intelligent design: a natural evolution of bourgeois biology

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Apr 2 2007 03:13
intelligent design: a natural evolution of bourgeois biology

Hi all. I got bored yesterday so I wrote this. Its about 780 words so I put in a link.

intelligent design

fruitloop
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Apr 2 2007 12:56

Hi there,

Nice post, and a lot of interesting issues raised.

Firstly, Dawkins; no-one likes a smart-arse, least of all in the UK, and he can come across as a bit of a smug one, particularly when debating with the truly wacky religionists. Also, he sometimes seems not to think quite as carefully as he might about what he says in some of his interviews and pop-science stuff, and because of this can appear to be supporting a greater degree of scientism and certitude than he does in his more considered publications. This does have a tendency to provide ammunition for the ID wacko brigade in a way that is a bit unfortunate. Extreme specialisation is the name of the game in science, and Dawkins isn't a philosopher of science etc, so some of the flak he gets for his epistemological sins is perhaps a bit unfair. The cheerleading that some folks have a tendency to indulge in (and I hold my hand up to this one) is mostly because his opponents are frequently such utter twat-witted right-wing nutjobs that watching them getting a kicking from more or less anyone is a self-indulgently pleasurable experience.

In terms of the dialectical relationship between life-forms and environment, I think there's a lot in this, but it's possible to get carried away. Clearly in some environments it's absolutely critical, like the way that elephants are instrumental in holding back the forest from encroaching on grasslands, but other environmental features are fairly obdurate even over very large timescales, like a series of mountains, valleys or islands. Also, environmental changes can have effects that totally override evolutionary influence, for example in the case of an extremophile tube-worm (or whatever) living on a single underwater volcanic vent. If the vent stops venting then boom, a whole species is gone with no possibility to adapt to the disastrously altered environmental conditions.

I don't believe there are necessary optimal fits in evolutionary biology - on the contrary there seems to be a strong element of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' - although in my opinion complete stasis is more or less an impossibility, since without some degree of adaptability degeneration would quite likely set in, and an organism would perhaps become perilously dependent on absolute environmental continuity - not a condition that bodes well for long-term survival. David Chalmers has done some interesting genetic algorithmic work on selecting not just for evolved fitness for a particular trained task, but more of a second-order selection for the ability to adapt per se. I can dig up the reference if you're interested as I think the fulltext is online.

The thing with Darwinism (by which I mean to refer to modern evolutionary science, not whatever quaint ideas the man himself held) is that it relies ultimately on fundamental laws, whereas only the reified view of the economist fails to spot the discursive, power-permeated nature of social organisation. For this reason alone the two can be analogised, but they are not directly comparable. Perhaps a more fruitful comparison is Malthusian pressure on population vs the necessity for the expansion of capital, as this is what pushes both systems constantly beyond their comfort zone, and is the driving force behind the endless diversity and constant colonisation that is characteristic of each (think of all the different varieties of almost identical birds, but with differently adapted beaks in a way that reduces competition for food).

Hope I've understood you correctly. Please bear in mind I'm a programmer with an interest in genetic AI not a biologist, so I apologise if any of my biological facts are a bit wonky.

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Apr 2 2007 12:58
jason wrote:
Its about 780 words so I put in a link.

surprised cool cool

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Apr 2 2007 16:47

I think that the main issue here is being ignored. The whole of this "bourgeois spat" is being fought out over the matter of curriculum. Viz., what is won and lost in this battle is not theoretical points, but school districts. Will children be indoctrinated with the scientist ideology or with the creationist ideology? Will the "Seperation of Church and State" stand, or will it fall? I, for one, couldn't care less. Meanwhile, people on both sides are getting rich on the battle, what with foundations and churches popping left and right, which is the only thing that really matters, materially.

mitr
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Apr 2 2007 19:32

Nice points - I agree with you criticising Dawkins, as I find that he too often doesn't use logical arguments or back up many of his claims (I'm referring only to his 'populist' book "The God Delusion" as it's the only one I've read). I've recently wondered why the Atheist movement is stepping up it's efforts and sacrificing a lot of integrity in doing so, as originally it was simply waiting for religion to die out (as some Liberals simply wait for inequality to sort itself out), and your easy attempts to answer this - but I think it's too vague in attributing it to the "bourgeoisie". Whom and where? Why genetics and not old fashioned social darwinism? Why the desire to destroy religion, when that would be destabilizing to the status quo rather than stabilising (not the UK perhaps, but moreso in America)?

