Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Does an Intelligent Design Creationist Write a Ph.D. Thesis?

 
Some of you will remember Marcus Ross. He is a Young Earth Creationist who obtained a Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of Rhode Island [Lying for Jesus]. Ross now has a faculty position at Liberty University where he teaches courses in religion and science. PZ Myers has posted an update on his career [So what's Marcus Ross up to nowadays?].

How could Ross write an acceptable Ph.D. thesis if he believes that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old? We know the answer to this question. Ross did not discuss his true beliefs in his thesis or during his Ph.D. oral exam. Instead, he wrote a thesis on the fossil record as though he accepted the scientific age of the Earth. In other words, Ross said one thing in public lectures and another in the exam room.

I was reminded of this episode while listening to Kirk Durston last week in Denyse O'Leary's course. Kirk is a Ph.D. candidate in biophysics at the University of Guelph [Kirk Durston's Proof of God]. At some point he will write scientific papers and a thesis and he will be examined on his understanding of science. I wonder what he will do?

In his talk, Kirk tried very hard to give the impression that his scientific findings point to the existence of an intelligent designer. There was a brief mention of the distinction between science and philosophy but it wasn't at all clear whether he was stepping over the line or not. He concludes that God the intelligent designer exists.

One thing was clear, however. Kirk claimed that his work demonstrated the impossibility of evolving protein folds. He presented some calculations showing the total number of mutations that could have occurred since life began (1041, if I remember correctly). Then he showed that it would take far more than 1041 mutations to evolve the known protein folds.

In his lecture he clearly states that the results refute "Darwinism." He repeated over and over again that his thesis work was scientific evidence against evolution and in favor of intelligent design creationism.

It seems to me that Kirk Durston has only two choices at this point. Either he's sincere about his "scientific" claims, in which case they go into his thesis, or, alternatively, he's willing to disguise his true "scientific" conclusion by writing a thesis that's more likely to be accepted by the scientists on his committee.

To my way of thinking, scientific integrity should not be compromised in order to get a degree by trickery. But this presents a serious problem for Intelligent Design Creationists. In their public lectures, and in articles for the popular press, they make a big deal about the "scientific" nature of their findings. If that's what they truly believe then they should have no qualms about defending it in a scientific context. In other words, it goes in the thesis and let the chips fall where they may.

But here's the rub. Intelligent Design Creationists know full well that their version of science will not pass scrutiny by other scientists. Kirk Durston will not get his Ph.D. if he's being honest about his belief in his findings. It is simply not true that protein folding is scientific proof of intelligent design and a refutation of evolution.

So, Kirk like other creationists before him, will write the thesis that his committee will pass and not the one that he would be writing if he were honest.

The next hurdle will be the Ph.D. oral exam. Members of his committee know that he has been making very vocal claims about the significance of his Ph.D. research. They know that he has been making claims that the work refutes evolution even if that's not what's in the thesis. Should they question him about the difference between what he says in the thesis and what he says on the lecture circuit? Do they have a right to fail him if they think that what's in his thesis does not reflect his true opinion about the science—and that his true opinion is scientifically invalid?

I think the committee has this right and I think that a Ph.D. candidate should be prepared to defend any "scientific" claims they make outside of the lab.

There will be a few other problems with Kirk's thesis but they are easily fixed. For example, he claimed that ancient bacteria were complex and subsequent evolution has just been degradation of the genome. In the lecture he showed us several references. We now know that he is misinterpreting these scientific papers.

I assume this will go in the thesis because Kirk seemed to be really sincere when he talked about this as scientific fact. Member of his committee will read the thesis, correct his misconceptions, and point him to other scientific papers that reveal the true nature of bacterial evolution. This will give him an opportunity to learn about good science. At the end of the process Kirk will not be making scientifically inaccurate statements in public because he will know better.

There are quite a few examples of these factual errors but I assume they will all be fixed before the oral exam.

The bottom line is can Kirk Durston get a Ph.D.? If so, how should he do it? What do you think?


[Photo Credit: Theses from Jackson State University]

102 comments :

  1. If Kirk’s work successfully shows that there are significant issues to be addressed over the evolution of protein folding (even if he can’t prove that it is impossible) then he deserves his PhD. He would have raised an important challenge to the theoretical mechanism of evolution and done a service to the science if it prompts further research. No dishonesty need be entailed if his terms of reference are limited to these issues. It is then down to Kirk’s private interpretation whether he believes intelligent design is entailed by his research; that is another game altogether, and far too big and philosophical for a science PhD thesis; perhaps he should leave that for a book. If he gets his PhD thesis I might be interested in the book that follows.

    But all that’s dreamland. A much more realistic view takes into account that each side knows all about the vested interests and ulterior motives of the other side: the atheists want evolution to work and IDers don’t. Hence the respective parties will not just be reading science, but also each other’s minds.

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  2. I'm already on record about my doubts concerning the slippery slope you're proposing here. Those doubts center on my concerns about just how you go about this program of yours.

    Okay, any predoc who "lectures" has to defend the statements he claims are "scientific" in his thesis/orals. What happens if s/he gets up in their church and says "I believe science and religion are compatible"? Do they now have to defend that?

    Obviously, your proposal would encourage grad students like Ross to keep from making such "lectures" or being open about their religious beliefs. Do we then organize an inquisition searching out these heretics ... with a certain Torontoite playing the part of Torquemada?

    And why only deprive the yet-to-be-annointed of the degree that they've paid for and the career it promises? Why not strip someone like Behe of his Ph.D.? He's done far more damage to science than Ross has done to date or, frankly, than any YEC is likely to do. After all, if merely being wrong about science in general is enough to keep someone from getting a Ph.D., it should be enough reason to take one away. Based on your past writings, Dawkins should be an early target for being stripped of his epaulets and drummed out of the corps as well.

    Can, meet worms.

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  3. John,

    I understand your concerns and I share some of them. You don't need to be so uppity about it.

    Here's the problem. I have no trouble seeing where Kirk is going wrong. If it were any of my own graduate students I would have serious doubts about whether they should graduate.

    Scientists often get into disputes with Intelligent Design Creationists because we think they're doing bad science. If someone is doing bad science should we close our eyes and ignore it just because they have a religious motivation?

    That's what you seem to be saying. Your position seems to demand that anyone who claims the protection of religion can escape the kind of scrutiny that we would apply to an atheist scientist. That doesn't seem right to me.

    It's ridiculous to suggest that we take Ph.D.'s away from people who earned them. I know that lawyers have procedures for disbarring but that's not the way science works.

    I'll tell you one thing. If Behe were a graduate student in my department, he would not be getting a Ph.D. in biochemistry based on what he says in his two books.

    Lots of Ph.D. candidates don't graduate. It's not like we are completely clueless about what's required for the degree. You are worried that we won't apply the same standards to a creationist that we do to an atheist student but that's where you're wrong.

    The problem is that some scientists have been guilty of a double standard but it's the opposite of what you fear. They are letting some substandard students graduate for fear of being accused of religious discrimination. In other words, it's the fear of lawyers such as yourself that's causing the problem.

    I understand that fear, and so do the creationists. They're more than happy to take advantage. And now with Expelled coming out there will be even more substandard degrees and tenures. You can count on it.

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  4. You don't need to be so uppity about it.

    After all these years you don't know I do have to be? ;-)

    Your position seems to demand that anyone who claims the protection of religion can escape the kind of scrutiny that we would apply to an atheist scientist. That doesn't seem right to me.

    No, I don't take that position at all, which is easy enough to see on my blog or in t.o. I'm all for leaving their still beating hearts on the floor ... if it is about scientific matters. Feel free to rip as many new ones in Ross or Kirk and their claims about science as you like. But if they want to take refuge in religion and theology and clearly label it as such, it's no longer science's business. That's not a weakness of science -- its self-limitation to a narrow but, therefore, more controlled and "pure" (for want of a better word) study, is its greatest strength. Turn it into just another theology or philosophy or "lifestyle" and you wind up with less, not more.

    It's ridiculous to suggest that we take Ph.D.'s away from people who earned them. I know that lawyers have procedures for disbarring but that's not the way science works.

    Why?

    You want to do the same thing to Ross prospectively, why not post hoc? What logical, moral or scientific difference is there in the two cases?

    They are letting some substandard students graduate for fear of being accused of religious discrimination.

    Was Ross substandard as a student? His examiners didn't think so. I thought you wanted to go outside his actual academic work to his extra-curricular activities. And, if you can do that to a grad student goose, why not, dear gander, to you or any other member of the club?

    In other words, it's the fear of lawyers such as yourself that's causing the problem.

    Don't try to lay off on lawyers and the law the inabilility of you and other educators to clearly formulate and enforce reasonable standards that address your concerns without invideous discrimination based on irrelevant factors, such as personal beliefs that don't impact on the candidates' scientific work ... especially when you're willing to overlook the same faults in your clubmates.

