Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to two seminars at BiRC on Darwinism and ID...
Ok, here goes :)
The first talk was by a historian and was on the history of Darwin and the introduction of his ideas in Denmark. Here it was pretty rapidly accepted by scientists (and the population in general). One of the reasons for this was that Danish theologians quickly made a distinction between "knowing" and "believing" and had no problems with natural sciences dealing with science and the church dealing with faith, and not trying to mixing that up.
This is still the case today, but at the end of the talk he turned to the history of creationism and ID. These movements are still pretty rare in Denmark, so it was mainly the history of creationism in the US.
All in all a very interesting talk.
The second talk was from a philosopher and was on the arguments used by ID, and whether ID should be considered a science and taught as such in school.
The arguments are well known to you, I am sure. Argument by analogy, god of the gaps, and the two chestnuts Irreducible Complex and Specified Complexity. (The two latter he essentially reduced to God of the Gaps by showing that the final step for Design in either case boils down to not knowing the "true" answer and therefore conclude that "God did it"; regardless of the many complexity/probability theoretic problems with the arguments, that alone disqualifies it as proper logic).
Arguing by analogy is essentially the "if it looks like a duck, it must be a duck" argument, and the problem is that by choosing the right analogy you can prove anything. He quoted the Danish play Erasmus Montanus where the main character proves that his mother is a stone, since stones cannot fly and neither can his mother.
The God of the Gaps argument essentially asks you to conclude that if you don't know how X happens, then it must be God who did X. If you cannot prove not X, then X must be true. The problem here is, of course, that you can just plug in Y for X and the argument is just as (in)valid. So maybe the Spaghetti Monster did it?
All in all, he concluded that non of the arguments would be considered strong arguments (from a philosophy view point).
He then turned to ID as a science, and compared it to the scientific principle of falsifiability. If God did it, and he works in mysterious ways, then falsifiability is out the window.
Sure, God might be behind it all, but then science is meaningless. He can cheat us at any time. You simply cannot have a mysterious God and science at the same time. If you accept science, then either God does not excist, or he does not work in quite as mysterious ways.
If you accept ID as science, then all other science has to go, since they are not philosophical compatible.
So should ID be taught in science classes? No!
Today there was a science show on Danish television on The Missing Link. Cool, I thought, that is going to be interesting. They will even mention some of my own research (in an interview with Mikkel Schirup, one of my colleagues from BiRC).
It was an interesting show. Kinda superficial, but still interesting.
Now, there is also a web forum associated with the show. So after the show I logged on to see if there would be an interesting discussion.
Kinda, sorta, but not really.
I mean, there was a bit of a discussion, but it completely drowned in nut job creationists demanding "proof" of evolution.
I tried to argue a bit, but gave up and went for a couple of beers with some friends instead.
Now I just got back and am reading through the discussion there, and I am very saddened.
It could have been a very interesting discussion about the various theories and evidence for this or that scientific theory, but it ended up being a discussion about whether evolution is a fact or not.
Why is it that those crazy people demand proof of evolution but refuse to read all the existing literature supporting the theory? Which paper, which conclusion is it they disagree with?
Let us start from there.
You cannot just discard a study because you do not like the conclusion. You have to point out the errors in the study!
If you do not believe in evolution, tell us which bloody paper it is that made a mistake!
Damn it, life is just to short to discuss with people who are ignorant about the topic under discussion...
I have strong opinions about creationism, but I usually don't voice them here. Even discussing it is giving it too much attention. I prefer just to ignore it, like I ignore astrology, palm reading and other crazy pseudo-sciences.
The reason I mention it today is that today a new Danish website on evolution goes online: evolution.dk
The purpose is to present the science of evolution (yeah, it is called the theory of evolution, but it is science, damn it!) and discuss the various myths about it made up by creationists and their pseudo scientist bedfellows in "intelligent" design.
Anyway, rant off...
I guess it is good to have some public discussion of this, even if I would prefer to kill it with silence. After all, if only one part in the discussion is heard, you will get the wrong impression about the controversy. Mind you, the controversy I'm referring to here is not a scientific one, but one between scientists and religion.
And there is a bit of a debate going on now in the media. Tonight there will be a television show on it, and there was a piece on the new website in my morning paper today.
We also have two seminars on this next week at BiRC, that I plan to attend. The speakers are not from BiRC but from Science Studies, the group we share our building with.
Anyway, if you can read Danish, go check out their website.