've read Dawkins book review of Michael Behe's new book. I'll post it here so your folks can read it.--

Inferior Design: Richard Dawkins reviews Behe's lastest book
by Richard Dawkins
Reposted from the NYTimes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/01/books/review/Dawkins-t.html?ref=review&pagewanted=all

I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe's second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him. The first — "Darwin's Black Box" (1996), which purported to make the scientific case for "intelligent design" — was enlivened by a spark of conviction, however misguided. The second is the book of a man who has given up. Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape. Poster boy of creationists everywhere, he has cut himself adrift from the world of real science. And real science, in the shape of his own department of biological sciences at Lehigh University, has publicly disowned him, via a remarkable disclaimer on its Web site: "While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific." As the Chicago geneticist Jerry Coyne wrote recently, in a devastating review of Behe's work in The New Republic, it would be hard to find a precedent.

For a while, Behe built a nice little career on being a maverick. His colleagues might have disowned him, but they didn't receive flattering invitations to speak all over the country and to write for The New York Times. Behe's name, and not theirs, crackled triumphantly around the memosphere. But things went wrong, especially at the famous 2005 trial where Judge John E. Jones III immortally summed up as "breathtaking inanity" the effort to introduce intelligent design into the school curriculum in Dover, Pa. After his humiliation in court, Behe — the star witness for the creationist side — might have wished to re-establish his scientific credentials and start over. Unfortunately, he had dug himself in too deep. He had to soldier on. "The Edge of Evolution" is the messy result, and it doesn't make for attractive reading.

We now hear less about "irreducible complexity," with good reason. In "Darwin's Black Box," Behe simply asserted without justification that particular biological structures (like the bacterial flagellum, the tiny propeller by which bacteria swim) needed all their parts to be in place before they would work, and therefore could not have evolved incrementally. This style of argument remains as unconvincing as when Darwin himself anticipated it. It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly can't explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.

Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation. Descent with modification gives him no problems, nor does natural selection. They are "trivial" and "modest" notions, respectively. Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as "trivial" the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish?

The crucial passage in "The Edge of Evolution" is this: "By far the most critical aspect of Darwin's multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept."

What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by randomness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection is arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind, because it — alone as far as we know — explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a "modest" idea, nor is descent with modification.

But let's follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his overrating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an "edge," beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasite's resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.

If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe's theory, what would you do? You'd take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let's call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you'd wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

Don't evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs — every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

If correct, Behe's calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?

The best way to find out is for Behe to submit a mathematical paper to The Journal of Theoretical Biology, say, or The American Naturalist, whose editors would send it to qualified referees. They might liken Behe's error to the belief that you can't win a game of cards unless you have a perfect hand. But, not to second-guess the referees, my point is that Behe, as is normal at the grotesquely ill-named Discovery Institute (a tax-free charity, would you believe?), where he is a senior fellow, has bypassed the peer-review procedure altogether, gone over the heads of the scientists he once aspired to number among his peers, and appealed directly to a public that — as he and his publisher know — is not qualified to rumble him.
http://richarddawkins.net/article,1360,Inferior-Design-Richard-Dawkins-reviews-Behes-lastest-book,Richard-Dawkins

Here is another good article.
http://richarddawkins.net/article,1852,Hello-Again-Michael-Behe,Sa-Smith-ERV

PhillyChief said...

As repulsive as Behe is, I take a perverse pleasure from him being at Lehigh since I graduated from Lafayette. HA! Suck it, Lehigh! :)~

John Evo-Mid said...

DaVinci -

Thanks. I had not read the review. Done with the characteristic Dawkins clarity.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym

"You have to laugh. That is "mythic talk" which may as well read: "And then the forces of reason ascended to the highest heights ever against the dark forces which just want to kill us all, I says!" Such talk indicates that the trial may be like the Scopes trial."

Maybe. We are a myth creating species. Some are more reality based than others.

The real bottom line is not whether this was some great momentous occasion, but whether it is true that ID doesn't have scientific credibility. You think it does. 98% of the worlds biologists and geneticists think otherwise. The 2% you can find to support your position do so without research that confirms their claim.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym

"yet apparently you'd rather believe accounts written by Darwinists and proto-Nazi anti-Semites like H.L. Mencken who argue that science will inevitably bring Progress, etc."

Guilty as charged.

mynym said...

Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape.

It's not apparent how Dawkins judges an artifact of intelligence like Behe's text while also arguing that all notions of intelligent design are an illusion generated by natural selection. It seems that Dawkins' ought to apply what passes for Darwinian "reasoning" to himself first. If he would adhere Darwinian reasoning consistently then it could be shown that the intelligibility of his own text is an illusion brought about by natural selection. Given the typical structure to Darwinian reasoning of: "If something could be show to me that I could not imagine coming about by a series of gradual steps then my way of imagining things would absolutely break down. See how I can always imagine something? Imagine that!" you begin to be allowed to cite your own imagination as if it is empirical evidence, a "fact." So to do away with the idea of Dawkins' text as an artifact of his intelligence one need only imagine yet more mythological narratives as to how it was produced. His brain events trace back to his place in biology, which traces back to natural selection operating on ape-like brains, which was combined with it operating on ancestral penises and so on and so forth. In the end it seems that his intelligence has more to do with natural selection and the penises of ape-like ancestors than with any intelligent selection of his own. His is a fundamentally unreasonable way of reasoning about things because it rests on the belief that imagining things is about the epistemic equivalent of the theory of gravity.

