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Religion is like electricity, I suppose--you can use it to light up your house, or to send voltage through a human being. I was adamantly anti-religion for a number of years, for all the usual reasons; then came a time when I needed to believe in something greater than myself to save my life. I still haven't subscribed to any specific philosophy, though (I keep meaning to make it down to one of the local Buddhist centers) and I still have no tolerance for those who would force their religious views on others by, say, trying to sneak them into the classrooms of public schools. (In one of your previous entries, you asked when Jesus became a punchline. Yesterday, in Kansas, some of his more misguided followers made their state the butt of a joke.)

I somehow stumbled across your blog, and have just finished the piece on Reversalism. I've never heard of it. Is this intended as some kind of parody? If so, you have maligned the greatest mind who ever lived, and I hope you--no, wait. I just remembered that I'm not fourteen years old. I found it brutal and hilarious, and would send it to all the Objectivists I knew, if only I knew any (do "Libertarians" *count?)

You were an Objectivist for twelve years? Well, I was an active alcoholic for ten, so I can't judge.

Looks like I'll have to check out your fiction, though I assume it's in a very different style, since you apparently write thrillers (satire is great fun, but you know what George S. Kaufman said about it.)

* Libertarians: Republicans who still want to think of themselves as rebels, and know how uncool "Republican" sounds.

>You were an Objectivist for twelve years? Well, I was an active alcoholic for ten, so I can't judge.

You may have had more fun than I did ... (Only kidding!)

>If so, you have maligned the greatest mind who ever lived, and I hope you--no, wait. I just remembered that I'm not fourteen years old.

Ouch! Speaking of brutal satire ...

>Yesterday, in Kansas, some of his more misguided followers made their state the butt of a joke.

It's probably a mistake to politicize the Intelligent Design debate by trying to get it taught in schools. I do think there is considerable merit to the ID position, but the issue needs to be hashed out in think tanks and other appropriate venues.

On the other hand, I don't think any kid's mind is going to be permanently warped if he hears that there may be an alternative to mechanistic reductionism. The Kansas school board just wanted a one-minute statement to that effect included in biology class. One minute! Are the materialists so insecure that they can't abide even a sixty-second mention of a competing viewpoint? (Answer: Evidently, yes.)

"You may have had more fun than I did ... (Only kidding!)"

Oh, but I did! At least I think I did--I can't actually remember any of it.

I think it was the great spiritual leader Sinatra who said that he felt bad for people who don't drink, because they don't get to look forward to feeling better as the day progresses. Take that as you will.

"...but the issue needs to be hashed out in think tanks and other appropriate venues. "

I think that's the key--appropriate venues. Like elective classes on comparative religion.

"..The Kansas school board just wanted a one-minute statement to that effect included in biology class."

Biology class? I'm no scientist, but how is thinly-veiled creationism related to biology in any way? Do you really think this is anything other than the fundies trying to sneak their beliefs in through the back door? And, once so emboldened, do you honestly think they'd stop there? Or would they next want to "suggest" that the designer just maybe possibly might be the Christian God of the Bible?

To put it another way: some people believe the universe was created by a giant Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's as impossible to prove as any other spiritual/religious/philosophical belief, but that's not the point.

Would you support a proposal to preface every math class (or dance or economics class) with a one-minute discussion of the possibility (just the possibility, mind you!) of the existence of the FSM? It wouldn't actually hurt anyone, would it? And if not, would this be "insecurity," or simply a desire to keep separate two completely different things--religion and education?

Put another way--I think the serenity prayer is great, and that everyone could benefit from the ideas it expresses. But I wouldn't want to force it on anyone, or on their kids. If I want it, I know where to find it, and it doesn't hurt me if you don't share my beliefs.


"You may have had more fun than I did ... (Only kidding!)"

Oh, but I did! At least I think I did--I can't actually remember any of it.

I think it was the great spiritual leader Sinatra who said that he felt bad for people who don't drink, because they don't get to look forward to feeling better as the day progresses. Take that as you will.

"...but the issue needs to be hashed out in think tanks and other appropriate venues. "

I think that's the key--appropriate venues. Like elective classes on comparative religion.

"..The Kansas school board just wanted a one-minute statement to that effect included in biology class."

Biology class? I'm no scientist, but how is thinly-veiled creationism related to biology in any way? Do you really think this is anything other than the fundies trying to sneak their beliefs in through the back door? And, once so emboldened, do you honestly think they'd stop there? Or would they next want to "suggest" that the designer just maybe possibly might be the Christian God of the Bible?

To put it another way: some people believe the universe was created by a giant Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's as impossible to prove as any other spiritual/religious/philosophical belief, but that's not the point.

Would you support a proposal to preface every math class (or dance or economics class) with a one-minute discussion of the possibility (just the possibility, mind you!) of the existence of the FSM? It wouldn't actually hurt anyone, would it? And if not, would this be "insecurity," or simply a desire to keep separate two completely different things--religion and education?