    And now with Expelled coming out there will be even more substandard degrees and tenures. You can count on it.

    Then you better get cracking on those standards.

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  5. "It's ridiculous to suggest that we take Ph.D.'s away from people who earned them. I know that lawyers have procedures for disbarring but that's not the way science works.

    Why?"

    A PhD is awarded for the work done on the thesis. If a scientist subsequently shows that he is incapable it doesn't invalidate the previous work. All scientists will agree that if it is shown that the evolution of protein folding is impossible given the timescale involved then a serious rethink is in order. However, it is up to Durston to prove his point. If he cannot, then no PhD.

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  6. Oh no, good old compartmentalization...

    If Kirk Durston can successfully defend his thesis, then he should get his PhD.

    But if he publicly states that he believes in something that contradicts his PhD work, then the trust is eroded.

    Nobody can tell what somebody else really believes. When there are too many contradictions, people will become suspicious. I think even creationists will also feel uneasy.

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  7. John Pieret says,

    Don't try to lay off on lawyers and the law the inabilility of you and other educators to clearly formulate and enforce reasonable standards that address your concerns without invideous discrimination based on irrelevant factors, such as personal beliefs that don't impact on the candidates' scientific work ... especially when you're willing to overlook the same faults in your clubmates.

    It's a very real problem, John. I know lots of people who understand the standards but who don't want to get tangled up with lawyers and lawsuits.

    Look what's happening with Gonzales. You don't think that's intimidating?

    And just to make my point clear, once again, I have no problem with people's personal beliefs as long as they don't affect their interpretation of science and as long as they don't claim that their "beliefs" are scientific.

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  8. A PhD is awarded for the work done on the thesis.

    By all accounts, Ross' thesis was fine. He deserved his Ph.D. then, right? Larry wants to expand your criteria to include things outside the thesis (as agreed to with his advisor). On what basis do you think Larry should be able to?

    When there are too many contradictions, people will become suspicious.

    And if univerities can charge people big bucks for degrees and then refuse to grant them on nothing more than "suspicions," when any objective measures of the thesis work is that it is good, you don't think that is going to raise suspicions?

    It's a very real problem, John. I know lots of people who understand the standards but who don't want to get tangled up with lawyers and lawsuits.

    Constructing boogeymen doesn't sound very scientific to me. Lawyers don't operate separate and apart from social norms. Whenever someone starts waiving the fear of lawyers around as an excuse, they invariably mean that they are afraid that they can't justify what they are doing to society at large.

    If those "standards" are so pale and toothless that they faint at the sight of a lawyer, then maybe they aren't "standards" at all. Maybe you are mistaking your own quirks and prejudices (we all have them) for "standards."

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  9. Larry said… “In their public lectures, and in articles for the popular press, they make a big deal about the "scientific" nature of their findings. If that's what they truly believe then they should have no qualms about defending it in a scientific context. In other words, it goes in the thesis and let the chips fall where they may.”

    Dragon replies… Unless I miss my guess, “chips fall where they may”, means during peer review by mainstream scientists or the candidate’s faculty committee.

    Suppose Larry Moran is a funder of scientific research for cosmologists. Suppose Hugh Ross asks Larry for some money for cosmological research. Even though Larry knows that Ross is an eminently qualified astronomer, Larry will predictably deny Ross any funding. The denial will not be based on “scientific context,” it will be based on Larry’s non-scientific naturalistic bias against Ross’ non-naturalistic beliefs. What’s the difference between this example and the academic case cited with Marcus Ross (no relation to Hugh Ross) or any other non-naturalists facing the naturalistic scientific community?

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  10. "A PhD is awarded for the work done on the thesis.

    By all accounts, Ross' thesis was fine. He deserved his Ph.D. then, right? Larry wants to expand your criteria to include things outside the thesis (as agreed to with his advisor). On what basis do you think Larry should be able to?"

    BTW my point was directed at your comment about disbarring PhDs.

    I have nothing but sadness for somebody having achieved a PhD but then falls for the non-science of id/creationism. Should we award a PhD for somebody already spouting this junk? I don't think so. Either, he will try to prove his thesis and most probably fail or write and discuss a thesis totally at odds with his beliefs, in which case he will be guilty of intellectual hypocrisy and dishonesty. If the latter is the case he would fit right in with the id/creationists who have lied, made up facts and misquoted purely to advance their aims.

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  11. Arguing against the ‘thought life’ of a person or group of persons is one thing but legislating or coding against them, no matter how offensive or perverse those thought lives may be, is another. The law is intended to protect us against the adverse social effects that ‘thought lives’ may have and not thought lives per se. In any case I’m not happy about comparing Kirk with Ross. Ross may have written cynically, but Kirk, if he sticks to the science of protein folding, need not be insincere. He just may be onto something.

    PS: I still feel very uncomfortable about Larry's suggestion that YECs shouldn't be awarded degrees in natural history.

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  12. "When there are too many contradictions, people will become suspicious."

    And if univerities can charge people big bucks for degrees and then refuse to grant them on nothing more than "suspicions," when any objective measures of the thesis work is that it is good, you don't think that is going to raise suspicions?


    I was refering to the context of people who publicly express a belief that is contradictory to their thesis work.

    Even if they can defend their thesis and get their PhD, the trust is eroded.

    I'm feel surprised that creationists could trust people who earn their degrees this way.

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  13. I still feel very uncomfortable about Larry's suggestion that YECs shouldn't be awarded degrees in natural history.

    Young Earth Creationism denies both halves of the term "natural history", and I have no problem with denying natural history degrees to self-professed, publicly-stated Young Earth Creationists.

    "Natural" - YECs claim a by-definition supernatural agent at the centre of their beliefs. That's opposite natural.

    "History" - YECs deny any and all evidence of events that occurred outside of a very narrow time frame in a small fraction of the world. Calling what they do "history" is akin to calling a mayoral election in a small town "geopolitics".

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  14. Several commenters here claim that the PhD is based on the dissertation research alone. I'm looking at my doctoral diploma on my wall right now, and it says that my degree was given "with all of its rights, privileges and responsibilities" If the degree was based only on the work I did up to that point, what then are these responsibilities? Clearly there is more to it then just paying your money, doing a project, and getting your card stamped.

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  15. I have no problem with denying natural history degrees to self-professed, publicly-stated Young Earth Creationists.

    I’m not saying that a YEC would be morally right in cynically ‘passing’ a course in natural history. To argue morally is one thing: to attempt to enforce private morals with law or codes of practice is another. Law and practice has more to do with social protection than it does private morals and thought life. Where does the precedent set by legal probing into people’s private thought lives end? Should we deny medical help to an unconscious religious victim of a road accident because he only believes in miraculous healing and despises doctors?

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  16. Timothy V Reeves asks,

    Should we deny medical help to an unconscious religious victim of a road accident because he only believes in miraculous healing and despises doctors?

    No, of course not.

    But would you give them an M.D. degree?

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  17. To argue morally is one thing: to attempt to enforce private morals with law or codes of practice is another.

    I'd agree with that. That's why I included the statement "self-professed, publicly-stated" in my previous comment. A person who stays quiet, does the work, and earns the degree without mocking their home university by public declarations of stupidity (e.g. publicly stating one's own delusions about the age of the Earth), but then turns around and says "screw you evil materialists!" after the convocation, is a separate category compared to someone who enters, proceeds through, and continues after completion of such a degree program all while loudly talking about their own ridiculous delusions.

    Sorry about the long run-on sentence, above. Regarding Dr. Ross and Mr. Durston, am I incorrect in thinking that Dr. Ross didn't wave his YEC foolishness in the University of Rhode Island's face until after graduation?

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  18. No, I think Fastovsky was aware of Ross's YEC views.

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  19. Is a Ph.D. really awarded only for work done on your dissertation?

    When you award someone a degree from your institution, you are putting the prestige of the institution behind them. When you sign off on someone's degree, you are putting your name behind what they did. If a person says one thing in their dissertation and the opposite everywhere else, it raises valid questions about their scientific integrity. It strikes me as reasonable to vote "no" based on your conclusion that the person is dishonest in how they are representing their science.

    Picture this in a non-religious context. If a doctoral student was going to public fora (and guest-lecturing in university classes) and saying "my results show that Drug X cures cancer" when, in fact, their research showed that it had no effect...that would cast a shadow on their honesty and scientific integrity. Now imagine that you had heard rumours that they had a fellowship waiting at the company that makes Drug X.

    Sign off on their dissertation? I doubt it.

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  20. Right then, let’s have a look at this.