Guilt
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Apr 2 2007 20:58

I rather like what's being called "New Atheism". Fuck the liberal "We must respect all beliefs simply because they are believed!" nonsense.

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Apr 2 2007 21:03

Well, mitr, this is, at its core, a faction fight inside the bourgeoisie which arises from class conflict:

  1. One faction of the bourgeoisie has allied itself with the labor aristocracy, which has made great strides since WWII in setting itself up as an indispensable tool in the hands of industrial capital; the promotion of the ideology of scientism is part and parcel of protecting the latter's privileged position.
  2. The other faction is trying to capitalize (pun intended) on the rising militancy of the working class by misdirecting it through a fascist, Christian-centric identity ideology, whose manifestation in the sciences is creationism; the spread of creationism simply allows them to gain more and more members of the less affluent strata of the working class into their ranks.

Since the lower strata of the working class are hit first by this highly decadent stage of capitalism, their militancy rises before that of the higher strata. This asymmetry results in a fissure of the working class, along which lines capital can send them one against the other.

It's not just the "intelligent design debate", though. Observe how denigrated the lower strata of the working class are on threads like this one, from a forum frequented by people who are attached to the more professional occupations, the higher strata.

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Apr 2 2007 22:27
revol68 wrote:
what utter reductionist shite.

Yeah, baby, talk dirty, you know what I like.

revol68 wrote:
you might have missed the whole post modern third way, death of ideology euro neoliberalism that is creating a space for idiotic shit like intelligent design.

Yeah. Probably because I was focusing on American society, where euro-neoliberalism is somewhat less influential. That might be due to the "euro" prefix.

revol68 wrote:
To reduce the argument to one of a two way faction fight amongst the bourgeois is to miss out the simple fact that 'intelligent design' is irrational shit that relies on the consumerist logic of developed whereby all ideas become interchangeable exchange values. Intelligent design is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this trend., it's also obvious in new age nonsense like homeopathy . Like Tony Blair and his non ideological ideology it represents the consumer cherry picking of ideas,whereby their consistency or correctness gves way to what is convenient, what is economically viable.

Yes, and why is that? Is it just some kind of arbitrary fad, or does it have some material basis?
I, for one, think that it has to do with a faction of the bourgeoisie trying to buy off the lower strata of the proletariat with whatever ideology works, in order to put it in opposition with the higher strata, when it might otherwise have turned its restlessness against the class system itself, the source of this restlessness being the inability of capital to keep up the financial buying off of the proles in the developed countries.

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Apr 2 2007 22:53
revol68 wrote:
But there is no way the issues can be reduced or put to the side on the basis of it being a faction fight within capital. The simple fact is that intelligent design is wrong, that evolutionary theory for all it's contamination with bourgeois ideals is worth defending

In what way do you mean to "defend" evolutionary theory?

revol68 wrote:
and as such I support those fighting to keep that crap out of classrooms.

I'd imagine that it's better to keep kids out of classrooms, actually.

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Apr 2 2007 23:27
revol68 wrote:
... the next step is business such as bio tech companies getting in on the act and the teaching of sciences being reduced to mere auxilieries of various narrow interests.

But certainly biotech companies have an interest in educating capable biologists, so that they are certainly your allies in your fight to defend evolutionary theory.

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Apr 2 2007 23:41

I don't think we need to pit the argument as evolutionary theory Vs creationism because as I tried to point out "evolutionary theory" includes both quite pronounced bourgeois strains as well as more nuanced dialectical approaches (and everything in between).

So the question is: how do we defend against the ultra-irrationality of creationsim without propping up bourgeois science?

And Revol, I don't really get your whole post-modern take on creationism. I do agree that TOJ's take is a little too exact for my liking but its hard for me not to see different clusters of bourgeois values in the two poles of neo-Darwinism and creationism. Like, the ideologies aren't conscious capitalist plots or anything and so don't presuppose a definite agency to capital. Just different groups who have captured the zeitgeist and make a buck from it, but it all feeds back into the zeitgeist.

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Apr 3 2007 00:11
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environmental changes can have effects that totally override evolutionary influence, for example in the case of an extremophile tube-worm (or whatever) living on a single underwater volcanic vent. If the vent stops venting then boom, a whole species is gone with no possibility to adapt to the disastrously altered environmental conditions.

