Scott A., disbeliever in Darwinism

Sorry for the delay! I was procrastinating all week by doing real work, but I’ve finally put my foot down and resolved that blogging must come first.

I lost a lot of respect for Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams after flipping through this compilation, which offers a tedious and redundant explanation for every cartoon. But, not content to rest on his laurels, Adams has recently come out as “undecided” on the question of Darwinism versus ID.

Whenever I encounter an online mudfight about this issue, I’m struck by how few commenters — even the ones on “our” side — really grasp the crucial point: that ID is scientifically worthless, not because it’s religiously-motivated, or unfalsifiable, or even necessarily wrong, but rather because it’s boring.

Among elephant seals, 4% of the males account for 88% of the copulations. The other 96%, the ones without harems, almost never get laid. This is puzzling: why do the seals bother to produce all those males who tax the community’s food supply, yet who are destined to become the seal equivalents of computer science grad students?

The answer is that a 50-50 sex ratio is the only evolutionarily stable strategy. Think about it: if every child gets half its genes from a mother and half from a father, then males and females must pass on the same total number of genes, even if the variance is higher for males. So if you’re a female elephant seal, then you can either play it safe by having a daughter, or shoot for the genetic jackpot by having a son. In expectation, both strategies will do equally well. But if there were more girls than guys in the population, then the expected number of grandchildren per son would become greater than the expected number of grandchildren per daughter. So the advantage would shift in favor of having a son, and would continue to do so until a 50-50 equilibrium was reestablished. Mystery solved. (The example comes from Dawkins, one of the few writers who consistently presents Darwinism as a way to actually explain things. The explanation itself comes from Fisher.)

On the airplane of science, nontrivial explanations are not the beverage cart or the in-flight movie — they’re the wings. If you think something was designed, but can’t explain why the designer chose to make it one way rather than some other way, then it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not: you don’t have a result. There’s no STOC/FOCS paper.

This, I suspect, is what underlies the disconnect between scientists and almost everyone else on this issue. The business of judging ideas by their explanatory power, and rejecting the ones that don’t have any, is remarkably new in human history. Even in the hard sciences, it wasn’t until Galileo that it really caught on. So maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, in K-12 science education, it’s still a bizarre and heretical idea.

Why do things fall? Because gravity makes them fall.

How does a car work? By using energy.

Why do we need to sleep? To rest ourselves.

Who designed us? A designer did.

58 Responses to “Scott A., disbeliever in Darwinism”

  1. Cheshire Cat Says:

    Exercise: Use Darwinism to explain why computer science grad students never get laid.

    And really, Scott, whatever gave you the idea ID doesn’t have an explanation for the seal phenomenon. Men and women were created equal: this is only reasonable, this is only fair. Naturally, this also applies to male and female seals – they too are the Designer’s creatures… The simplicity of it, the symmetry of it. Hallelujah!

  2. Scott Says:

    “Men and women were created equal: this is only reasonable, this is only fair. Naturally, this also applies to male and female seals – they too are the Designer’s creatures… The simplicity of it, the symmetry of it. Hallelujah!”

    Then why aren’t they monogamous — because of Satan?

  3. cowboydan Says:

    I’m a little curious about the relationship between “fair” and science. Somehow it seems that an inherent sense of the concept of justice that is applied in our culture has become an implied universal law that belies all life.

    The supposed subjectivity of “reason” seems to be the only real dispute in the issue.

  4. chris Says:

    I was very lucky to see elephant seals in Antarctica a few years ago. All the bulls were in the shorebreak slapping their chests together over the ownership rights of various harems arranged along the beach. Some harems looked like they changed hands every 15 minutes. Easy come easy go I guess, if you’ll pardon the pun.

  5. Scott Says:

    Chris: I’m so jealous!

    (Of you, I mean — not the bulls.)

  6. aram Says:

    I think theologians would disagree with your central point here. They say that by examining scripture, we CAN obtain nontrivial explanations about humanity and nature.

    It is true, though, that K-12 edu could do a much better job of teaching (scientific) reasoning rather than (scientific) facts.

  7. Scott Says:

    “I think theologians would disagree with your central point here. They say that by examining scripture, we CAN obtain nontrivial explanations about humanity and nature.”