    Mr. Brummel and Ian both tender scenarios where the ‘thought life’ of a person is beginning to surface and having adverse social effects: A YEC publicly making a mockery of a university (Mr. Brummel); a dishonest doctoral student involved with health critical drugs (Ian). Likewise, Larry’s rhetorical question about offering an MD degree to someone who despises medicine has force because the practice of medicine is socially critical. In short: we don’t legislate against thought lives per se but only in as much as the social good is effected – that’s the legal principle. If we do decide to act against social fifth columnists on the grounds that their ulterior purposes will ultimately have harmful ramifications for society, we must balance the rather distasteful probing into peoples real motives against one very dangerous precedent that is potentially socially disastrous: the inauguration of Thought Police!

    BTW, where’s John Pieret when you need him? - I don’t suppose we earn enough to get him interested in giving us his expert legal opinion on this matter.

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  21. Yes, 'Thought Police'- Now I realise: that's what's making me feel very uneasy with this whole business.

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  22. But that sort of probing is a part of academia. "Character" is part of the whole equation. You are investing a part of your reputation in every student you produce - you see a crappy dissertation and you don't think "this person is a bad scientist", you think "why did their advisor accept this?"

    So if you have a student who is engaging in academic dishonesty, writing a dissertation just isn't enough.

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  23. Thanks for the link to PZ Larry. Blimey, the commentators on PZ don't beat about the bush do they? For example:

    That guy who's indoctrinating Xian dupes with even worse cr*p is one turd short of being a big sh*t

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  24. who cares about PhD's and titles. If their ideas on intelligent design are not decent enough to deserve peer-reviewed publication...that's it. They are still nonexistent as far as research goes. It is research that counts, not the ability to jump through the hoops of getting a PhD.
    These guys don't worry me a bit. Their ideas will continue to be pseudocience; their real niche will continue to be related more to the churches than to the labs.

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  25. BTW, where’s John Pieret when you need him? - I don’t suppose we earn enough to get him interested in giving us his expert legal opinion on this matter.

    I may not have a real life but I like to play at having one on tv.

    From a lawyer's perspective, the university is taking money, in great big gobs, from the candidate. At a minimum, if they are going to impose the kind of "gag rule" Brummell proposes, it better be in writing and uniformly enforced for all supposed "mocking" of the university, not just in cases of religion. Personally, I'm not quite sure how having a written policy that states that only sufficiently hypocritical candidates will be given a degree improves the reputation of the university.

    As for Ian's example, how do you create a consistent policy to distinguish between someone who is outright lying about results and someone who, holding an unorthodox scientific view, chooses not to muddy up his dissertation with that kind of controversy and just goes along with the standard view? ... remembering that unobjective standards (like "I think s/he's lying") where gobs of money are involved is begging for a (losing) lawsuit.

    And no one has yet explained to my satisfaction the morality of imposing that kind of standard on a grad student but not on an existing Ph.D., much less a tenured professor (only slightly pushing Larry's academic freedom button). If "scientific integrity" is at stake in one, why isn't it in the other? And if you can't explain it to a sympathetic and (fairly) objective lawyer, do you think you could explain it to a jury of ordinary people contemplating all those gobs of money some poor schlub had dished out, just to be told at the end that he should have lied about his beliefs? ... beliefs that a large portion of the jury probably shares.

    By the way, I personally have a lot of sympathy for Sanders' position. I just can't see this as such a big problem as to be worth the negatives, such as throwing yet another log on the Expelled bonfire (plug) ... about which there is a new bit of info on my blog. (/plug)

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  26. Lim Leng Hiong said... "Even if they can defend their thesis and get their PhD, the trust is eroded. I'm feel surprised that creationists could trust people who earn their degrees this way."

    Dragon replies... Your statement about "trust is eroded" is (no offense intended) absurd. Trust in what? Naturalism? Naturalism is an artificial standard imposed onto science.

    This thread and "Evolution and Purpose - Wednesday, November 28, 2007, " both illustrate the point that highly qualified hard working science professionals and enthusiastic naturalists like Larry Moran firmly and honestly believe that the only way to view science is to first bring a naturalistic, humanistic, materialistic, atheistic worldview/philosophy to the table for purposes of interpreting scientific data. Interpretation is necessary, because nature grudgingly gives-up her secrets. Those professionals adopt naturalism because:
    1. Evolution (the child of naturalism) has been* the most universally accepted way to make sense of the whole of natural science, and the only intellectually logical model to which the scientific method could be uniformly be applied. (*Hugh Ross has offered the only alternative in "Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars" - for those who are interested in seeing both sides of the same science coin.),
    2. They have been coerced into adopting it under threat of a revoked PhD., denial of tenure, or loss of a job, or
    3. They have become completely convinced of a one realm of existence – the material, and need naturalism and evolution to give substance to their belief.

    Further, countless people of faith earn their PhD’s through hard work and dedication, in a philosophically hostile environment, and go on to apply their scientific skills without benefit of a naturalistic worldview.

    To me, what seems not completely forthright (trustworthy) is that, except for some notable public exceptions, the same scientific establishment conceals its a priori views from the pubic (American, for example).

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  27. Dragon replies... Your statement about "trust is eroded" is (no offense intended) absurd. Trust in what? Naturalism? Naturalism is an artificial standard imposed onto science.

    No. Trust in the PhD candidate who is holding two opposing beliefs at the same time. Larry pointed out the example of Marcus Ross, who doesn't even believe in the fundamental premise behind his thesis work.

    If he was a honest creationist, his thesis work should have reflected his true beliefs.

    Further, countless people of faith earn their PhD’s through hard work and dedication, in a philosophically hostile environment, and go on to apply their scientific skills without benefit of a naturalistic worldview.

    Can you give an example of someone who is applying "scientific skills without benefit of a naturalistic worldview?"

    I think that a supernatural kind of science is the easiest thing to do in the world, since you can explain any phenomena in the Universe using "God did it".

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  28. > you can explain any phenomena in the Universe using "God did it".

    That also works for "nature did it."

    But in both cases, the statement has to be justified, because neither is arbitrary, or at least neither should be.

    And if someone does justify their statement in their thesis, then they earned a PhD.

    What I find troubling is the apparent claim of virtually supernatural knowledge involved in saying (as it seems naturalists do) that no one can justify a statement that God did X.

    If they really believe they have a firm conclusion and conclusive reason to believe such, then I shall revoke their rationality certificate.

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  29. you can explain any phenomena in the Universe using "God did it".

    That also works for "nature did it."


    Congratulations, that is the King of false equivalence I've read this week. "Nature did it" is just the beginning of scientific inquiry, we'd still have to work out a mechanism to explain the phenomena, based on existing knowledge.

    "God did it" on the other hand, ends the inquiry, since the mechanism is either perpetually mysterious, unknowable or exists outside of the physical Universe.

    But in both cases, the statement has to be justified, because neither is arbitrary, or at least neither should be.

    All hail the testable prediction! What would your testable prediction be today, sir?

    What I find troubling is the apparent claim of virtually supernatural knowledge involved in saying (as it seems naturalists do) that no one can justify a statement that God did X.

    Let's start with a hypothesis, any hypothesis, which differentiates between God did X and an drunk super-Alien did X. Or perhaps that is an unnecessary alternative hypothesis since you've ruled out the possible existence of Aliens, who can be smart, drunk, and enjoy a cosmic game of hide-and-seek with their earthly creations.

    If they really believe they have a firm conclusion and conclusive reason to believe such, then I shall revoke their rationality certificate.

    Unfortunately rationality can't be purchased from a degree mill like PhDs can. Still, I am happy to state that I won't (and can't) deprive anyone of their "rationality" the way you propose to.

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  30. Although I don’t understand how someone like Ross would survive the sort of probing Ian talks about, I am inclined to take on board John Pieret’s advice about difficulty of putting all this on legal footing; not to mention my fears about giving opportunity to the specter of the ‘thought police’ that looms over this whole issue.

    In any case I feel that Kirk Durston is an entirely different case. What little I understand of his work suggests to me that he is raising at least two issues that would greatly interest me whether I was a theist or not:
    a) The ‘non-evolvability’ of protein folds.
    b) He proposes a criterion for detecting whether complex configurations of cooperating parts hit that epistemological (and ontological?) barrier of non-evolvability that he personally goes on to identify as evidence of intelligent design.

    Now, to understand what Kirk is trying to say, I don’t need to invoke theism. On one level, leaving aside his ID, he is just saying that certain structures of cooperating parts have to be accepted as ‘givens’ along with the known laws of physics! Although I have grave doubts about this thesis it is both mathematically and scientifically significant. Mathematically: Are there structures in morphospace that cannot be arrived at by some kind of evolution? Scientifically: Do such ‘non-evolvable’ structures exist in our universe? (e.g. protein folds).

    Basically Kirk Durston needs some space to satisfactorily demonstrate his points. As Larry has already suggested Kirk seems sincere and I don't think he is 'doing a Ross'

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  31. John Pieret asks,

    By all accounts, Ross' thesis was fine. He deserved his Ph.D. then, right? Larry wants to expand your criteria to include things outside the thesis (as agreed to with his advisor). On what basis do you think Larry should be able to?