Yeah good points. My concern though is that you pick up a pop-science book and the emphasis in this tube-worm example would no doubt be on all the physiological adaptations of the tube-worm to heat, etc, and probably leave it there (without the examples of grasslands adapting to elephants). In pop-biology, I feel that the process of evolution is often presented as secondary to the emphasis on optimal adaptations, sort of like an afterthought. My personal impression from reading things like "The Selfish Gene", is that the way examples are presented, things seem so optimaly adapted that further evoution seems impossible. So my main point is that in this context its actually not hard for intelligent designers to slot in here. (Its like biologist went so far trying to convince creationists of evolution by the metaphor of adaptations, rather evolution as process, that they shot themselves in the foot).

The point with thermophilic tube-worms is yes, they are very specialised to a relatively static environmental feature, so in this case there is a superficial one way causality of selection (we don't see the thermal vents changing like grasslands trampled by elephants). But this view also misses some nuances, such as: what is it about the physiology of ancestral tube-worms that they could create vents as a niche during their evolution. Or, if predation isn't an issue at the vents: is their evidence of population cycles as populations expand and make it easier for pathological vectors, which reduce population, which grows again, etc, etc. You can always emphasise process over stasis.

(edit - just thought of another important caveat in the tube-worm example. Their distribution around the vents may protect them from predators. So in fact, they may actually perform better under a different temperature regime, but their interactions with other organisms keeps them there in a homeodynamic interaction. (There are actual examples of this kind of thing). So to talk about the worms being physiologically adapted to live near thermal vents, whilst 'true', misses some important information. Thus you would have to do a lot of expereiments before you could say they were optimally adapted, but pop-science makes this assumption almost a priori.)

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Apr 3 2007 00:29
revol68 wrote:
To some extent that is true but it also overlooks issues such as social biology, GM and the pharmecutical lobby and itheir role in shaping the predominant discourses, for example my psycholigy teacher used to tell us about how important the role of pharmaceutical companies and their lobbies were in pushing medical models for mental illness.

Indeed. Which is why this is a bourgeois faction fight. By taking any "side" on this issue, you muddy the real problem: how schools are being gutted of any relic of human use in order to be made more efficient as bare tools of indoctrination, whether it's to scientism or to fundamentalism.

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Apr 3 2007 03:25
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what i'm talking about is the move away from upholding any views on the basis of rationality or principle, whereby these things becomes more and more like exchange values, with none being qualitively more valuable than the other, hence intelligent design is just as worthwhile as evolutionary theory.

But what about the thesis that neo-Darwinism has itself moved away somewhat from rationality? Hence it shouldn't surprise that some regard intelligent design as just as worthwile as a vulgarised evolutionary theory, like its losing its currency. Coz what's worthwhile? You can still genetically engineer organisms and design pharmeceuticals with a degree in intelligent design.

I'm not saying they are interchangeable. I've just been trying to show that dodgy biology has opened a door for intelligent design.

frew
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Apr 3 2007 11:57

Revol68 Tell it like it is!

I got into reading a fair bit of modern evolutionary theory after I read Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. Much of what he argued then is supported by more left wing evolutionists. Most Evolutionary Psychologists claim Kropotkin as the first, some support him uncritically. Instead of referring to Mutual Aid, they refer to Reciprocal Altruism, which is essentially the same thing.
There is a book called The Evolution of Co-operation, which sites many modern examples of mutual aid in action and uses game theory to prove that the best survival tactics are co-operative. (Well, mostly co-operative... to explain the details would take too long...)
Trying to dismiss all science as bourgeois is ludicrous. I don't think the results of any experiments into evolution have been falsified and I don't think the scientists lie about their results in the field.
Science... Real Science (as separated from Corporate lobbyist psuedo-science or crude Neo-Darwinism, whatever that is) is testable. Climatologists have been jumping up and down for years about climate change, because they take the measurements, look at the results and report them to who-ever will listen. If science was "bourgeois" wouldn't they have just kept it quiet? There isn't some vast Capitalist conspiracy directing all of science what to report. They can bribe off some to become Corporate hacks, but there will be others who will report their results accurately.
Science is not democratic. It is based on testing and re-testing. If something is proven wrong once its wrong forever. The idea of Creationism being taught as Science is utter madness...
Next thing you know, someone will be arranging the electrons in their computer to tell me that Quantum Physics is all bullshit too.

