Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Point Well Taken

Jason Rosenhouse, a Darwinian crusader, deals with what he thinks is a creationist in his post on EvolutionBlog. The target – biologist J. Scott Turner – is an expert on termites who has come to the conclusion that Darwinism is inadequate to explain the marvelous adaptations of his sociable subjects. He argues in his book, The Tinkerer’s Accomplice, that there exists a physically present and continuous tendency that exerts itself along with DNA – a self-emergent design force, that shapes the organism to its environment in a way that improves on natural selection. Reading the editor’s notes and the single reader review that now appears on Amazon, I am inclined to label this book as semi-mystical musings that toy with the ideas of Intelligent Design without trying to finesse the science. Relatively harmless, don’t you think?

Rosenhouse, however, feels that there is justification for alarm. Turner has in later writings analyzed and pooh-poohed the alarm that the establishment scientists seem to feel toward his musings. After all, it doesn’t hurt to talk about an idea. Rosenhouse sees this as simply more evidence for a hidden agenda. He is used to dealing with underhanded tactics and leading wedge subterfuges from the Creationist bloc (example). He’s been at it for years. Maybe, I’m thinking, he’s just hyper-sensitized. Let’s just talk about it, hmm?

I think I can justify the idea of Intelligent Design on a scientific basis. As long as the IDer doesn’t have to be an all-powerful, all-knowing kind of entity, then I could just point to Arthur C. Clark’s 2001 concept. Highly intelligent alien societies have an interest in promoting intelligent life. If the society of aliens is sufficiently future-oriented, it could seed suitable planets with previously successful forms, subject the planets to evolutionary accelerants and directly interfere at critical junctures during the unfolding process.

Fred Hoyle presented this idea as panspermia even earlier than Clark. Life evolved, but not just here. The seeds have wafted on aether breezes from planet to planet, perhaps in a sentient Black Cloud of living space dust. (Rebuttal.) In Hoyle’s conception of the Universe has no beginning nor ending – there is enough time and space for Irreducible Complexity to be trumped by random molecular movement.

Another example was presented by Carl Sagan in his book and film, Contact. Sagan postulates that there must be other Life, and if it is still out there, it must be smarter than we are. Sagan goes so far as to imply that the Universe itself might have been created deliberately by an Intelligence of some sort. There are few who would accuse Sagan of being a Creationist. The distinction is that he believes in a rule-based universe and rational explanations.

So why is Rosenhouse so defensive? … so unreasonable?

I, myself, have chosen to reason with people, to argue for my ideas directly with people who have conflicting ideas. I don’t get angry with people who try to convert me, as long as they confine themselves to reason. I know that many people have little patience with door-to-door missionaries, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have heard people bragging about how they abuse these poor people. I don’t do that. I open the door and talk, sometimes for extended periods of time, I present my points of view and politely counter the ideas that they present to me. My wife gets annoyed with me, but I am trying to be fair and decent. All in all, I have an open mind.

A month or so ago, the doorbell rang while I was working upstairs. I wondered who it was. Maybe my wife’s sister had come over for a walk. My daughter went to answer the door. I heard some murmured conversation; it went on for a while. I noted that the afternoon was very pleasant, unseasonably warm. It was Sunday. … I had a sudden moment of panic. I ran downstairs as fast as I could. I confronted the well-dressed, reasonable-looking man at the door, and I shouted at him. "Don’t ever," I said, "speak to my daughter when I’m not here!"

1/30/2007 1:54 AM

Further Polemics and Speculations on Evolution

Harvest of Randomness

Darwin's Malcontents

Darwin's Mouthpiece

Holy DNA


Life  the Universe and Everything

Evolution and Iraq

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