    On the basis that a Ph.D. degree requires far more than just the ability to do experiments.

    I think part of the difficulty I see in this thread is that many people don't understand graduate degrees. (I'm speaking of Ph.D. programs in science.) It's not the same as an undergraduate degree.

    The most important part of a Ph.D. degree is learning to think like a scientist. This is continuously evaluated in many ways including day-to-day discussions with your supervisor, fellow graduate students, and post-docs in the lab. It's on display when you present your work at lab meetings and journal clubs.

    Your ability to think like a scientist is manifest toward the end of your degree when you begin to achieve more independence in designing and interpreting your own experiments. Your thought processes are challenged and evaluated during your committee meetings, which take place once or twice a year, depending on the university.

    At any of these stages, students could be found wanting because they have not developed the intellectual capacity to merit the Ph.D. degree. This is the most common reason for not succeeding. You do not get permission from your committee to write a thesis.

    The thesis itself is much more than just a summary of your experiments as in a scientific paper. It should also have a lengthy introduction to the field where your work is placed in context and all previous work in the field is critically evaluated. This is where an honest Intelligent Design Creationist would have trouble.

    The thesis should also have a chapter on future work. I can't imagine what an honest Intelligent Design Creationist would put in that chapter.

    Once the thesis is accepted, a student proceeds to the Ph.D. oral exam. This exam will have up to seven faculty members, specifically including scientists who were not part of the student's committee. At many universities it must include an expert in the field from another university.

    Since the thesis will already have been accepted by the committee, the main part of the oral exam consists of questioning the student about their ability to think like a scientist. Any questions are acceptable, including those that have nothing to do with the thesis.

    Failure to demonstrate intellectual ability by flubbing the general questions is one of the most common ways to fail at this level. In my experience, the general questions are the most revealing. When I'm on these oral exam committees I usually ask questions about evolution because most of our students bring it up in their thesis.

    I have voted against giving a degree to about half a dozen students over the past thirty years because they don't think like a scientist. As far as I know, none of these students were particularly religious.

    So, to answer John's question, there are lots of things outside the thesis itself that are evaluated when you are a graduate student.

    And to answer Timothy V Reeves—yes, we are actively evaluating the "thoughts" of our students. That's what university is all about. It's supposed to teach you how to think.

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  32. Trouble is, Larry, people’s thinking often has an ‘organic’ wholeness about it. Durleston’s work on protein folding etc is intimately linked with his ID notions. Is someone like yourself detached enough to be able to make the necessary fuzzy distinctions in order to not get distracted by the extracurricular aspects of his work and not be phased by the parts of his thinking that you are very emotional about? In short would you be a fair judge if he presented a worthwhile dissertation about protein folding without mention of ID?

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  33. All I can say is that some ultradarwinist professors would be happy to call me unscientific and strip me from my PhD becuase of what I have to say about neodarwinism. On blogs, it is not uncommon for me to find myself accused by fellow researchers of not thinking scientifically. I also think this is no laughing matter. How many times non-darwinian visions of evolution were nipped at the bud, for instance, during the more dogmatic 40's and 50's?

    I say you can succesfully judge the thesis work, but udging the whole perosn is going to be quite more difficult, and more importantly, more subective. Specially if it is reduced to a single question in the very last step. This kind of power can be veeeery easily put to wrong use. In fact, in most cases where I know someone has been rejected this way, the explanation usually is that there was some real asshole sitting on the commitee.

    I'm curious, Larry. How could you tell, in one or two questions, that the person in front of you cannot think scientifically, despite the fact they have done science?
    Just HOW dumb was their answer that you decided to reject them their PhD?

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  34. Scietists judge research. Priests judge people.
    Let's keep that distinction clear.

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  35. The most important part of a Ph.D. degree is learning to think like a scientist.

    Not to get into bludgeoning moribund Equidae, there is a thin line between "thinking like a scientist" and "thinking like a particular scientist in a place called Toronto." We've been around that mulberry bush a few time as well.

    The evidence of Ross getting his Ph.D. (not to mention Kurt Wise, who got his under Gould, and others) empirically suggests that your criteria may not be all that universal. And it is all well and good for you to vote based on the criteria you find important, that should not be confused with a "standard" that universities should impose (and a good thing too ... for the universities).

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  36. Dragon said… “…countless people of faith earn their Ph.D.’s through hard work and dedication, in a philosophically hostile environment, and go on to apply their scientific skills without benefit of a naturalistic worldview.”

    Lim Leng Hiong replied... “Can you give an example of someone who is applying "scientific skills without benefit of a naturalistic worldview”?

    Dagon replies… Yes. An easy example is biochemist Fazale Rana. Before he associated with Hugh Ross’ Reasons To Believe (RTB) organization, he was a biochemist for Proctor and Gamble for many years. Check out his bio at www.reasons.org . I am currently attempting to get a copy of a published article by Dr. Rana. If I get it, I’ll share it with my fellow Sandwalk fans. I have a friend who describes his son as a strong Christian who happens to be in his last year of Ph.D. work in a field related to hydrology. I’ve hinted that the son may wish to weigh-in in this thread. I have another younger friend who is a strong Christian who is just beginning his three-year Ph.D. work in astro-physics. Several of the other RTB scholars were practitioners in their fields in academia or private industry before coming to RTB.

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  37. > Lim Leng: What would your testable prediction be today, sir?

    As far as "God did it," if the Genesis account was meant, I predict that substantive speciation will be seen to have have ceased after the appearance of man.

    > Lee: What I find troubling is the apparent claim of virtually supernatural knowledge involved in saying (as it seems naturalists do) that no one can justify a statement that God did X.
    >
    > Lim Leng: Let's start with a hypothesis, any hypothesis, which differentiates between God did X and an drunk super-Alien did X.

    But what I meant is that "God did X" has to be defensible, just as "nature did X" must also be, with which we all agree.

    > I am happy to state that I won't (and can't) deprive anyone of their "rationality" the way you propose to.

    I would say a claim involving supernatural knowledge, by a naturalist, entails, well, essential irrationality.

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  38. Ian wrote:

    Is a Ph.D. really awarded only for work done on your dissertation?

    When you award someone a degree from your institution, you are putting the prestige of the institution behind them.


    This is a valid point. Not exactly the awarding of a doctoral degree, but we recently (about 3 years ago) refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to medical school because, though pretty much a straight A student, the guy was lazy, rude, and told us* that he was trying to get into medical school in case his 'realty business' fell apart. We felt that he would bring unfavorable views upon our institution, and that he was not worth the tarnishing of our reputation.

    I don't think refusing to grant a degree on the basis of a grad student's extracurricular activities - especially when said student is using his/her work and 'prestige' of the university at which they are studying to prop up their anti-scientific views - is necessarily taboo.


    *'we' being what we call the Health Professions Advisory committee

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  39. anonymous wrote:
    Yes. An easy example is biochemist Fazale Rana. Before he associated with Hugh Ross’ Reasons To Believe (RTB) organization, he was a biochemist for Proctor and Gamble for many years

    So, you are saying that Rana employed supernaturalism in his work?

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  40. John Pieter says,

    Not to get into bludgeoning moribund Equidae, there is a thin line between "thinking like a scientist" and "thinking like a particular scientist in a place called Toronto." We've been around that mulberry bush a few time as well.

    Yes we have, John.

    I've heard Kirk talk and I'm confident that any respectable scientist would have a problem with his so-called "science."

    John, are you implying that there are lots of real scientist outside of Toronto who think that Intelligent Design Creationism is science?

    Please stop with the personal insults and address the question in a meaningful way. Assume that we're dealing with a situation where every respectable scientist would have a problem passing an student who claimed to find disproof of evolution.

    What should we do under those circumstances? Should we just go ahead and give them a Ph.D. because we're afraid of slippery slopes and cans of worms? So far, those are the only arguments you've offered—aside from questioning my personable ability to be a judge of good science.

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  41. John Pieter says,

    As for Ian's example, how do you create a consistent policy to distinguish between someone who is outright lying about results and someone who, holding an unorthodox scientific view, chooses not to muddy up his dissertation with that kind of controversy and just goes along with the standard view? ... remembering that unobjective standards (like "I think s/he's lying") where gobs of money are involved is begging for a (losing) lawsuit.

    Oops. Sorry. You did offer another reason for lowering standards and letting Intelligent Design Creationists get degrees with shoddy science.

    It's the threat of lawsuits from lawyers like you.

    I can relate to that. It will probably work. Things get really expensive when we start letting lawyers decide what's good science and what's bad science.

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. But honestly, Larry. What trick question do you make to catch these sneaky ID'ers? is the earth 6000 years old?