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Apr 3 2007 12:44
revol68 wrote:

but it's not a matter of supporting 'scientism' (whatever on earth that is),

A clear illustration of scientism, from another thread, is this:

Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
On wider issues to do with nature, however, I am happy to leave this to genuine scientists, not amateur armchair superscientists.

Clearly, it is materially obvious that you should only be able to express your view on a subject if you have the proper piece of paper. I wonder which experiment she got that out of.

revol68 wrote:
afterall it isn't like it's 'bio' companies fighting with intelligent design (quite explicitly backed by narrow interests) over who gets to pimp their agendas in schools. It's about opposing something with absolutely no scientific merit whatsoever, because once this door is opened it will infact only aid in the further carve up of education and teaching by narrow interests.

You seem to think that the professional takeover of schools will take place after the triumph of intelligent design, but last time I checked, schools were already taken over by professionalism, getting specific companies to set the curricula is the natural next step, unless it is stopped by good-hearted Christians the world over, "opening up the debate". So maybe you should actually be cooperating with the ID freaks. I'm confused now.

revol68 wrote:
Evolutionary theory for all it's crude variants atleast engages the discussion on a level far superior to the completely baseless and closed manner of intelligent design.

Evolutionary theory as some abstract theoretical framework, perhaps; but its proponents speak in the exact same baseless and closed manner of ID proponents, which is why they are unable to defend their gains against it. It doesn't matter that their authoritarianism happens to have some bearing on reality, unlike that of the various reverends and priests - as far as your average, intentionally uneducated individual is concerned, they sound the same, with the former being quite a bit more cockey than the latter (brights, anyone?).

mitr
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Apr 3 2007 15:02

I do think that evolutionary genetics has a hidden value for the establishment, and that is being part of the broad Western trend to dominate nature, and therefore man - in this effort, objective knowledge of biology is just as important as material control. This is the same establishment that creates more and more devastating weapons, builds bigger and more dominating networks of infrastructure and communication, and attempts to control all natural resources on the planet. ID on the other hand is a shallow attempt to dress up dogmatic religious beliefs in the language of their scientific enemies - but creationism isn't just an irrational 'opium', it goes back to the belief that American christians have a manifest destiny to conquer the world, bringing us back to it being a bedfellow with 'science'.

Guilt
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Apr 3 2007 15:17

The reading of evolution as having moral content is pathetic.

mitr
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Apr 3 2007 16:29

Since I'm new here, I will tolerate ad hominem arguments, but not respond to them. I am not analysing biology or evolution as sciences, but rather the use and reasons behind there promotion - that's where the moral content lies, and so long as objective science is conducted by men, a moral content may always exist. This also means that mastering nature doesn't necessarily lead to domination of men, but as with all technologies, it can if it is orientated to do so.

mitr
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Apr 3 2007 18:06
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I'm failing to see the point, what are you bringing to the discussion? That science is socially constructed as such can be used to master both nature and man? yeah that's true but it doesn't say much about the issue at hand, namely intelligent design.

I thought that was the main issue you had against what I had posted - on the issue of ID, as I have said I think it is related to the ideas of manifest destiny, Christian Identity and British Israelism - but whereas I suspect science is used for certain ends, ID isn't being "misused", it isn't scientific so, the reactionary use it is put to is the only one possible. I did say that modern science and ID nowadays have parallel ends, but I didn't intend to argue for total relativism.

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p.s. the Adorno coment was meant light heatedly don't take it as an insult.

No worries.

frew
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Apr 4 2007 00:14

mitr said:

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I do think that evolutionary genetics has a hidden value for the establishment, and that is being part of the broad Western trend to dominate nature, and therefore man - in this effort, objective knowledge of biology is just as important as material control.

All science can be utilised by the powers that be. I agree.
That doesn't change the fact that science is amoral. What is the alternative? Rejecting science and going back to being hunter/gatherers?
Humans have been playing an active part in the evolution of other species for thousands of years. All crops have evolved through a process of humans choosing which grains are best and encouraging those to grow. Rice, wheat, corn etc. have evolved to be staple crops because humans have been influencing their evolution for thousands of years by selecting the most fruitful plants to re-plant and learning cultivation through trial and error (experiments).
As for 'evolutionary genetics... being part of the broad Western trend to dominate nature, and therefore man.' I see genetics in a different light. All biological organisms are expressions of DNA. The first single celled organisms that figured out how to divide, have spawned all of the life on this planet. The process of evolution has brought about every species. Humans share over 99% of the same genes, which to me, is the basis of human solidarity. Like all other life-forms, we are all unique expressions of DNA.
I think the Western Scientific tradition of dominating nature is under attack from science itself. Science is moving away from a confrontational struggle between humans and nature for the simple fact that we are a part of nature. The oxygen we breathe in is a plant by-product, our shit makes great fertiliser. We are part of the environment of the Earth, any separation between people and nature, in the minds of scientists is being eroded because it is obvious that we are having a negative effect on the environment. Its not a matter of us dominating nature anymore because we are a part of it.

