Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Miracle of Modern Nature

So, I am coming to believe that we should have to courses taught to all children in this country. The first is the Constitution. Citizens must have a broad understanding of how their government functions in order to fully participate. Second, we should require a complete understanding of the Scientific Method.

I'm following the intelligent design trial in Dover, PA with morbid fascination. Now, I don't believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive ideas. Science is the study of the world around us. It is measurements and pattern identification blended to created theories, rules and guidelines for prediction. When there isn't a clear understanding, the problem, anomality or whatever is tested and poked and prodded until there is an understanding. Scientists don't just make something up to fill in the blanks.

Tonight's NOVA featured a segment on scientists trying to create life in the lab. There's a bit about DNA production (which I have to say I found very odd. I had NO idea that if you put the chemicals into a vial they would self organize? How insane is that??) and then a bit about qualities that make life. I'm not big on the idea of bringing lab produced life into existence - I find it highly risky. However, it did make me ponder exactly what caused the chemicals and atoms to get together and figure out how to reproduce, grow and change things into energy.
What the *@#$? How did that happen?? Now I'm not going to surmise or invent an answer. I'm OK with not knowing.

When you get around to thinking about it - there is an AMAZING amount of stuff we didn't know. How in the world did we get so far with so little knowledge? We're still trying to figure out what causes lightening - which I loathe due to their unnatural and dangerous qualities - big bolts of energy hurled at the ground. Ick.

We are still discovering the big and small about the world around us. It almost makes me want to go into science! Screw this sales stuff - give me a lab! Let me study what happens in the brain to bring about ideas. Now, I hate the idea we can be broken down into molecular structures, electric and chemical reactions, it is so humbling. However there doesn't seem to be much evidence to the contrary. I'm too tired tonight to figure out the implications of that in terms of one's soul and what it means to be alive - makes my brain hurt. It is scary and unpleasant, but so is taking out the trash after the left-over fish has been steeping in there for 49 hours. It is foolish to hide from the unpleasant. Hiding or rejecting a fact on emotional grounds does make it untrue.

but I digress from the title which is a touch of Jen-speak. Sunday at the Loose Caboose Cafe in Crestview I was reading Geology Underfoot in Southern California and was amazed at the Cajon Creek and the fault line that have carved the Cajon Pass from the mountain range. Miracle of Modern Nature.


sundlight said...
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André said...

Jen-speak makes it lively!

I think this book might be in order!

André said...

As Jen well knows, I think Intelligent Design is just plain wrong. But one of the things that is most destructive about it is it's ability to lure otherwise seemingly intelligent people. Here is an example on a blog I was just reading:

"Me" makes an interesting point about logic, reason and the theory of intelligent design. I think the reason why there have been very few reasonable discussions on this subject is that it is difficult to get a handle on what the argument is all about.

Contempory evolution theory holds that the origin of biological life can be explained by a series of wholly undirected and random events that, over time, result in a living, self replicating cell. This cell and its progeny then undergo another series of random changes to their genetic codes. Natural selection operates to "select" certain organisms for their survival advantage. Over time, we end up with the wide variety of biological species we have today.

The theory of intelligent design asserts that the complexity of a living organism cannot be rationally explained by random genetic change. Much less, they say, can the complexity of the initial living cell be reasonably explained by random chance. Proponents of intelligent design argue that the complexity of the information embeded in a cell can only have been produced by an intelligent agent. Evidence of design produced by an intelligent agent,they say, is something that can be discovered empirically.

Intelligent design theory is a new paradigm; it stands in much the same position as did the Big Bang theory back when it was first proposed in oppostion to the steady state theory of the universe. Consequently, there are psychological reasons that operate against an intelligent discussion of the controversy. Secondly, intelligent design theory is complicated; it relys on sophisticated mathematical models and information theory to support its conclusions. This seems to be a factor that causes many to misunderstand and misrepresent ID theory.

One thing is clear; if the discussion is to be conducted in a rational and responsible way, the proponents of neo-Darwinism will have to come up with better arguments than those that characterize intelligent design as nothing by simple-minded biblical fundamentalism held by uneducated rubes.

It will be interesting to read the decision of the federal judge who has just completed a trial on this controversy.

I believe the writer gives Intelligent Design way too much credit. But, Jen, he does make it sound like he's being scientific, don't you think? "Secondly, intelligent design theory is complicated; it relys on sophisticated mathematical models and information theory to support its conclusions." This is what we're up against!

Jen DeLano said...

That is a very interesting blog. Now one of the leading theorist of Intelligent Design (ID), William Dembski, states, "there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence."

No where does he suggest that we should keep studying, in an impersonal and emperical evidence the biology out there. Instead, he proposes that it is simply too complex and we should stop investigating it. Instead, we should be looking at it through filtered glasses for evidence that there was intelligence involved in its development.

There is disagreement in the Scientific Community about a lot of things, from cancer formation to a unifiying theory of physics. However, until there is consistent and unarguable data - as in the case with evolution - groups of scientists keep doing research and experiments. Evolution and Natural Selection have enough reproducable data to make them fall in that category. There are is no physical research associated with ID. Instead, we have theorists expounding ideas and claiming they are scientific.

Is is absurd. This is a good explaination of the problems with calling ID science: