Archive for Saturday, December 2, 2006

Differing views

December 2, 2006


To the editor:

Walter Dimmick objects (Journal-World, Dec. 1) to Michael Behe's invited lecture at Kansas University in the Difficult Dialogue series, Knowledge: Faith and Reason. The intent of that series is to present a spectrum of views, no matter how uncomfortable or incorrect some of those views might be to audiences of different persuasions. Indeed, it is precisely the spectrum of conflicting views that makes the dialogue about faith, reason and knowledge difficult and worth having.

Behe's views are at one end of that spectrum. He is arguably the most scholarly and articulate proponent of irreducible complexity and intelligent design, the science of which has been roundly criticized by other speakers in this series - Kenneth Miller, Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott - who have applauded and would defend Behe's inclusion in this series. Why? Because the "respectability and credibility" of Behe's ideas are determined by science testing those ideas with experiments and observation, not by whether KU is "providing Behe a platform."

Finally, we know of a number of professors in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology who have welcomed the opportunity to have a scientific dialogue with Behe about his evidence for irreducibly complex structures, the identity of the intelligent agent behind intelligent design, his research program for testing intelligent design and other difficult matters.

Leonard Krishtalka, director,

Biodiversity Institute;

Victor Bailey, director,

Hall Center for the Humanities


KayCee 10 years, 3 months ago

Great responce! If others can't see his evidence, then why do they think we have to see their's?

Porter 10 years, 3 months ago

I see this as comparable to the director of an astronomy conference bringing in an astrologist to speak. Kinda goofy, but it could lead to some interesting conclusions.

It's almost like Behe is getting set up - even in this letter. Krishtalka mentions the interest in Behe's "research program for testing intelligent design and other difficult matters". Yes, it WOULD be interesting to find out how he "tested" these "scientific" proposals. I kind of want to go just to hear the giggles.

smith 10 years, 2 months ago

The problem Kaycee is that the reasoning and logic behind intelligent design is faulty on the scientific level. Hence it is not science, but the point this letter is making is that it is the "most scientific" form of argument regarding a "creator". Anxiousatheist

S: You say that it is fault on the scientific level. Is Behe a scientists or not? Can science determine what is designed by an intelligent designer or not? Who designed the argument or scientific test that science cannot determine that something is designed or not?

"Why do we have to listen to theirs?" Because science is grounded in what is observable and what can be connected in a logical framework. Anxiousatheist

S: So you limit human knowledge to what is observable? You limit science to what is observable? Do you have an observable test for showing that human beings can only know what is observable?

If you refuse to look at the world in such terms you're essentially making up what the world is as you go along. Fine for what's inside your own head, not fine for those of us seeking truth in the universe.


S: How do you know that KayCee only has this in his or her head and that he or she is not seeking truth in the universe? If you really are committed to that which you can observe withe the scientific method, then how do you know that there is truth in the universe to even seek? How will you know it is there if you find it?

It appears to me that if you really believe that knowledge is only obtained by the scientific method then you are the one making up the world as you go along. Can science show by testing that it alone can determine truth? Can science show that others are simply making things up in their heads? Why do you believe those things if you believe what you say you do?

werekoala 10 years, 2 months ago


You have many questions. One would hope you'd be willing to hear the answers.

"So you limit human knowledge to what is observable? You limit science to what is observable? Do you have an observable test for showing that human beings can only know what is observable?"

You're starting an argument that no one else is fighting. Science is not all human knowledge. It cannot settle moral debates, only provide data that we can interpret when making moral decisions. What it can do is provide a framework for understanding and organizing our knowledge of the observable universe, by requiring public revelation and duplication of experiments. As in, if it's not able to be observed by more than one person, it may be real, but it isn't science.


"How do you know that KayCee only has this in his or her head and that he or she is not seeking truth in the universe? "

He or she may be, but if your are doing it without gathering and sharing duplicable data, it's not science. Doesn't mean it's without value, I think the world could use more people exploring their inner universes - but their explorations, by and large, are not science.


"f you really are committed to that which you can observe withe the scientific method, then how do you know that there is truth in the universe to even seek? ...etc. "

Another strawman, sounds like you're doing a half-muddled version of Godel. Here's how it works. I see a unicorn -- to me, it may be real, and I may base my life upon that vision. But if others do not see it, then it is not part of what you could call "consensual reality" - the reality that we share with each other, as different from that which we each inhabit alone.

Science can show that there are certain constant results that are shared by people around the world when certain conditions are duplicated - repeatable testing. Thus, if a given claim is not able to be repeated, or there is no way to objectively test for it, while it may be truth, it is not science.

werekoala 10 years, 2 months ago


I think your problem is the same that many religious people have - you're unfamiliar with science, so you look at it from the standpoint of being another religion. And on the surface, it makes sense, both are ways of explaining the world around us, right?