    Oh, but I thought ID had nothing to do with scripture! :)

  8. Miss HT Psych Says:

    I think you make a great point. While I don’t think Darwinism may be the answer (it just leaves the door open, at least in psychology, for too much epistemological violence, i.e. – Social Darwinism and eugenics, rationalizing minority position in society, etc), it is certainly a far better option than ID. While it would be difficult to truly falsify all aspects Darwinism (considering the scope its taken on since its original conception), at least it is based on empirical data. The solution was arrived at in a “more scientific” way. And besides, if you consider Occam’s Razor to still hold any value, you can’t believe in ID: having to explain the existence and choices of a super-human diety introduces way to many variables into the equation. Natural variation is so simple, so poetic…

  9. Osias Says:

    I also lost a lot of respect for Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams after reading “the Dilbert Future” (or something)… In the end, he tells us you can get whatever you want, even if you’re skeptical, by writing down what you desire 15 times a day. Uhgh!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Is it possible that homosapiens was not meant to make any serious inroads into science?

    Would it not be fun if ID is a part of a evolutionary reaction to “science?” Looks like there is a tradeoff in this landscape and we may well be heading to some local equillibrium.

  11. Miss HT Psych Says:

    “Exercise: Use Darwinism to explain why computer science grad students never get laid.”

    Simple. The answer lies in Social Darwinism. According to the theory (I’m sure you’ve all heard this before) women desire men with money and power, men desire women who are pretty, youthful and will bear children. For the guys in CS grad school – you’re still students. No money, no power. Wait until you graduate and get a job. Then you’ll get the ladies (or men, if that’s your preference). For the girls in CS grad school – staying up late nights to get assignments done does nothing for the “youthful beauty” in all of us. Take breaks, go to the bar. Use concealer to hide the bags under the eyes. Oh, and for some reason it really helps if you pretend you have an IQ of, oh, say, 85.

    While I don’t think this type of answer holds any value and I fully disagree with it (hence why I think Darwinism may cause more problems as a theory than it should), that is, very truly, the answer Darwinists have provided. I always hated the idea that my sex/love life could be reduced to a need for security, and that my partner was only with me because I had big enough “birthin’ hips.” Ick.

  12. Wolfgang Says:

    Scott,

    so then why did evolution not drive a change in behavior, e.g. so that weaklings are eaten or otherwise killed at a young age ?

    Answer: Because the central designer loves baby seals!

  13. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Some people think that the Designer wants us all to live like elephant seals.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    “Exercise: Use Darwinism to explain why computer science grad students never get laid.”

    You’re looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Allow me to draw an analogy between the process of getting laid in graduate school in computer science and human reproduction, where millions of sperm compete for the attentions of a single egg.

    Does Darwinism really provide a satisfying explanation to the question of “why”?

    The answer, irrefutable and elegant in its simplicity, is that the creator is not only a woman, but a computer scientist, and that She has rewarded her Chosen Ones on Earth with the pick of the crop.

    As they say, “The goods are odd, but the odds are good.”

  15. Andrew L. Says:

    Darwinism vs. ID aside, your argument about 50-50 sex ratios being the only ones that are evolutionarily stable is not supported by the facts. Consider ants, or any number of other insect species. There can be but one queen for thousands of male drones. Ants and similar insect species have been around for a long time from what I understand (although I am not expert enough to be able to point to some kind of emperical evidence of this), so I would presume that this design is “evolutionarily stable.” Indeed, the extreme situation of having but one sex seems to be evolutionarily stable for microbial life. Perhaps you meant your comment to apply to “complex life,” whatever that means. It’s at this point that the ID/Darwinism games begin…

  16. Dave Bacon Says:

    I agree Scott, ID is just plain boring. Somedays I fantasize about how I would run the ID crowd. First of all, it is obvious that DNA, that miraculous carrier of genetic information, actually contains God’s handwriting. I have no doubt that there is a new scripture writen in the human genome and it should be our task to find this new scripture. I mean, could it be coincidence that there are 20 amino acids and our alphabet has just over 20 letters (and certain letters, like “X” are clearly devil letters and should not be counted)? I think not.

    Second, what’s with this obsession with biology? There is more undert he sun that Darwinism (oh what a neologism) in modern science. Why don’t you go after QCD. Maybe we could argue that quark confinement is actually a manifestation of hell and that when you die, you either become a photon, time stops for you, and you go sailing out into the great beyond, or you become a quark, forever glued together in the jail of a hadron.

    Instead all we get is this silly Mt. Rushmore analogies that any five year old could counter! Come on IDers, give us something really exciting!

  17. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Andrew: It makes it difficult (but interesting) to interpret Scott’s true position here, but you should be able to see that he is being facetious. He is deliberately drawing conclusions that contradict the facts, just to spice up the discussion.