    A professor would be correct in denying someone his PhD if he detects in the content of his thesis or his dissertation, the questioning of any well- established scientific fact (continental drift, round earth, evolution) in order to introduce an alternative non-scientific explanation (such as ID or creationism). That's not the scientific way of interpreting intriguing data; no matter how "paradoxical".

    Even if these people say they do not believe in evolution, they can still carry out publishable research, for instance, in the area of biochemistry, or very descriptive paleontology. They can do research, but they cannot get their pseudoscientific inferences published in any research journal anyway. Should they be discounted from the workforce of science?

    Larry, taking any "extra measures" will be COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE as to stopping ID'ers getting their PhD's. They just lie and get their degrees. At most they can delay their vocal expressions until after they have their PhD's.

    If you bar them form getting their PhD's for views they have expresses elsewhere...that makes them the persecuted victims and us loo like the dogmatic "thought police"

    As it is right now. Every chance has been given to them, everyone!!! Yet they continue to produce only regular science, if any. That PROVES a point. Let's keep it that way.

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  44. Let me ask some questions prompted by Sander’s comments: Is a PhD awarded on the basis of dissertation content or the much more difficult business of judging a person and their mental set up? What resource are you most interested in: the person or the dissertation? Do you feel confident in so judging people? Specifically, can we easily define what ‘thinking scientifically’ means? Haven’t philosophers been disagreeing on this for years? I wonder if the writer of an otherwise adequate mathematics PhD dissertation could be disqualified from gaining his PhD on the basis that an examiner fancied he perceived some vague dysfunction in the candidate’s abilities?

    And while I’m here: my experience of YEC believers like Ross is that they are quite capable of thinking scientifically (the fact he successfully completed his thesis suggests this). What actually seems to happen is that religious imperatives kick in and override that thinking - I think its called Gnosticism or fideism.

    If you’re going to judge people rather dissertation content, you may need a psychologist on your examination committee.

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  45. Please stop with the personal insults and address the question in a meaningful way.

    It's a personal insult to point out that your understanding of the philosophy of science or the proper standard for awarding Ph.D.s may not be universal and that you may be applying a "standard" that is your own, instead of one actually agreed to by the scientific community at large? I'll refrain from saying what I think of that.

    Assume that we're dealing with a situation where every respectable scientist would have a problem passing an student who claimed to find disproof of evolution.

    So, Tim Reeves and Sanders aren't respectable scientists? Tim's at least interested in listening to Durston. And neither of them seem to think judging the person's beliefs is necessarily the proper role of the examiners. That was the point I was making, Larry ... you may not have the only "respectable" view of this issue.

    You did offer another reason for lowering standards and letting Intelligent Design Creationists get degrees with shoddy science.

    It's the threat of lawsuits from lawyers like you.


    I was asked what my view of the situation from an attorney's point of view was and gave it. And this isn't about Intelligent Design Creationists getting degrees with shoddy science. It's a given that if they do shoddy science in the course of their actual work you can deny them a degree. The question here is how far afield you can go to judge what their "science" is.

    But I have a simple solution to the lawsuit problem, Larry ... don't charge the candidate. After all, you apparently think this is all about the pure motives of scientists versus the evil motives of creationists. Prove the purity of your motives. Urge your university to stop charging the grad students and give back an appropriate amount of your salary to help cover the difference. That way, you can refuse a candidate for any old reason you want and the virginal innocence of science can be saved from shoddiness.

    Until then, like any purveyor of services to the public for money, the university is going to have to act reasonably in its customer relations ... or face the consequences. There will be sympathetic people like me who will try to protect universities from the consequences of bad customer relations but there is only so much we can do.

    In case you've forgotten, you are a social organism.

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  46. At least U of T grad students get paid. Too bad for the other guys I guess.

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  47. OK, just to make something clear. I do not support any "extra" questioning, but I also fervently repudiate the dishonesty of creationists who "lie" and deceive to obtain their degrees.
    I would never do like Gould and take a creationist as a PhD student of mine. I do consider that to be a basic fault and a lack of proper scientfiic understanding. He/she would have to hide it from me or look for another PI. Further, if this person is a vocal creationist, and I am assigned to evaluate this person in the commitee, I think it is fair to question the person about it. The answers could indeed end up with me voting against.

    We already have tools to deal with odd cases like those. There is NO advantage in adding another "ritual" to PhD examinations in the form of a new standard practice, no need for a customary "do you believeth in evolution!!" glare at each PhD exam. Please.

    The truth, as I said, is that rarely do we deal with a case like this. Most ID'ers will avoid themselves the obvious trouble and simply hide their beliefs and lie when asked. Or he may downplay them bigtime if questioned about it.

    As a final reflection, I would like to add that I'd rather have 10 people pass undeservedly, than have one person rejected who truly could have made a carreer in science.

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  48. I do not support any "extra" questioning, but I also fervently repudiate the dishonesty of creationists who "lie" and deceive to obtain their degrees.

    And I did not mean to enlist you or Tim for anything beyond your own positions. I merely cited your discussions to indicate that there are nuances involved than can't be as easily addressed as we might all like.

    I really am sympathetic to the impulse to keep creationists from getting degrees simply to use in a publicity war against science but I'm not sure that there is any way to do it that isn't ultimately as harmful, or more so, to the institution of the university and to science than letting the (so far) few and far between among creationists who can do the work get through. Certainly, nothing in this thread has convinced me that there is such a neat and easy solution for the problem.

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  49. At least U of T grad students get paid.

    Yeah, I know that but they don't get paid what the work they do is worth (or so I'm often told), which is a form of payment to the school/lab/whatever.

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  50. Sanders wrote:
    I do not support any "extra" questioning, but I also fervently repudiate the dishonesty of creationists who "lie" and deceive to obtain their degrees.

    Maybe you should have a talk with my "departmental observer" in my doctoral comprehensive (qualifying) exams who asked me about where and when the wheel was invented. I was able to answer the question, but it was totally irrelevant to anything it was going. But it was a valid question, since it was probing my overall breadth of knowledge.

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  51. Sanders says,

    Larry, taking any "extra measures" will be COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE as to stopping ID'ers getting their PhD's. They just lie and get their degrees. At most they can delay their vocal expressions until after they have their PhD's.

    This is correct. If they lie, there's nothing we can do about it.

    Hence the point of my posting. If Intelligent Design Cretionists are honest, they fail.

    If you bar them form getting their PhD's for views they have expresses elsewhere...that makes them the persecuted victims and us loo like the dogmatic "thought police"

    I agree 100%. If they lie in the Ph.D. oral, we can do nothing about it except publicize what they said there.

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  52. OK Larry, let's imagine that someone like Durston stuck to the subject of evolution of protein folding probabilities in his PhD without reference to ID. Knowing his background ideas would you make a foray into this context of ideas in order to tempt him to lie in his oral?

    Look, whatever the status of ID concepts, it may be that standard evolutionists are just too comfortable to challenge their own ideas: Durston may be doing the discipline a service; if evolution suceeds in jumping this particular hoop it could come out stronger and healthier.

    Surely you understand that one's ideas make leaps an bounds if you have someone to react against. Why do think a 'evolutionist' theist like me is on your blog? I relish the challenge!

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  53. Doppelganger quoted Dragon... “Yes. An easy example is biochemist Fazale Rana. Before he associated with Hugh Ross’ Reasons To Believe (RTB) organization, he was a biochemist for Proctor and Gamble for many years.”

    Doppelganger then said… “So, you are saying that Rana employed supernaturalism in his work?”

    Dragon replies… It seems to me that practicing science, stated very generally, confirms the viability of either existing data and/or the predictions of a hypothesis. At a place like Proctor and Gamble, I would guess that both dynamics would apply, so that a new shampoo wouldn’t make my hair fall out. If Rana practiced bad science in the lab, my hair might fall out. I don't think Rana would require a naturalistic or super-naturalistic bent to protect my hair. But, when it comes to origins science, that's another story. Because origins science is about how we see ourselves in life (with or without purpose and meaning) and for some that means whether they want to be seen with or without God.

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  54. Sanders said... "Larry, taking any 'extra measures' will be COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE as to stopping ID'ers getting their PhD's. They just lie and get their degrees. At most they can delay their vocal expressions until after they have their PhD's."

    Dragon replies... At a community college near me, on the first day of classes, the professor of Biology 101 routinely asks any Christians to identify themselves by standing up. He then tells them he is going to destroy their faith, before his class is over. I guess this is to save Larry the trouble at the Ph.D. level.

    BTW. The president of the same CC publicly said that this situation shouldn’t be a problem, because the CC had a recourse procedure for any complaints a student might have. It started by requiring the student to first go directly to the subject professor to complain.

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  55. I doubt that teacher succeeded. The entirety of biology is in fact irrelevant to proving or disproving faith.

    Dragon, if you are convinced you are right, you should be thankful for having people THAT self-evidently stupid as opponents.

