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Charles Krauthammer's Ignorant Essay on Design ^

Posted on 11/22/2005 7:58:24 PM PST by truthfinder9

Charles Krauthammer's syndicated essay against intelligent design ran opposite mine in today's Seattle Times. The piece is full of problems, which Tom Gilson and Lawrence Seldon explore in loving detail here and here.

Now I would have framed a couple of points in their otherwise fine analysis a little differently. In one place, Gilson describes agnostic David Berlinski as an ID proponent. It would be more precise to call Berlinski a Darwin skeptic and friendly critic of design theory. Also, Seldon writes that Krauthammer "rants about Dover and Kansas ... writing out of ignorance and knocking down a straw man." To be generous, I would have said that Krauthammer "writes calmly and authoritatively out of ignorance, knocking down a straw man."

I'm rooting for Krauthammer to do his homework and, like British philosopher Antony Flew, change his mind.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bibleidolatrycult; creation; crevolist; design; dover; education; evolution; intelligentdesign; junkscience; kansas; krauthammer; moonysinmortarboards; science; scienceeducation; snakehandlersindrag
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To: Jo Nuvark
The Evolution v Creation argument may be the undoing of civilization.

Yeah. Right. Sure.

If we deny that we are created beings (a creation must have a Creator), we have no accountability and an excuse to behave badly.

This is complete and utter nonsense. Even absent a creator, we still have accountability to others in our society. Behave badly, and pretty soon you're going to get the crap kicked out of you (literally or figuratively) -- and excuses about "it's in my nature" aren't going to fly.

If kin to apes, our primal desires to murder and breed are then instinctual.

...and so are our "primal desires" for cooperation, family and community bonds, love, caring for and protecting our children, defending our peers, etc. etc.

You really haven't thought this through at all, have you?

We are without guilt and free to roam and do as we please.

Horse manure. Even *apes* feel guilt, and fail to act as hedonistically and unrestrained as you ignorantly assume they "should". Get a clue.

Even apes understand that that sort of behavior is a recipe for disaster. And humans have even more of an ability to use their minds to understand why short-term selfish gains are *not* worthwhile or desirable strategies in the long run. Instead, cooperation, mutual altruism, "golden rule" ethics, and so on are vastly more effective ways to enhance even your *own* net benefits in a society, as well as the welfare of others. It's a win-win situation.

Duh. Even *apes* figure this out pretty fast as they grow up. What's *your* excuse?

Promiscuous sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion (murder). The decline of the family... the decline of civilization.

Uh huh. Whatever you say.

Tell me, if it were somehow proven tomorrow that there wasn't a creator after all, would *you* suddenly start raping, killing, and pillaging? Yes or no? If Yes, shame on you, and you'd better have "fun" quick before you get shot or thrown in jail. If No, then realize you're not the only one with an actual brain and a conscience.

61 posted on 11/23/2005 12:39:07 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: ThePythonicCow
Mangled html - the phrase: should have been:
62 posted on 11/23/2005 12:44:17 AM PST by ThePythonicCow (To err is human; to moo is bovine.)
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To: ThePythonicCow

You do realize, I hope, the pointless of your 'calculations'? Or shall I spell it out for you?

63 posted on 11/23/2005 12:50:22 AM PST by blowfish
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To: truthfinder9

Dr. K should stick to politics

64 posted on 11/23/2005 12:55:45 AM PST by Cincinna (HILLARY and her HINO want to take over your country. STOP THEM NOW!)
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To: ThePythonicCow; 2ndreconmarine
Ok - here's your math.

Well, it's "math" all right, but it models a really stupid scenario which has no resemblance at all to actual biological processes.

That is infinitesmally small.

Yes, and also infinitismally valid as a meaningful model of reality.

On top of *that*, it makes the common ad hoc probability fallacy. Here's an example just like yours about a more familiar process, in order to show how idiotic your math is:

There are 52! (52 factorial, or 52x51x50...x1) possible arrangements to a single deck of cards. Take a deck, shuffle it thoroughly, and spread the deck face up on the table. See that arrangement of cards you ended up with? The odds of getting that exact arrangement are an astronomically small 1 out of 80658175170943878571660636856403766975289505440883277824000000000000 -- it's a miracle!!!
Nice try.