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Apr 4 2007 01:31
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Trying to dismiss all science as bourgeois is ludicrous. I don't think the results of any experiments into evolution have been falsified and I don't think the scientists lie about their results in the field.

Science dosn't have to be exact to be efficacious. Lots of stuff was done with Newtonian physics before the advent of relativity and quantum mechanics. And like I said above, you can actually practice modern bio-tech with ID principles. Nor is the ideology embodied in research necessarily (or even often) conscious, and its effect on wider society is almost impossible to gauge exactly.

My point, which I'll state again wall wall , is that the crude metaphors of neo-Darwinian theory (defined as the current trends that emphasise optimality) feed directly into ID thinking. So simply to defend "evolutionary theory" against ID may miss the point if you're not careful about it.

Quote:
So a neo darwinist might overlook the dynamism of environment in their modelling of adaption they don't carte blanche rule it out and posit that change amongst species is caused by the hand of a supernatural entity dabbling in nature when he gets bored. Surely it is obvious that one of these doesn't even deserve to be engaged with as having anything to do with biology. One of them is engagable with in intelligable terms and the other is nonsense. It's the equivalent of a debate between a crude marxist and a post structuralist being interrupted by a raving loon who believes in lizard people ruling the world.

Not as simple as that. I would argue that neo-Darwinism and ID share far similar terms of debate and metaphors. In your example the raving loon has no relation to crude marxism. This isn't the case with neo-Darwinism and ID.

I'll try and say it again: NEO-DARWINISM GIVES I.D. AMMO

frew
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Apr 4 2007 05:03

I've never read any book on evolution 'emphasises the optimality of organisms'. Every book I have read sees this as an ongoing... evolution. I assume from the comments on this thread, this is the type of thing that Dawkins argues for (I haven't read any of his stuff, except for a little booklet on the evolution of the eye)?
Are there other examples?
I just find your argument to be attacking some aspect of evolutionary theory that I have only encountered from a few ecologists, rather than any evolutionary theorists themselves.
To be honest, I do tend to read books that look at the evolution of humans and the mind, rather than books that focus on other species. (I figure that if I want to change the way people think, it might help to look at how people think.)

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Apr 4 2007 05:40
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Are there other examples?

Yes. Every biology text book ever printed (except those that Lewontin co-authored). wink

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To be honest, I do tend to read books that look at the evolution of humans and the mind, rather than books that focus on other species.

Fair enough. Human evolution is extrordinarily recent on a paleontological time scale, so its hard to present this process without reference to constant change.

But look a bit deeper and you'll see that supposedly humans are adapted to the savannah, so a human in "modern" or "industrial" society (not capitalist you'll note) gets fat and stressed. Most anthropology text books spin this line. (But its a contradiction because if you look at indicators that biologists normally stress, longevity and population growth, it looks like we're adapted to modern society. But that's not the important bit.) The important bit is that there's supposedly an essential nature to humans.

So even if intellegent designers and most biologists quibble about human evolution, they both actually share the same esentialist paradigm: organisms "fit" their environment, they are in fact designed for them whether by a creator or natural selection.

AFAIK most intelligent designers accept limited evolution, as in the old peppered moth example (you know? white moth - sooty trees, gives black moth), or agricultural selection, but deny the creation of new qualitatively different forms, that is species, via natural selection. Intellegent designers accept the technical truth of genes, and could concievably genetically modify organisms. ID is practically efficacious, it just denies speciation, which isn't a relevant issue to agriculture or industry. So for all intents and purposes intelligent designers argue with biologists about the theoretical issue of speciation, but both starting from the same premise of designed to fit.

All I'm saying is that IME 95 out of 100 professional biologist would take no issue with the following statement: "in general, organisms are superbly adapted to their environment". Whilst this is the case, biology gives ammo to dodgy uses of biology. In the current milieu, this is ID. It could just as well be Eugenics or something eles.