    Other teachers are known to tell the kids that they better be christian or go to hell

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  56. At a community college near me, on the first day of classes, the professor of Biology 101 routinely asks any Christians to identify themselves by standing up. He then tells them he is going to destroy their faith, before his class is over.

    I call bullshit...I don't believe this for a second. But in the extremely unlikely event that it is true, I find myself (gulp) in complete agreement with Sanders. Somebody should tell this person to shut up.

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  57. Perhaps an admissable, honest creationist for me would be one willing to acknowledge that denying evolution is not based on science, but rather believes evolution is false, not on the basis of science, but on the basis of personal belief, religious tradition, etc. Much like the belief that jesus resurrected, which is no scientific inference.

    I would not take up a phd student like that becuase evolution is my field of research, which would make it very difficult to make any headway without crashing against their faith.

    But if I were in the comittee, I would not vote against an admittedly non-scientific creationist like this getting his PhD, unless it were, say, in the field of evolutionary biology, or paleontology (yeah, that guy should have been rejected), since unsincerity and dishonesty are evident, and we are not fools to be laughed at. Evident misuse of the title can be predicted. In the end such a person mocks the entire academic process of getting a PhD in evolution or natural history..

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  58. BY the way, wasn't there this polish guy with with a PhD in population genetics? The one that worte to nature?

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  59. Sanders says:
    I would not take up a PhD student like that because evolution is my field of research, which would make it very difficult to make any headway without crashing against their faith.

    Most certainly! That would clearly be a disaster! But:

    I would never do like Gould and take a creationist as a PhD student of mine

    Fine, if he felt he could handle it. So it looks as though it’s coming down to personalities.

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  60. Sanders said...
    Perhaps an admissable, honest creationist for me would be one willing to acknowledge that denying evolution is not based on science, but rather believes evolution is false.

    An admirable thought but the creationists tried to get their belief taught as science, when that failed they turned to ID...

    Whether Durston tries to prove that protein folding is impossible or not, he fully intends to argue that id/creationism is scientifically true. If he lies about his belief in his thesis, why cannot he be questioned on this in his oral? He has certainly spoken often enough about his id/creationist ideals.

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  61. Kirk may realize that confronted with a paradox like that of his calculations, any commitee can see the greater probability of case "b", which is, simply, that the calculations are screwed up, or he is simply not considering something he should (sloppiness alert!)

    Scientists frequently are confronted with data or calculations that seem to be at odds with the reality of some well-established facts. Yet such facts continue as real as ever, and many times a completely satisfactory explanation of the apparent inconsistency is thereafter achieved (perhaps with additional data and calculations)

    If a paradox like this is found, it certainly is not the scientific procedure to question the well established fact (evolution) in favor of a supernatural explanation. Kirk can present his calculations and be explicit about its paradoxically "antievolutionary" nature but if he gets into saying this is proof of ID, either in his thesis or his exam, he should be rejected.
    basically, I think he is not ready to understand how these situations are dealt with in science, nor does he understand when he has no evidence for a claim (such as ID). He further demonstrates he does not understand the implications of denying evolution. This would fact create literally thousand of new inexplicable paradoxes. His explanation can hardly be considered a "solution"

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  62. Yes that may well be the case Sanders. (especially the point about the knock on effect of creating thousands of paradoxes) But as you're in research, do you condider that Kirk has a sufficient basis to publish if he finds a paradox that suggests new insights and possibilities about the potential field structure pervading sequence space? (His ID interpretation could, in principle, remain private - although I suspect this is hypothetical dream-land, because to Kirk ID is what it's really all about)

    (Talking about private agendas I have admit that this business about sequence space fascinates me because of my own interests)

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  63. Sven DiMIlo quotes Dragon… “At a community college near me, on the first day of classes, the professor of Biology 101 routinely asks any Christians to identify themselves by standing up. He then tells them he is going to destroy their faith, before his class is over.”

    Sven DiMIlo replied… “I don't believe this for a second.”

    Dragon replies… Sven, here’s something else you may wish to disbelieve. I went to a Unitarian Universalist church to hear a presentation by a biology professor from another nearby community college on the subject of ‘Why the controversy?’ (About evolution/creation). He publicly stated how he asks students to identify themselves as Christians, or as non-evolutionists, and then proceeds to use humor to mock their faith by asking naïve entering first-year students questions that he, as a skilled naturalist and biologist, knows they can’t answer.

    Why is it that some in this thread object to people/students reacting to academic intimidation by concealing their personal faith views, while at the same time they themselves conceal from tax-payers and the media, their non-scientific philosophical worldview (naturalism, materialism, humanism, atheism, etc.)? Maybe a better question would be why naturalists seem unable or unwilling to separate naturalism and its philosophical cousins from science.

    Sanders said... “Perhaps an admissable, honest creationist for me would be one willing to acknowledge that denying evolution is not based on science,”

    Dragon replies… Denying evolution is simply denying an interpretation of science, not science. Can you distinguish between the two: naturalism/materialism and science?

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  64. BY the way, wasn't there this polish guy with with a PhD in population genetics? The one that worte to nature?

    Giertych? According to wikipedia his degrees are in dendrology and tree physiology. Apparently he has done some forest genetics research later, but then again he also thinks that American boxers are living neanderthals...

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  65. Yes Dragon, I believe you, and I think someone has got some explaining to do.

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  66. "At a community college near me, on the first day of classes, the professor of Biology 101 routinely asks any Christians to identify themselves by standing up. He then tells them he is going to destroy their faith, before his class is over."


    I do not believe that for one second.

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  67. I SAID: he may present the paradox and point out it's "antievolutionary" nature, as a problem to be explained, of course!, BUT not as evidence in itself of either that evolution is false, and much less that supernatural intervention is "thus proven". This is quite an example of overinterpretation at the least (bad science) and simply introducing non-scientific elements into a aPhD in SCIENCE.

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  68. naturalism of course is the framework for science. I'm not going to dignify questioning of this by explainig this to you again, Dragon. You are a religious creationist of the knucklehead kind, that thinks supernaturalism is scientific. What can I say? Saying nothing is quite sufficient.

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  69. Sanders said..

    He (Kirk) may present the paradox and point out its "antievolutionary" nature, as a problem to be explained, of course!, BUT not as evidence in itself of either that evolution is false, and much less that supernatural intervention is "thus proven".

    Agreed.

    However, when closely examined I think you will find that the demarcation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ science, depending on the ontology of the objects being scrutinized, is a pretty fuzzy boundary. After all, as you have admitted Alex, even you have been accused of being ‘unscientific’. That cry of ‘unscientific’ brings to my mind the cries of ‘heresy’ amongst some ‘supernaturalists’; just an example of applying emotional duress and verbal bullying, by resort to charges of category A 'sin'.

    BTW, have you ever given a little thought to just what really distinguishes ‘supernaturalism’ from ‘naturalism’?

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  70. I'm not saying there is any phenomenological distinction. It is conceptual. "super"-natural, menas beyond natural, and thus, beyond the reach (and interest) of science.

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  71. It is true that many scientists can make bad judgements, pushing their own specific views as "the only scientific explanation", when they are not. I'm sure that this has discouraged the broadening of evolutionary research, and I seriously doubt similar malpractice will ever dissappear in any field of science.

    I do wish to nite, however, that I myself can (and have) publish my objections to neodarwinism in pertinent research journals; even if some dolt professor would reject me my phD for that reason, I can demonstrate that I am within scientific discussion and thus could nulify any false claim that these ideas are intrinsically unscientific. And this, my friends, is something that ID'ers cannot do.

    I do believe things have gotten much better for evolutionary biology since the 60's (after the darker 40's and 50's) Evolution is no longer the exclusive playground of neodarwinism

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  72. There is indeed such a thing as bad science, and no toher name for it. As I have stated, it not only relates to resorting to the supernatural. A completely materialistic, naturalistic proposal, despite fulfilling this requirement, may turn out to be a perfect piece of crap, even unscientific.

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  73. Sanders said... “naturalism of course is the framework for science.”

    Dragon replies… I have agreed many times that, yes, indeed, “naturalism of course is the (a) framework for science.” It is no longer the only (testable, falsifiable) framework for science.

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  74. Sanders said... “Dragon. You are a religious creationist of the knucklehead kind, that thinks supernaturalism is scientific.”

    Dragon replies… Supernaturalism doesn’t apply to science and neither does naturalism. Why is naturalism considered acceptable as the ‘a priori’ lens through which to interpret science?

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  75. Timothy V Reeves said... “Yes Dragon, I believe you, and I think someone has got some explaining to do.”

    Dragon replies… Re. the two community colleges I spoke of and what biology professors said, I know the names, dates, places, etc. and I know that both situations were in public settings. In my first example, the cc president was there, to hear for himself the complaints of intimidation.