Put another way--I think the serenity prayer is great, and that everyone could benefit from the ideas it expresses. But I wouldn't want to force it on anyone, or on their kids. If I want it, I know where to find it, and it doesn't hurt me if you don't share my beliefs.


I think a strong case can be made that the cosmos as a whole and living things in particular show evidence of intelligent design. More on this can be read at:

http://www.idthefuture.com/

and

http://telicthoughts.com/

and

http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/design.shtml?main

I've found that people who resist this idea often haven't studied it. When they do, sometimes they change their minds - like Anthony Flew, the noted atheist philosopher, who now sees the ID arguments as compelling.

But as I say, it's probably best to keep this out of the schools for now. Eventually the paradigm may shift ...

As I see it, the problem is that atheistic materialists want to go "whole hog".

There is a great deal of really high-quality evidence for the proposition that biological evolution occcurs, and that all forms of life are related through evolution.

The theory that this evolution occurs principally through random mutation and natural selection, with no role for consciousness, is a theory with virtually no evidence. This is not to deny that natural selection has an important role to play, but the idea that it created every adaptation of every creature with the raw material of random mutations -- is a faith-based proposition to be certain.

>There is a great deal of really high-quality evidence for the proposition that biological evolution occcurs, and that all forms of life are related through evolution.

ID doesn't dispute this. What ID disputes is that evolution by natural selection explains major shifts, such as new body plans or entirely new sense organs. It would seem that an improbably vast number of beneficial mutations would have to happen simultaneously in order for these wholesale changes to come about. Even some mainstream evolutionists, like Stephen Jay Gould, have a problem with this.

ID also argues that reductionistic approaches have gotten nowhere in explaining the origin of life, and that blind natural processes could not give rise to the complex information encoded in DNA. (Natural processes can produce order, but high-level information content is different from the simple repetitive order of, say, the molecules in a crystal.)

All this is probably too complicated, controversial, and cutting-edge to be presented in high school, however. I imagine that the overworked, underpaid science teachers have enough trouble just teaching kids who Darwin was, without getting involved in issues of information theory! (And many ID proponents agree. Quite a few of them want the issue de-politicized.)


ID also argues that reductionistic approaches have gotten nowhere in explaining the origin of life, and that blind natural processes could not give rise to the complex information encoded in DNA. (Natural processes can produce order, but high-level information content is different from the simple repetitive order of, say, the molecules in a crystal.)

Sheldrake argues that the majority of information content is not encoded in DNA at all. His ideas seem correct to me on this score.

>Sheldrake argues that the majority of information content is not encoded in DNA at all.

The majority - maybe not. But a lot of info is encoded there - roughly the equivalent of the info contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In the cell nucleus, strands of DNA are constantly unfolding to allow messenger RNA to get access to them. The m-RNA reproduces the relevant information sequence found on the unfolded strand, then leaves the nucleus and presents this info to the molecular machines whose job is to build new proteins out of amino acids. The machines, following the transmitted instructions, proceed to build whatever proteins are required, and these proteins serve as new molecular machines for various intracellular tasks (metabolizing nutrients, eliminating waste, regulating the cellular membrane, etc.).

Without the encoded info in DNA, there would be no instructions for m-RNA to transmit. And without those instructions, there would be no cellular activity, i.e., no life. So DNA, while perhaps somewhat overrated as the be-all and end-all of life, is nevertheless a crucial component.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I think Sheldrake has a very good point: DNA codes for RNA codes for protein sequence. But what makes the proteins fold into the correct shapes? What makes proteins migrate to different parts of the cell to do their jobs? What makes the bone cell so different from the pancreas cell (the DNA is identical). What creates form at every level of the organism? Where do behaviors, instincts, perceptions come from?

The biggest danger to progress in almost any endeavor in life is to assume that we know more than we do. Modern, reductionistic science is definitely suffering from that malady. They already "know" that everything in nature is reducible to the laws of physics and chemistry, therefore they are unable to see evidence that their assumptions are mistaken.

Hey, would it really be that big of a deal to put something in science books addressing ID?

It could hit several important points...
- The origins of life and the universe are big features in most cultures around the world.
- Most cultures say that the world was formed by an intelligent creator.
- Science doesn't care about culture. Science is cold and mean, so get a coat.
- We should teach religious and humanities curriculums as regularly as we teach other basic classes.
- Evolution is currently the most widely accepted scientific theory, and that's what we're going to teach right now.
- Evolution is only indirectly proven and should not be held as infallible.
- There are other scientific theories about what caused life to form. Maybe one of those is right; it could change.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM
This is a topic I have felt strongly about since my teenage years, I think it's extremely important for many reasons.

*My son (Stephen) has already posted about this topic on MP's blog and I do want to say I don't agree with everything he said (I do agree with most of it). He doesn't believe in evolution but thinks it falls under the subject of science so should be the only choice taught since it's the current theory. As you can read in his post he would like ID and Creationism taught in other subjects. Myself, I don't see Creationism or ID any more religious than evolution, as I explain below.

