August 25, 2005

The 'Clash' Over Evolution

The New York Times continues their series giving the flat-earth crazies of the Intelligent Design movement their day in the sun. The second article opens with a question which should be obvious, but apparently isn't:

At the heart of the debate over intelligent design is this question: Can a scientific explanation of the history of life include the actions of an unseen higher being? ...

No, no it can't. Scientific explanations don't get to include things you can't prove. Fortunately, after a bad start, the article allowed a scientific response to the nonsense that dominated the beginning of this piece:

... For example, while Dr. Behe and other leading design proponents see the blood clotting system as a product of design, mainstream scientists see it as a result of a coherent sequence of evolutionary events.

Early vertebrates like jawless fish had a simple clotting system, scientists believe, involving a few proteins that made blood stick together, said Russell F. Doolittle, a professor of molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego.

Scientists hypothesize that at some point, a mistake during the copying of DNA resulted in the duplication of a gene, increasing the amount of protein produced by cells.

Most often, such a change would be useless. But in this case the extra protein helped blood clot, and animals with the extra protein were more likely to survive and reproduce. Over time, as higher-order species evolved, other proteins joined the clotting system. For instance, several proteins involved in the clotting of blood appear to have started as digestive enzymes. ...

More of that explanation is included in the article for your reading pleasure. Moving on, Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute was quoted saying, "Call it miracle, call it some other pejorative term, but the fact remains that the materialistic view is a truncated view of reality."

Put me down agreeing with that. The materialistic view IS a truncated view of reality, which is the point. Science is about things we can prove, and this is why, along with not having anything to say about the existence of god, there is no scientific opinion on whether parliamentary democracy works better than US-style representation, whether cats are better pets than dogs, if The Godfather was the greatest movie of all time, if your true love is true, and has no comment on chocolate v. vanilla. These are questions science can't answer for us, now or ever, and that's actually a good thing.

Their series continues in part 3 by having scientists speak up on mix of god and science. This article full of dueling quotes on whether or not religious and ethical sentiment has a place in science is subtitled in the web sidebar as "Squaring God and Evolution," which it never really tries to do.

Shorter part 3: While many scientists are godless heathens, there are also people of faith among them.

What that has to do with evolution, I just can't fathom. They also brought up the fact that medical researchers consult members of the religious community and ethicists from time to time when performing experimental procedures, which also misses the point. Whether or not something can be done is a different question from whether or not we should do it. The only news there would be if the researchers contacted the clergy to help interpret blood test results, which is about the equivalent of asking the clergy to weigh in on common descent.

"Babies come from storks is not a competing school of thought in medical school." - Bill Maher

Posted by natasha at August 25, 2005 02:03 AM | Science | Technorati links |

Good post -- see also the flying spaghetti monster, if you haven't already.

"... has no comment on chocolate v. vanilla." Sadly, no. Thanks to the Uni's ISI subscription, I've learned that ice cream is heavily studied for, among other things, its yield stress!


Guinard JX, Mazzucchelli R. Effects of sugar and fat on the sensory properties of milk chocolate: descriptive analysis and instrumental measurements. JOURNAL OF THE SCIENCE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE 79 (11): 1331-1339 AUG 1999

Briggs JL, Steffe JF, Ustunol Z. Vane method to evaluate the yield stress of frozen ice cream. JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE 79 (4): 527-531 APR 1996.

Abstract: The ability of ice cream to be dipped or scooped is a direct consequence of yield stress; however, yield stresses of frozen ice cream have not been quantified because of the lack of suitable testing equipment. This work presents the experimental equipment and methodology to solve this problem. A vane tester was designed, constructed, and then used to measure the yield stress of ice cream at typical scooping temperatures of -16 to -14 degrees C. The moisture and fat contents of each brand varied significantly. Yield stresses ranged from 2.5 to 8.0 kPa. In general, the-yield stress of chocolate was higher than the yield stress of vanilla ice cream. Also, yield stresses decreased as temperature increased. Yield stress and temperature were highly correlated in the higher fat ice cream; the lower fat brand did not show a strong correlation.

Posted by: sean at August 25, 2005 05:57 AM

Sorry about the repeat. Weird posting error.

Posted by: sean at August 25, 2005 05:59 AM

Not at all, thanks for the info about ice cream testing. You've got to wonder what sort of bribes you have to send your prof's way to get that project ;)

Also, I'll go in and delete the duplicates, we've been getting spam attacks lately that freak the server out.

Posted by: natasha at August 25, 2005 10:30 AM

<sarcasm>Well, if evolution is such a true fact, why aren't your servers evolving some spam filters?</sarcasm>

Posted by: PhilK at August 25, 2005 11:22 PM

If it were truly 'intelligent' design, the those that support it would keep it to themselves.

Posted by: David Aquarius at August 27, 2005 09:56 PM