And Revol: If you wanna say its just post modernism, eveything's value is interchangable, I gotta ask the question: why isn't telekinesis as big a band wagon as ID?

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Apr 4 2007 10:10

I still can't quite get my head around why this is genuinely an important issue. I mean, even if there were highly capitalistic evolitionary theorists who do draw parallels between some aspects of competition and/or adaptation and the current political system, the would still only have the status of an interesting correspondence or analogy. In a comparable way, my old man is a communist biochemist and in his more whimsical moments draws similarly non-compulsive parallels of exactly the opposite political flavour from aspects of his own discipline. Probably there are for more of the former than the latter, but then they don't call it the dominant ideology for nothing.

The point we should be making, if there has to be one, is surely that scientific observation of this kind in fact has no prescriptive political or social attributes at all? Maybe rape really is a purposive adaptation than allows the genetic material of some of the losers in the game of sexual selection to nevertheless pass on their genetic material - we're still going to proscribe it regardless based on an entirely discursive respect for the personal autonomy of individuals not to be sexually violated, and the same I would have thought is identically true of any more macro-politiical considerations.

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Apr 5 2007 01:20
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The reason telekinesis isn't a big band wagon because it doesn't have millionaire backers and a whole religious movement behind it.

Exactly, there's been the science Vs religion debate for centuries. What is it about ID that made it attractive as an 'investment' opportunity. What is it about 21st century biology that in a sense has "allowed" a relatively successful counter offensive? That's the level I'm trying to understand the phenomena on.

So yes at one level they are qualitatively different ideas of thought: irrational faith versus a committment to rational enquiry. This can explain why the ideas have been counterposed for centuries. But at another level, the ideas more or less grade into each other. Maybe this can help explain aspcts of the ebb and flow of the battle.

frew
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Apr 5 2007 10:28

There are a whole host of issues that lend a lot of political weight to the ID argument.
The main push for ID comes from the Fundamentalist Christian movement in the US, who have a lot of backing from the Republican party. This is how ID has been allowed in to the curriculum in some high schools.
The Corporate media support the 'free-market' of ideas. They give the proponents of ID equal or more air time than with legit scientists. The same with climate change skeptics. Or conservative, pro-war analysts. Its the appearance of balance.
There is a culture of anti-intellectualism which has the effect of discouraging people from reading any science, so most people are completely disengaged from what any scientists say. Part of this (I think,) is a concious dumbing down of the populace. The other part is the specialisation of knowlege in general. (I wonder how many scientists understand anything beyond their field?) People who spend their whole lives studying some small aspect of biology are going to have a lot of trouble relating their ideas to a construction worker. It is also in Academics interests for the population to think what they study is difficult, otherwise they might lose their specialist status.
There might be something too, in your argument that the way biologists frame their argument, lends weight to ID. As for a continuum from ID to Evolution, this isn't at all suprising. I've met Christians that believe in Evolution who claim that god defined the process and nothing more. I've met Christians who believe the world was created in 6 days. Unfortunately Christians make up a large section of the population. On the evolutionist side of the continuum...I think Revol 68 said it nicely:

Quote:
You mean that the way evolutionary theorists often write about evolution tends to give it a teleology and consciousness?

In the end though, you can't win a logical argument with 'faith' because faith is devoid of logic.

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Apr 5 2007 11:22
frew wrote:
The other part is the specialisation of knowlege in general. (I wonder how many scientists understand anything beyond their field?) People who spend their whole lives studying some small aspect of biology are going to have a lot of trouble relating their ideas to a construction worker. It is also in Academics interests for the population to think what they study is difficult, otherwise they might lose their specialist status.

I've really noticed this with the New Scientist magazine. In days gone by (I'm talking ten-plus years ago) there was normally a kind of non-specialists introduction to each long article with no jargon or symbols, but this was always followed by a much more in-depth explanation with an underlying assumption (I felt) that there were a pretty substantial common body of knowledge that most scientists shared. These days that assumption seems to have gone out of the window a bit, and whilst it definitely partly stems from the increasing complexity of some of the individual disciplines, there's an underlying social element going on as well I think.

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May 29 2007 15:55

Fuck fuck fuck how did I miss this thread jesus!?