    You know what, Timothy; my grandmother always taught me that it was important in life to be able to discern truth from lies. I remain puzzled about why some naturalists who visit Sandwalk so easily question the veracity of creationists like me (putting aside young-Earthers), and are so reticent to accept the fact that the rhetoric so often displayed at Sandwalk is an example of actual behavior in many science classrooms, and certainly in the scientific community - the point of this thread! That behavior seems to me to be the mirror image of young-Earther’s behavior. I wonder if we’ll ever see any attempted “explanations” from some naturalists.

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  76. timothy V. Reeves says,

    OK Larry, let's imagine that someone like Durston stuck to the subject of evolution of protein folding probabilities in his PhD without reference to ID. Knowing his background ideas would you make a foray into this context of ideas in order to tempt him to lie in his oral?

    If he simply made the scientific claims that he made in his lecture then he would fail the Ph.D. oral exam. As a matter of fact, it's unlikely that he would even be given permission to write a thesis.

    His so-called "scientific" claims are false.

    As for your second question, yes, I would question him on the implications of his findings just as I would question any graduate student on this point. We expect that students who are about to receive a Ph.D. can put their work in context and discuss what it mean to the rest of the field.

    Look, whatever the status of ID concepts, it may be that standard evolutionists are just too comfortable to challenge their own ideas: Durston may be doing the discipline a service; if evolution suceeds in jumping this particular hoop it could come out stronger and healthier.

    Intelligent Design Creationism has had almost two decades to prove that it is science. So far, it hasn't even come close to succeeding. If Durston wants to try and make the case in his thesis and Ph.D. oral then I strongly encourage him to do so.

    However, he must suffer the consequences if he fails to make his case. That's the nature of science.

    It is, indeed, possible that several hundred thousand evolutionists are wrong and Intelligent Design Creationism really is good science. If so, it will win out in the end.

    However, you need to recognize that's it's also possible that Intelligent Design Creationism is not good science. In that case it's proponents don't deserve degrees or tenure.

    I'm not very sympathetic to the argument that because kooks have sometimes turned out to be right we should not criticize any kooks.

    Surely you understand that one's ideas make leaps an bounds if you have someone to react against. Why do think a 'evolutionist' theist like me is on your blog? I relish the challenge!

    I'm glad you're here. Do you have any evidence that Intelligent Design Creationism is good science? Or, are you just wishing that it was? :-)

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  77. Oh, so the supernatural CAN be tested? Oh my. So if the test gave you negative, you would ditch supernaturalism and your religion into the grabage, huh? Not proven by scinece, not true. Yeah, right hehehehe
    Furtunateky for you, Id and other pseudiscientific grabage is indeed untestable so yo KNOW your faith will never be "put to test" and you can continue PLAYING like if your beliefs were..."scientific"

    Draon, you are silly creationst christian with a publicity agenda and the accustommed insincerity of not acknowledging tunto themselves the evident religious motivation. The standard self-dishonest creationist.

    Anyone ca figure why supernaturalism is if no use or interest to science. Scientific explanations explain experience with experience, and the natural world with the natural world. If not, they are quite useless as far as ascience goes. But you can still sell paperbacks to the sillier christians.

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  78. the worst thing is that when nature speaks loud and clear , ypu acnnot ignore it; but you guys justify your supernaturla belief on the denial of perfectly well established natural facts.

    When the natural fact is there, you CANNOT ditch, much less for mere supernaturalism...it's os unscientific at allmlevels, Dragon. You guys are hopeless.

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  79. Hi Dragon. Glad you’re still with us in spite of the insults. I once challenged some Jehovah’s witnesses about their organization’s failure to predict world events. Because I was beyond the pale of their community I was automatically discounted as a lair, even though I have documentation I have collected to back up my claim. But the doorstep JW has a ‘reality simplifying heuristic’, namely: “This person is beyond the pale, and is likely to be a liar, and therefore his claims aren’t worth following up”. (A JW once suggested that I was a ‘lover of lies’)

    The lesson here? A certain amount of social identification and dis-identification does figure in the way we take up information and this helps us select relevant information from a great tide of incoming information. In fact, and I have said this somewhere in the depths of this very blog, MOST of the information any SINGLE person acquires about our world doesn’t come directly through experimentation, but via social texts and texts come from people. Hence, in one sense science is a social phenomenon. So it is clear why there is a need for ad hominem; for personalities and what personalities say are de-facto evidences and act as vicarious stand-ins for experimental protocols when it is impossible for us to collect those protocols first hand. So, expect the insults to continue! (unfortunately!).

    As you may remember I actually favor evolution over ID, but I have got lots of time for people like yourself and Kirk Durston. However, as I am theist I am also a natural target for distrust in spite of my tentative evolutionary stance….…

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  80. Thanks for the reply Larry. I’m in no position to disagree with your assessment of Kirk Durston’s science or ‘non-science’ or of his chances of ultimately gaining a PhD.

    Why do you ask if I am wishing that ID creationism is good science? Isn’t nearly as easy to ask me if I am wishing that ID creationism is not good science? – After all, as I have put my money behind the evolutionary horse, this might seem to be the question with a stronger reason for asking. But, needless to say, as I have admitted to being a theist, I suppose it’s understandable for you to think that I would be ‘mentally set up’ to favor an ‘ID’ type relation between creator and created!

    Is ID science good science? Well, that’s another reason why I’m here - to find out. But having said that let me say that when I think about ID my mind starts to buzz with other questions like: just what is intelligence? How does intelligence achieve what it does? Does the human model of intelligence give us some insight into the nature of Divine intelligence? Where does AI and algorithmics fit in all this? And above all: What bearing does the fact that the epistemological tractability and ontology of an object are bound together, have on this whole issue of a ‘Creator’? I would like to know if ID people ask these kinds of questions, but as far as I can see ‘God did it, end of story’, does seem to be the ID way so far. ID people; please correct me if I am wrong.

    To cut a long (and boring) but developing story short: my current theological views (or in your terms ‘my superstitions’!) are starting to form links with evolution and so I am genuinely concerned about the protein-folding question. Moreover, it impinges upon some of my very hobbyist level science/maths/philosphy projects, and so I am personally rather anxious to see this Durston protein folding ‘road block’ to evolution settled one way or the other. No Larry, it’s got nothing to do with me wishing that ID is good science, trust me! I want to get the road block cleared so I can make progress in those big questions that concern us all - such as the meaning of life, the universe and everything! (make that ‘the lack meaning of life, the universe and everything’ in your case!)

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  81. Hi Sanders: Thanks for your replies and hope your publishing goes well. I’ll be interested in looking at it if you let me have the reference should it get published, not that I’d be an expert judge of it!

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  82. OK I feel bad about saying that but I had already stooped to try to explain something to the dogmatic iron curtain of this dragon individual. Introduce supernaturalism to science? yeah, why onot. BY denying a basic facts of science? suuuuure, of course.
    believe me, this one is the "beyond repair" kind

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  83. Dragon replies to Sander’s many loose and ill-defined accusations by simply giving an amateur's example of creationist’s interpretation of science. What I represent in the spiritual references is not "spiritualism" but correlation to scripture. I wonder if this would pass muster in Larry’s class.

    The protein Rubisco (ribulose1,5-biophosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) is important for tasting and is sometimes considered inefficient, wasteful and even error prone, due to its seeming tendency to ‘confuse’ molecular oxygen for carbon dioxide (A mistake?), which makes unwanted compounds, which naturalists often view as faulty design and more like an evolutionary process (Certainly a perfect ‘designer’ wouldn’t do such poor work.).

    I’ve read that biochemists have discovered that Rubisco’s perceived ‘confusion’ is not faulty but reflects a beneficial tradeoff between the interaction of the two gasses, molecular oxygen and carbon dioxide. Therefore, what was often viewed by naturalists as an error in design and supportive of evolution theory is actually a perfect design and cannot be improved upon. It reflects a perfect God/Designer, one that leaves a good ‘taste’ in your mouth.

    Rubisco also apparently plays an important role in photosynthesis. Maybe Genesis 1:30 is referring to Rubisco, “I give every green plant for food.”

    Dragon

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  84. Oh, so rubisco is proof god exists
    you forgot to include the bee's knees...they bend oh so perfectly
    bye dragon, and this time, it's for good.

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  85. Timothy:
    Don't remain on the lookout for ID too long: it is impossible to scientifically discuss hypotheses of "supernatural intervention". Hence they are never falsified nor confirmed by science.
    It looks to me that you are playing coy, as if evolution could just happen to be false. Maybe you are a another phony like dragon who actually need to think evolution is false to be able to belive in god.

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  86. Rubisco...is important for tasting
    uh...wha?
    As far as I know, rubisco's only function is in the Calvin cycle of photosynthesis--it's often stated to be the most abundant protein on the planet. I also suspect you have misinterpreted the claim of "near perfection"...presumably you're talking about this?
    I'd be interested in the opinion of a biochemist on the subject...