Firstly, as to the comments that I.D. is fairly new and it would be best to wait to teach it until further studies, I disagree. High school students are almost adult age (some are already adult age) and I think it would be a disservice to them to keep ID info from them. After graduation, when they go into the real world, sooner of later they WIll hear about it and will be totally ignorant of what it's all about. Having said that, I DO think they should be informed some of the details are still being studied.

I feel that Creationism, Evolution, and I.D. should all be presented to students - why should ANY differing, important information be withheld? Otherwise, there's the risk of American students blindly believing what he/she was taught by parents or schools & becoming brainwashed - not to mention learning intolerance (and ignorance) of other viewpoints, plus have to go against their beliefs and principles in order to graduate.

Particularly in America, forced beliefs, censoring and sterilization of info by secular humanists smacks of Winston Smith's job. Will secularists (secular humanism - worship of self, a religion in itself) "scientists" eventually petition the courts to strike any mention in
schools of our forefathers, who came to the New World for the freedom to exercise their own religious views? They also believed in Creationism and they were....... sshhhh....fundamentalists (I never can understand why some people think that's a dirty word and worthy of ridicule)?!? It simply means people who believe in principles and fundamentals. I'm not sure when having principles became a bad thing?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident...and to institute new govt., laying it's foundations on such principles..."
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

"The Revolution that brought about the Brave New World, (Mustapha Mond says), was accompanied by a campaign against the Past. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

"This kind of histiography is to disconnect people from our living past and culture." - BRAVE NEW WORLD,
Aldous Huxley

The separation of church and state is meant to disallow any forced religion on American citizens (what the first American colonists were escaping from in England). It was never meant to prohibit the rights of American citizens religious freedom.

Lastly, on a personal level - I was fortunate to attend a high school that taught the "theories" of both
Evolution and Creationism and that knowledge has been invaluable to me through the years. I believe parts of the theory of evolution are true, such as plants slightly adjusting to their environments as time goes on and also humans and animals learning through trial and error to adjust behaviours, etc. (one form of evolving). I find the theory of life evolving from goo-to shrimpy things-to crawly things-to monkey, ape creatures-grunting, language-less, cruel cavemen/women ludicrous. It beggars belief. But Evolutionists have a right to believe that, AS LONG AS THEY DON'T FORCE THAT BELIEF ON OTHERS.

I'M GLAD IT WAS ONE OF THE THEORIES I WAS TAUGHT. I want to have all the information on a subject so I can make up my OWN mind and also so I will know about others beliefs and be able to have a fully informed conversation when it should come up.
My own school experiences concerning Creation and Evolution information continued...However, I was not so lucky in college and had to take mandatory courses
that presented only Evolution which is against my religious and intellectual beliefs. In order to pass the classes and please Big Brother, I had to give the
answers that was expected for students to pass the tests and the courses. I was in essence lying and I regret it.
A Brave New World? I sincerely hope not.

Matthew,

You make very good points. DNA is only part of the answer - maybe a small part. The reductionistic assumption that DNA explains everything will someday be seen as naive, I think.

Stephen and Dena Marie,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with Stephen that it would be very helpful to teach kids that scientific theories are not set in stone, and can change or be overthrown. I think this would add to the interest that kids take in science, since it shows that the field is dynamic and open-ended.

As for teaching ID in schools, I have mixed feelings. At the high school level, it may be just too hard to go into such a technical subject, which involves information theory and probability estimates. And with most biology teachers so hostile to ID, I doubt it would get a fair hearing anyhow. But I don't object to ID being taught, if the local school board decides to do so.

One thing I would insist on, though, is that there is a sharp distinction between ID and any Biblically based concept of the origin and development of life. ID does not hold that that universe was created in six days, that all species were created simultaneously, that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, that Adam and Eve were real people, etc. The media tend to blur this distinction and to present ID as another form of Creationism. This confuses the debate and turns many people off.

Wow! A friend referred me over to this blog and I just want to say I learned a lot from reading all this, the blog article and all the comments. I guess I'm one of those fundamentalist that has been kept in the dark, although I did learn the evolution theory while I was in school back in the 70s. I rejected it because it never made sense to me. If man evolved from apes then why are there any apes left? All apes would have evolved into men. The teachers did not welcome questions that were not addressed by their lesson plans. All this ID theory is new to me. Interesting!

>If man evolved from apes then why are there any apes left? All apes would have evolved into men.

Not necessarily. The theory only posits that some apes (perhaps a geographically or socially isolated population) evolved into humans.

My greatest quarrel with standard evolutionary theory is that it relies on purely random mutations. But the large majority of mutations are harmful or, at best, neutral. Relatively few are beneficial. So it would appear that there must be some other factor at work to force mutations in a positive direction. This factor could be Sheldrake's "morphic fields," or it could be ID, or it could be some form of Lamarckianism, or it could be something else. (Or all of the above.) There is at least one missing piece of the puzzle, I think.

For info on Lamarckianism:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarck

For info in Sheldrake:
http://www.sheldrake.org/

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