Too many points to respond to

As far as the supposed dominance of the adaptationist programme I'd say that's a fair criticism of education in evolution. Although tobe honest When I was taught it, I did actually learn about stuff like gene flow, genetic drift and inheritance of neutral traits. Additionally, I think Gould and Eldridges "punctuated equilibrium" is getting more acknowledgmente in popular biology but not yet in secondary education.
I think there is a shift away from notions of optimality and progress and to be honest when I see "best-fit" or "best-adapted" I take them as figures of speech and when I was teaching secondary biology I explained that this didn't necessarily mean "progress" or whatever and simply meant "fit-enough"

As far as the problem of teleological metaphor - this is something that IDists have jumped on. When I hear design or teleology metaphors I hear as just that, metaphors. However IDists have manipulated this saying that design is a framework within which science should be based (Steve Fuller says this in his support for the Dover IDists) - or that because actual scientists sometimes use design metaphors that there is a genuine scientific argument to be had about design
But there isn't, the vast majority of scientistsdon't take ID seriously.
In a recent debate with Lewis Wolpert (Developmental biologist) Fuller suggested that if evolutionists wanted to avoid much of this argument they should cease using design metaphors - Wolpert said that's fair enough.
I saw Simon Conway-Morris (he's a christian and paleontologist, opposed to ID) talk in December and he said that metaphors were useful but when extended into teleology they could be crippling because they can be leapt-on by deliberately disingenuous types.

Some points on ID that spring to mind:

Dissent from Darwin
Interestingly, the Dissent from Darwin list (the list of supposedly serious scientists who disagree witrh evolution) seems to be made up by many engineers and computer scientists - why anything they say about evolutionary biology should be taken particularly seriosuly isn't immediately apparent to me.
I mean, if I'm curious about the utility of some computer software I'm not going to consult an evolutionary biologist or paleontologist am I?

Presenting a cult of personality of Darwinism :
It's much easier to attack an idea if it can be linked to an individual, in this case Darwin. A tactic that really fucking frustrates me - clearly evolutionary theory has moved on a lot in the last 150 years. From it's modern synthesis with Mendelian genetics, to evo-devo, punctuated equilibrium, Dawkins' gene as unit of inheritance - these are far more interesting debates andthe ones that scientists shgould actually be concerned about.

Deliberate misrepresentation of evolution as completely "random".
Even the term "random" is used in a loaded sense to prey upon peoples' intuitive leaning toward supposed order and purpose. Of course most biologists would say evolution is far from random - mutations certainly are random, but the concept of natural selction is not - it implies some sense of directionality, and while there are ongoing debates about notions of progress and directionality, it's safe to say that the evolution of thick fur coats in cold climates demonstrates soem kind of "direction" for want of a better word.

Conflating evolution with "origin of life"
Not the same thing - the origin of the first self-replicating molecule does not really fall within the remit of evolutionary biology, which describes and explains development and change in biological life. Not a lot is known about the origin of life but doesn't mean it will never be found-out. Miller's experiments always interested me. the lack of an explanation for the origin of life in no way undermines evolutionary theory but when presented by IDists as if they are one and the same it has this effect for a lot of people.

From the point of view of science teachers
When Revol mentions the basic task of classroom teachers actually having to deal with this shit I don't know how anyone could have anything but sympathy for them. Yes there are over-arching critiques of science and education, but on a day-to-day basis there has to be some way of tackling this shit for science teachers.
In the Dover trial, the teachers in question were expected to read a pro-ID statement that they knew was deliberately misleading, contrary to their own scientific training, and they felt it compromised their integrity as educators - so they refused to read it. Why wouldn't anyone support that? It wasn't even a big massive political stand - they just didn't want to intentionally misrepresent their subject.

As for the motivations of the ID movement, the Discovery Institute in particular, read their Wedge statement - this was their leaked strategy, which they now claim was no big deal and they weren't trying to hide anything, but interestingly don't publish on their own website.
seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies
In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism.

From the Wedge

GOALS

Governing Goals

* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.

Five Year Goals

* To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
* To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
* To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

EDIT - to include link to Stanley Miller's work being replicated

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Joined: 14-03-06
May 29 2007 17:07
xConorx wrote:
Fuck fuck fuck how did I miss this thread jesus!?

on this thread of all threads, why are you asking Him?

Choccy's picture
Choccy
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Joined: 9-12-04
May 29 2007 17:09

Because He is the light and the way, obviously.