And that's why so many religious people have trouble with science - it is unfamiliar and strange to them. So they see it as an alien, enemy religion.

A religion that teaches that there is no God (since by definition he's beyond the scope of scientific enquirey).

A religion that tells them their religions are false. All it really does is clarify the texts back to their original purpose as myths rather than historical accounts (myth doesn't mean a story that's not true, it means a story where the details are not as important as the larger message)

A religion that tells them all sorts of alien notions, and demands that they go along with it. Since most people are undereducated when it comes to science, they feel like they are being required to take scientific claims on faith, rather than being asked to understand them.

A religion that ultimately, denies their religion's claim to Absolute Truth. When in fact all it does, in a few circumstances, is point out the emperor's wardrobe, without attempting to dethrone him.

I think a big component of this is that despite living in the most advanced civilization on the planet, by and large the average person is appallingly ignorant about basic science. They have no idea how microwaves, TVs, or CD players work - it's just magic to them. The magic of science. And so it's easy for them to see the magic of science as challenging the magic of their God.

It's just not the case though. And making fun of their beliefs doesn't help, only continued patient outreach, until they finally can understand that if Genesis is literally true, then God went far out of his way to make it look like evolution occured instead. Once they truely understand the data, they generally stop fighting it. But one of the hardest things to fight against is a smart perdson who has made up his mind to be ignorant.

imastinker 10 years, 2 months ago

I have not met many people who say that Genesis literally occured. That's the basis of intelligent design. The bible was not written by educated people, and especially the old testament was written in terms that people could understand. Much of it is parables. Either way, you cannot explain that the world was created in 3 billion years. They won't know what that is, and it didn't matter anyway. They did know what a day was, and a day was the time period chosen to use, rather than say 100 million years.

Science cannot disprove religion - at least not the religion that many of us have (ignoring the particular theology of one religion or another, but focusing on what is mainly shared by all religions) Science is the way to learn more about the creation of the universe - by God.

Kris Krishtalka 10 years, 2 months ago

With regard to the comment by anxiousathiest---a correction: Dr. Dimmick is not employed at the KU Natural History Museum, and has not been so for a number of years.


ecogirl20 10 years, 2 months ago

What difference does it make if Dr. Dimmick is "not employed at the KU Natural History Museum"? He left the museum but is still a professor at KU (in the evolutionary biology department) and has a valid point.

By inviting a discussion of intelligent design, we are giving credibility where none is due. Science is about being objective and viewing the world without any bias. Intelligent design violates that principle by attributing complexity to a creator whose existence cannot be proven scientifically. Religion and science should be kept separate, as one is based in observation while the other is based on faith.

Bradley Kemp 10 years, 2 months ago

Of course he has a point. And ecogirl, you're right about Behe's work having nothing to do with science.

But who on earth said the Difficult Dialogues series was exclusively about science? Although Behe believes wrongly that his work is science, there is no doubt that he presents it as an alternative to mainstream science, and why should that perspective have no place in the Difficult Dialogues series?

Chocoholic 10 years, 2 months ago

According to the KU Hall Center for the Humanities Web page:

"The Fall 2006 Difficult Dialogues series aims to engender an informative and civil dialogue about some difficult and volatile issues in American society. The series will present diverse views on the proper roles of reason and faith in the human enterprise, from knowledge discovery to our sense of place and purpose in the universe."

This series is precisely the venue for such a discussion, as this letter to the editor points out. Behe is just one of several lecturers, each of whom represents a position on the larger spectrum of thought on the subject. The series was well-rounded in that regard.

Kudos to the Hall Center and the Biodiversity Institute for providing such a series in an attempt to further understanding. And kudos to those of you who see it as such.

Kris Krishtalka 10 years, 2 months ago

Souki and Chocoholic capture the intent and spririt of the Difficult Dialogue series in their comments.

The Behe lecture has been rescheduled for Dec 7 at 1:00p in the Crafton-Preyer Theater in Murphy Hall on the KU campus. The lecture will be followed by the panel discussion at 3:30p in the Hall Center for the Humanities.

joey427 10 years, 2 months ago

"The Fall 2006 Difficult Dialogues series aims to engender an informative and civil dialogue about some difficult and volatile issues in American society."

By giving intelligent design a forum to discuss their views, we are lending credibility where there is none. Will those representing the Flying Spaghetti Monster be able to present their views? What about those who believe the earth is flat?

If the aim of the discussion were to discuss philosophical views, it should be sponsored by a church group or philosophy or religion department. The natural history museum (and scientists in general) should have no part in this particuar discussion.

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