Sorry, son, but all your "math" has demonstrated is that it you were randomly shuffling DNA like a deck of cards, the odds of producing someone's specific genome from scratch (and which one? Not counting identical twins, everyone's DNA is *different*) are astronomically low. But so freaking what? No one ever suggested that human life came about by *shuffling*. That's highly idiotic.

Instead, human life has come about via evolutionary processes, which are *not* as pointless and unfocussed as shuffling. And for a taste of just how *much* evolution can speed up things over purely random processes like the one you *incorrectly* try to use as an analogy for evolutionary processes, here's an older post of mine:

Or are you one of those who insist that a room full of monkeys with keyboards can write the complete works of Shakespeare?

In theory? Yes they can, if you're willing to wait long enough (where "enough" is an amount of time that boggles the imagination). In practice (by simple random output)? No they can't.

But they can do it pretty quickly and easily if a replication and selection process is involved.

You wanted to see a calculation, so let's do one.

Consider the Shakespeare phrase, "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me." That's 109 characters (including spaces and punctuation). Upper and lower case letters, plus digits and puntuaction, make up a pool of about 70 different characters. This means that the odds of producing the Shakespeare phrase in one random trial is 1 out of 70109, or 1 in 1,305,227,939,201,292,014, 528,313,176,276,968,928,001, 249,110,077,400,839,115,038, 451,821,150,802,274,449,576, 205,527,736,070,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000.

Needless to say, that's a big number. It's so huge that if every atom in the universe (about 1080 of them) were a computer capable of making a billion (1,000,000,000) random trials per second, the expected time required to produce the above line from Shakespeare would be 2,585,011,097,170,911,314,802,759,827,024,569,612,393, 783,728,161,759,843,736,212,615,624,189,581,658,716,078, 309,043,891,309 times the expected lifespan of the universe. That's close enough to "never" in my book.

But that's for *purely* random production process. How much do you think an evolutionary process could cut down that figure? Knock a few zeros off the end, maybe?

Well let's try it. Using an evolutionary process, which couples random variation with replication and selection and *nothing* else, the above Shakespeare phrase can be produced on a *single* computer (mine), using a breeding population of 1024 character strings in a whopping... 15 seconds (using this applet):

Generation: 0
Tries <= 1024
Best Critter: "xSeOSEpc3Lm6rnRWnpFYL?QEDY7a67XlfRoJ0e8Len'X'1u'BhdrNqSNaXr7kVjondNozkf2CH9d96SaI?'f43M.CUGJ5XHbqfeR.UJP'tgNP"
Score (0 is best) 101

Generation: 100
Tries <= 26624
Best Critter: "vf,ioV c3RKlooioifBFQXh, PeHTskof!oJ0e,Lrn'X'1u BhkchESNaXr kVjo dNozpanSI div1Qwi8h taQ,jswMkk,us1S'ugYtmm7."
Score (0 is best) 72


Generation: 1115
Tries <= 286464
Best Critter: "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me."
Score (0 is best) 0

Checked 286464 critters in 15 seconds == 19097 tries/sec.

Hmm, 15 seconds is a hell of a lot faster than zillions of times the lifespan of the universe, isn't it? Evolution sped things up (compared to a purely random process) by a factor of more than 10195 -- that's a "1" followed by a hundred and ninety-five zeros, or: 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.

Lesson: Even simple evolutionary processes are *incredibly* more efficient and effective than simple randomness alone. Evolution can *easily* accomplish things which would be *impossibly* improbable by purely random means.

For further discussion of the many ways in which your analysis is flawed, see:

Probability of Abiogenesis FAQs

65 posted on 11/23/2005 12:56:18 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: blowfish
You do realize, I hope, the pointless of your 'calculations'? Or shall I spell it out for you?

I just spelled it out for him in my prior post.

66 posted on 11/23/2005 12:57:07 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Cincinna
Dr. K should stick to politics

He is.

67 posted on 11/23/2005 1:00:50 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Tim Long
Yes, but you don't want to trust a weak BS theory over what God clearly says.