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  87. Dragon says,

    I’ve read that biochemists have discovered that Rubisco’s perceived ‘confusion’ is not faulty but reflects a beneficial tradeoff between the interaction of the two gasses, molecular oxygen and carbon dioxide. Therefore, what was often viewed by naturalists as an error in design and supportive of evolution theory is actually a perfect design and cannot be improved upon.

    There may be some adaptationist biochemists who see rubisco as an example of perfect design but they are wrong. It's easy to show this by re-designing rubisco to make it more efficient at fixing oxygen. This makes plants grow better.

    I covered this last summer in a series of posting on the Calvin Cycle. Here's the third article on rubisco [Fixing Carbon: Building a Better Rubisco].

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  88. Don’t worry Sanders I’m with on evolution, but I can’t yet elevate it to a logical truism, and hence I have a certain amount of studied reserve. You seem less reserved than myself. Don’t feel inhibited by the thought that should alternatives to evolution seem unthinkable in our milieu, then if our current conceptions of evolution prove false, this gives the green light to ID ‘interventionism’; It certainly doesn’t – I say that even though I am theist. In any case I wonder if you’re lack of reserve is a subliminal reaction to the threat of this ‘green light’? What worries me, is that because I can’t match your lack of reserve you are going against something you yourself have said:

    I guess it's the usual, "either you are with me or you are with evil religion" moral predicament.

    True I’m into theism, but not necessarily anti-evolutionism. Ironically perhaps you do share a cognitive complex with the ID people; evolution false => ID true!!!!

    Counterfactuals I think they call them!

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  89. Thinking evolution could not being true is about as valuable as thinking that the heliocentric model or continental drift is false. So many unexplained data requiring explanations and corrections are required it is is obviously not the logicla position to take. And yes, this is a matter of where logic, as well as experience, will leads us, whether we like it or not.

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  90. Denying evolution does seem to me an unscientific direction to take, regardlss of whether there are religious motivations or not.
    Plus I have no problem with people having religion. i am not the kind who thinks religion is instrinsically evil, for instance (though it can usually be perfected, heh)

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  91. Dragon replies to Sander’s, if you’re still there.

    Sanders, if I failed to notice that I dropped a personal check at the grocery store, you'd probably pick it up and offer it to me politely, and I'd say "thank you." If you saw me at the side of the road with a car problem, you'd probably use your mobile phone to call for help for me. Yet, you stridently react when I express a distinctly different view or 'interpretation' of what science may be revealing (not science interpreted through naturalistic eyes). If you are what I typically term a “naturalist” - a belief in naturalism, materialism, humanism, physicalism, scientism, atheism, etc., and you arbitrarily and without any acknowledged theological scholarship reject the possibility of any non-natural, non-material or spiritual reality - I am very puzzled as to how you can adopt such a seemingly certain attitude about nature/science, when nature/science is so full of ambiguity. Especially when my perception of naturalism is that at its core it is irrational, and as purposeless as evolution. I don’t mean this is in a harsh manner. I just mean that I don’t understand how one can be so scientific when it comes to nature and so seemingly unscientific when it comes to the many things in life that are not so easily measured – and why you so strongly object to someone like me who sees an obvious correlation between nature and the supernatural (“supernatural” really needs definition).

    I think that this is the dynamic that creeps into the issuance of Ph.D.'s and I don't understand it.

    Dragon

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  92. Larry Moran said… “There may be some adaptationist biochemists who see rubisco as an example of perfect design but they are wrong.”

    Dragon replies… My reason for offering a creationistic interpretation of rubisco was to show how much like a marriage this all is. In a marriage, each person is equally qualified as a marriage partner, but can look at the same thing and come away with two completely different perspectives. Two qualified biochemists, like Larry Moran and Fazale Rana (my source for the Rubisco information) can look at the same empirical data and come to different conclusions – why? Possibly because of their respective worldviews.

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  93. Dragon says,

    Two qualified biochemists, like Larry Moran and Fazale Rana (my source for the Rubisco information) can look at the same empirical data and come to different conclusions – why? Possibly because of their respective worldviews.

    I'm sure that's correct. My view of the science is correct and it can be easily checked by reading the scientific literature.

    The "Reasons to Believe" website, on the other hand, is much less concerned about trivia such as scientific accuracy because they are promoting a different worldview.

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  94. Larry said... "The "Reasons to Believe" website ... [is] promoting a different worldview.

    Dragon replies... Thank you for admitting that you promote a "worldview" in addition to practicing science. :-) May I issue a press release? :-)

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  95. Dragon replies... Thank you for admitting that you promote a "worldview" in addition to practicing science. :-) May I issue a press release? :-)

    You're very welcome.

    Just make sure your press release is accurate. My worldview is rational and scientific as opposed to superstitious.

    Within evolutionary theory, I advocate a pluralist worldview as opposed to an adaptationist worldview.

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  96. Dragon , you are as fake as a three dollar bill, but I'll answer, Briefly, I hope (for my own sake)

    You can be a naturalist and at the same time be a theist. None of this would require you to introduce the supernatural to the science, nor deny evolution, a fact, as if it were false.

    I am an atheist but I'm definitely not into scientism. Science is not everything even if it is my favorite. I consider philosophy is essential. I have no problem with the existence of religion, great achievements of intelect have and can arise within religious thinking (specially in the area of huanism). I am a left wing pluralist person. I can appreciate the human dimension of religion.

    I only have a problem with particular groups of anglo evangelical christians who need to deny a well establishd fact and then introduce the supernatural into "scientifc" explanation. It's a sorry mess.

    This is not to say the metaphysical appreciation are "false" you are welcome to think that rubisco, snow crystals and the bees knees reflect a world designed by the creator. But evolution has to be false for that to work? That is, quite plainly, religion gone wrong. I like sophisticated religions, not dogmatic ones.

    Sure I am no theologian but at least the catholic church can see that too. You know, a religion with some actual tradition. Didin't the pope say: "the truth cannot contradict the truth"

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  97. Larry Moran said… “Just make sure your press release is accurate. My worldview is rational and scientific as opposed to superstitious.”

    Dragon replies… Sometime I’d welcome a post that explains how the source of a naturalist’s worldview, the foundation of man’s reasoning and intelligence, was not itself rational (endowed with reason), and was not personal (self-aware, intelligent), and was not teleological (purposive) – but was rather an accidental random non-rational impersonal purposeless (referring to your own previous statements) and blind ‘natural’ process that managed to produce man’s rational faculties. Maybe you could explain how such a view is “rational and scientific” and not “superstitious.”

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  98. Sanders said… “Didn't the pope say: "the truth cannot contradict the truth"?

    Dragon replies… You said a lot of interesting things for which present time doesn’t allow a response. I will take your word that the Pope did say, “"the truth cannot contradict the truth." I personally would take that statement to mean that what we observe as nature (the general revelation of nature and the material) is true. I think naturalists and creationists could agree on that, unlike some of the ‘Eastern’ persuasions. But, what is the other “truth’ to which you and the Pope refer? For me the other “truth” is the Bible (special revelation) – a revelation that is outside the natural but consistent with it (same Creator) and it comports with man’s unique non-physical qualities and experience in the world better than the idea of random accidental purposelessness (see my reply to Larry above.). When you feel like it, in the limits of a blog, you may wish to help me understand how you as an atheist define the second reference to “truth”.

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  99. Sanders said… “the catholic church can see that too. You know, a religion with some actual tradition.”

    Dragon replies… As a protestant evangelical Christian, my tradition inseparably includes Catholic tradition and history, and I embrace it earnestly and affectionately.

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  100. The pope was referring to evolution, which, as you may know, is accepted as fact by the church.

    I would be nice if you embraced that part of the catholic tradiiton.

    But I doubt it.

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  101. And why only deprive the yet-to-be-annointed of the degree that they've paid for and the career it promises?

    There's a fundamental misunderstanding right there. You don't pay for a Ph.D. Graduate research is an opportunity to demonstrate ability in a field; you could dump buckets of money into it and it wouldn't make the slightest difference in whether you could make progress towards earning a degree (not to mention that respectable grad programs in biology pay you to be in them.)

    Also, the Ph.D. examination is an opportunity for the attendees to question the candidate hard, and they should. Both Ross and Durston are people who have raised what they claim are very serious, very difficult questions about the premises of their research in other settings; those same questions should be considered fair game in the examination. If Ross could explain why his specimens are actually, accurately 70 million years old in his thesis presentation, then sure, he should be given the degree. If his committee fails to bring up the question that he himself has publicly asked, then it's their failure.

    I want people like Larry on every Ph.D. review committee. I had a couple, and they made me sweat blood. Ross apparently had a team of pushovers who basically handed him his degree without question, and that's just wrong. Apparently, they had your idea that a Ph.D. was something you just bought.

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