An interesting mythological narrative of naturalism:What might a non-locomotor benefit [for bipedality] look like? A stimulating suggestion is the sexual selection theory of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, of the University of Oregon. She thinks we rose on our hind legs as a means of showing off our penises. Those of us that have penises, that is. Females, in her view, were doing it for the opposite reason: concealing their genitals which, in primates, are more prominently displayed on all fours. This is an appealing idea but I don’t carry a torch for it. I mention it only as an example of the kind of thing I mean by a non-locomotor theory. [A theory, so it's probably just like gravity!]
(The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
By Richard Dawkins :91)

mynym said...

History shows that scientia/knowledge which is uninformed by moral and spiritual values quickly degenerates into the pseudo-science typical to barbarians. Unfortunately they remain technically/technologically proficient thanks to the knowledge they gained before denying all spiritual"" or transphysical realities, for example: The scholars whom we shall quote in such impressive numbers, like those others who were instrumental in any other part of the German pre-war and war efforts, were to a large extent people of long and high standing, university professors and academy members, some of them world famous, authors with familiar names and guest lecturers abroad...
If the products of their research work, even apart from their rude tone, strike us as unconvincing and hollow, this weakness is due not to inferior training but to the mendacity inherent in any scholarship that overlooks or openly repudiates all moral and spiritual values and, by standing order, knows exactly its ultimate conclusions well in advance.

(Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People
by Max Weinreich
(New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :7) (Emphasis added)

An interesting thought experiment, what evidence or logic could falsify philosophic naturalism?

mynym said...

The real bottom line is not whether this was some great momentous occasion, but whether it is true that ID doesn't have scientific credibility. You think it does. 98% of the worlds biologists and geneticists think otherwise.

I'm not impressed by "overwhelming numbers." The majority of German biologists agreed with eugenics and the "biological thinking" and "applied biology" that typified Nazism and the supposed inevitability of Progress that would be wrought by science in the last century, so how would your argument apply in that case? One might argue the exact opposite of your argument by noting that when people begin talking about scientific consensus or a "pure" science more than they talk about facts, logic and evidence then that's a hallmark of pseudo-science. Given the tendency of people like Dawkins to cite their own imaginations as almost the equivalent of empirical evidence of the theory of gravity pseudo-scientia/knowledge seems to be the term for it. Historical patterns seem to emerge again, for instance note Dawkin's view of eugenics as well as his the views he apparently holds on Jewish conspiracies. It is possible to assemble the evidence and make some comparisons between the old Social Darwinists and Darwinists of today.

At any rate, you should be able to see the fallacies of his review on your own beginning with arguing solely about "real science," consensus, careers and how to have a good career. It takes a limited intellect to argue from scientific consensus, yet apparently he's up to the task. From his review it's not even clear that he actually read Behe's book.

John Evo said...

Mynym,

I actually agree with you about not being impressed with overwhelming numbers, at least not short-term or in a limited geographic location.

You give the well-worn "Nazi Example". OOOOOH! Nazi. Bad. Anything you can link with Nazism is therefore bad de facto. Perfectly astute logic. Rocket science! OOOOOOH, the Nazis were on the cutting edge of that. Rocket science bad.

Look, just because a limited group of scientists in one country for one incredibly short period of human history did something bad with science, doesn't mean the baby of science goes out with the dirty Nazi bathwater. But you're smart enough to know that, so I think you play with the straw man.

Here's the thing about "overwhelming numbers". When you have those numbers, for over a century, from every land on earth that practices open and free science, and the results of that science does nothing but again and again and again back-up the original premise, then you really ought to wake up and smell the evolution. But you keep tilting at those windmills, ok?

mynym said...

...the Nazis were on the cutting edge of that. Rocket science bad.

Actually that's another example among many to illustrate that science and technology do not inevitably lead to Progress. As Karl Kraus said of the myths typical to progressives well before the Nazis came to power, "Progress will make purses of human skin."

History indicates that technically proficient barbarians tend to emerge fro the form and philosophy of science which progressives, socialists and so on tend to believe in. It seems that you support a similar form of "methodological naturalism." Looking back we see fascism as bad and wonder how anyone could have believed it, yet it had widespread/global intellectual and scientific support in its day.

Look, just because a limited group of scientists in one country for one incredibly short period of human history did something bad with science...

That's false. It wasn't an aberration, see for instance: (War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race
by Edwin Black)

My argument isn't that science is bad because it is possible to do bad things with science, although that fact is important to point out to science purists and the like, it's an argument against a bad philosophy of science rooted in atheism and naturalism.

...the results of that science does nothing but again and again and again back-up the original premise...

How have the original premises of (neo)Darwinism been specified in the language of mathematics and verified in trajectories of adaptation?

mynym said...

To be clear, it's more about philosophic naturalism than the atheism that sometimes emerges from it. Most people who adhere to a false philosophy of science have been Christian Darwinists actually justify their philosophy of naturalism with theological arguments drawn from the Victorian era. For example, negative theology: "It seems to me that God wouldn't make the panda's thumb this way, therefore that's evidence that natural selection can construct thumbs, the neural net attached to them and whatever else one might imagine, naturally."

PhillyChief said...

"My argument isn't that science is bad because it is possible to do bad things with science, although that fact is important to point out to science purists and the like, it's an argument against a bad philosophy of science rooted in atheism and naturalism."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is just a dressed up version of the argument that you can't have proper morals without a god; therefore, having no "proper" guidance, we'll misuse the advances of science like a bunch of Nazis. I'll grant you that science can be misused. Anything can be misused. I will not grant that we need to believe in a god or his hand in the works in order to ensure we don't misuse science.