Funny, that's just what these folks were saying -- and they were dead wrong:

"And if Your Reverence would read not only the Fathers but also the commentaries of modern writers on Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Josue, you would find that all agree in explaining literally (ad litteram) that the sun is in the heavens and moves swiftly around the earth, and that the earth is far from the heavens and stands immobile in the center of the universe. [...] I add that the words 'the sun also riseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteneth to the place where he ariseth, etc.' were those of Solomon, who not only spoke by divine inspiration but was a man wise above all others and most learned in human sciences and in the knowledge of all created things, and his wisdom was from God."
-- Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, April 12, 1615 letter to Foscarini concerning Galileo's "heresy".
"Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vaincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion; for having disciples to whom you taught the same doctrine; for holding correspondence with certain mathematicians of Germany concerning the same; for having printed certain letters, entitled "On the Sunspots," wherein you developed the same doctrine as true; and for replying to the objections from the Holy Scriptures, which from time to time were urged against it [i.e. for disagreeing with Bible-based criticisms - Ich.] [...] This Holy Tribunal being therefore of intention to proceed against the disorder and mischief thence resulting, which went on increasing to the prejudice of the Holy Faith, [...] The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture. [...] Furthermore, in order to completely eliminate such a pernicious doctrine, and not let it creep any further to the great detriment of Catholic truth, the Holy Congregation of the Index issued a decree which prohibited books which treat of this and declaring the doctrine itself to be false and wholly contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture. [...] We say, pronounce, sentence and declare that you, Galileo, by reason of these things which have been detailed in the trial and which you have confessed already, have rendered yourself according to this Holy Office vehemently suspect of heresy, namely of having held and believed a doctrine that is false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture: namely that Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west, and that one may hold and defend as probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture. [...] Consequently, you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated by the sacred Canons and all particular and general laws against such delinquents.
-- Papal Condemnation (Sentence) of Galileo (June 22, 1633)
If the Vatican get get Scripture so freaking wrong when they read it, I have even less confidence in the textual interpretations of amateurs.

Here, ponder this:

"The doctrine of the movements of the earth and the fixity of the sun is condemned [by Biblical literalists] on the ground that the Scriptures speak in many places of the sun moving and the earth standing still… I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures, but with experiments and demonstrations." -- Galileo Galilei
Pop quiz: Who was right -- Galileo, learning from observation and evidence, or the Pope and his entire Church, relying on their reading of the text of the Bible?

Does the Sun actually revolve around the fixed Earth, as the Church was convinced the Bible clearly said?

68 posted on 11/23/2005 1:05:50 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Badray; truthfinder9
Doesn't it take a lot more faith to believe that this was all an accident of (what is the current guesstimate) 25 million years than it takes to have faith in a Creator?

No, it doesn't. It doesn't take any "faith" at all -- it takes evidence, research, knowledge, and understanding of the relevant processes.

Here, read this: Do You Believe In Evolution?

69 posted on 11/23/2005 1:08:07 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
That is exactly what I was trying to demonstrate.

Precisely. I agree. I have no such delusions that evolution is random card (or genome) shuffling. I was responding to another posters doubts (show me the math) to my claims that evolution wasn't simple random selection.

Though misread my intent, you did a nice job of taking my position one step further, and explaining how some more sensible form of evolution than just random shuffling can make dramatic improvements in the rate of advancement.


70 posted on 11/23/2005 1:09:04 AM PST by ThePythonicCow (To err is human; to moo is bovine.)
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To: blowfish

Yes I fully realize how pointless they are. That was my point ;).

71 posted on 11/23/2005 1:10:06 AM PST by ThePythonicCow (To err is human; to moo is bovine.)
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To: ThePythonicCow; 2ndreconmarine; PatrickHenry; AlexandriaDuke; Badray; Cicero; Cincinna; ...
We don't know how to explain say the design of an eyeball, as a scientifically possible evolution with any statistical chance of occurring in the span of ten trillion universes, even once, on one planet.

Sure we do -- have you bothered to actually *look* at the science journals before saying something like this?

So "we" don't know how to explain the origins of the eyeball, as an evolutionary scenario? Oooookay. Pull the other leg now:

Uncovering The Ancestry of A Complex Organ, The Eye

The Visual System II

The Evolution of Eyes

The Evolution of Color Vision

Life's Grand Design

Life's Grand Design (II)

How Could An Eye Evolve?

And those are just some pages for *laymen*. If you really want to get into the gritty details, read some actual journal articles on the subject, for example:
Cubozoan jellyfish: an Evo/Devo model for eyes and other sensory systems
To give a taste of the vast amount of research that has actually been published on this subject (which the creationists routinely falsely mischaracterize as as if nothing at all is actually known), consider:
ARENDT, D. and WITTBRODT, J. (2001). Reconstructing the eyes of Urbilateria. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 356: 1545-63.
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BALL, E.E., HAYWARD, D.C., REECE-HOYES, J.S., HISLOP, N.R., SAMUEL, G., SAINT, R., HARRISON, P.L. and MILLER, D.J. (2002). Coral development: From classical embryology to molecular control. Int J Dev Biol 46: 671-8.
BOPP, D., BURRI, M., BAUMGARTNER, S., FRIGERIO, G. and NOLL, M. (1986). Conservation of a large protein domain in the segmentation gene paired and in functionally related genes of Drosophila. Cell 47: 1033-40.
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CHI, N. and EPSTEIN, J.A. (2002). Getting your Pax straight: Pax proteins in development and disease. Trends Genet 18: 41-7.
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Perhaps creationists "don't know" how the eye evolved, but if so it's because they're not bothering to read the science journals before they make their pronouncements. Biologists actually know a great deal about how the eye evolved, in what stages, in what lineages, at what points in time, via what genetic and molecular changes, etc. etc. There's still a lot to discover yet, of course, but the usual creationist canard of "you guys don't know nothin' and have no evidence, it's all just guesswork" is a gigantic misrepresentation.

However the argument that "We don't know how it happened, so someone must have designed it" answers nothing for me. It just regresses the magic.

Bingo! Creationists like to offer "a designer did it" as an "explanation", but it actually *explains* nothing. An actual explanation would involve details as to processes, methods, materials, etc.

72 posted on 11/23/2005 1:38:58 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: truthfinder9

My great grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 102 always called it "Divine Design".

We all knew what she meant. We all agreed.

We also knew it is based on Faith, not on pseudo-science.

Science does not conflict with Faith. There are just some things that are "broader than the measure of the mind."

73 posted on 11/23/2005 1:47:01 AM PST by Cincinna (HILLARY and her HINO want to take over your country. STOP THEM NOW!)
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To: truthfinder9; 2ndreconmarine; AlexandriaDuke; Badray; Cicero; Cincinna; Coyoteman; Ichneumon; ...
I'm rooting for Krauthammer to do his homework and, like British philosopher Antony Flew, change his mind.

Your links misrepresent Flew's "conversion", and "forget" to inform the reader that Flew has since retreated from his primary reasons for pondering the existence of a "designer". And Flew has never believed in anything resembling the Christian or Muslim god, as many creationist accounts like to imply.

For a more honest and complete (and more up to date) overview of Flew's position, see: Antony Flew Considers God...Sort Of

74 posted on 11/23/2005 1:56:46 AM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
Now found in The List-O-Links, in the section SOME INCORRECT (BUT COMMON) CREATIONIST ARGUMENTS:

NEW Ichneumon's post 72 on eye evolution.

75 posted on 11/23/2005 4:37:48 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Expect no response if you're a troll, lunatic, retard, or incurable ignoramus.)
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To: Ichneumon

Excellant reply. Thanks.

76 posted on 11/23/2005 6:02:34 AM PST by Recovering Ex-hippie (Cowards cut and run...Marines never do!)
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To: truthfinder9

Charles is off the reservation on this one.

77 posted on 11/23/2005 6:04:01 AM PST by cynicom
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To: cookcounty

So you're saying ID proponents won't "do" science the way that all the other researchers in the world do? That's the gist I get from you analogy.

78 posted on 11/23/2005 6:25:21 AM PST by Junior (From now on, I'll stick to science, and leave the hunting alien mutants to the experts!)
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To: Jo Nuvark
If we deny that we are created beings (a creation must have a Creator), we have no accountability and an excuse to behave badly. If kin to apes, our primal desires to murder and breed are then instinctual. We are without guilt and free to roam and do as we please.
Promiscuous sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion (murder). The decline of the family... the decline of civilization.

"Scientologists Creationists really believe this" pace South Park's John Smith

79 posted on 11/23/2005 6:33:22 AM PST by Oztrich Boy (Paging Nehemiah Scudder:the Crazy Years are peaking. America is ready for you.)
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To: truthfinder9

The Kraut is the man. Calling him ignorant displays ignorance.

80 posted on 11/23/2005 6:34:39 AM PST by Poser (Willing to fight for oil)
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