    A 50-50 sex ratio is stable, sometimes, but it can be overwhelmed by colony aggregation, which selects for genetic affinity among its members. It’s Darwinian nepotism. This explains ants, elephant seals, fundamentalist Mormon sects, …

    On point at I do partly disagree with Aaron is where he says that science only “caught on” with Galileo. There have always been objective thinkers in the world, and therefore individual scientists. Archimedes, for example. What “caught on” at the time of Galileo was the self-sustaining scientific community. And even that had antecedents. Engineers, merchants, and artists in Italy had all advanced substantially with objective reasoning before it extended to science.

  18. Wolfgang Says:

    > Maybe we could argue that quark confinement is actually a manifestation of hell

    Interesting that you mention it, because that is one of my bigger worries …

  19. Scott Says:

    “so then why did evolution not drive a change in behavior, e.g. so that weaklings are eaten or otherwise killed at a young age ?

    Answer: Because the central designer loves baby seals!”

    Actually, I think most of the baby seals are killed at a young age.

  20. Scott Says:

    “Darwinism vs. ID aside, your argument about 50-50 sex ratios being the only ones that are evolutionarily stable is not supported by the facts. Consider ants, or any number of other insect species. There can be but one queen for thousands of male drones.”

    Andrew L.: No, that can happen because DNA crossover works in a different way with insects — read Dawkins (I think The Extended Phenotype), where he explains this point in detail. It’s the exception that proves the rule. And it’s not my argument about why the sex ratio is 50-50 — it’s Fisher’s, and is completely standard in evolutionary biology.

  21. Scott Says:

    “Andrew: It makes it difficult (but interesting) to interpret Scott’s true position here, but you should be able to see that he is being facetious. He is deliberately drawing conclusions that contradict the facts, just to spice up the discussion.

    A 50-50 sex ratio is stable, sometimes, but it can be overwhelmed by colony aggregation, which selects for genetic affinity among its members. It’s Darwinian nepotism. This explains ants, elephant seals, fundamentalist Mormon sects, …”

    Greg: I guess one danger of being sarcastic is that people can’t tell when you’re being serious.

    I think you’re mistaken. Regarding ants, see my comment above. Regarding elephant seals and fundamentalist Mormon sects, the whole point of Fisher’s argument is that it does explain those.

  22. niel Says:

    miss ht psych:

    The social darwinist explanation that you posit doesn’t account for an important factor in human behaviour. People may be drawn to the biologically or materially “better endowed”, but many people also want to be intellectually stimulated — by art, or music, or witty banter, or comical behaviour.

    It seems that (to varying degrees) humans are attracted to things which stimulate their brains, and interesting people are one sort of thing which can stimulate brains. The question then is whether Darwinism can account for this (perhaps in terms of the survival value of having a brain as developped as a human’s in the first place), and whether this drive can account for the variance of actual human behaviour from the picture you have described.

    If so, then a fuller social Darwinist explanation would include the likelihood that potential mates find you intellectually stimulating, and hope you can help to fulfill their biological drive to keep their brains from becoming calcified.

  23. Scott Says:

    “On point at I do partly disagree with Aaron is where he says that science only ‘caught on’ with Galileo. There have always been objective thinkers in the world, and therefore individual scientists. Archimedes, for example. What “caught on” at the time of Galileo was the self-sustaining scientific community. And even that had antecedents. Engineers, merchants, and artists in Italy had all advanced substantially with objective reasoning before it extended to science.”

    I agree, except about my name being Aaron. Thanks for expanding on what I meant when I said that science “caught on” with Galileo (not that Galileo invented it).

  24. Scott Says:

    “The answer, irrefutable and elegant in its simplicity, is that the creator is not only a woman, but a computer scientist, and that She has rewarded her Chosen Ones on Earth with the pick of the crop.”

    Amen.

  25. Scott Says:

    Miss HT: Social Darwinism caused immense evil, but it was based on ludicrous misunderstandings of Darwinism itself. From a Darwinian perspective, fitness is reproductive success — nothing else. So for example, if non-white people outreproduced white people, that would just show that non-white people were fitter. Likewise, cross-breeding different races could produce better gene combinations, as animal breeders have known for millennia.

    Ultimately, Social Darwinism was based not on Darwinism but on the naturalistic fallacy: “If nature is ruthless, then we should be ruthless too.”

    Interestingly, many critics of Darwinism commit exactly the same fallacy, but in contrapositive form: “If we shouldn’t be ruthless, then it follows that nature can’t be ruthless either.” I think one needs to be extremely careful of that.

  26. Scott Says:

    Also, Miss HT: We need to distinguish constantly between what we want and what our genes want. So for example, maybe your partner loves you for your intelligence and personality, even though his genes wired his brain so that it’s turned on by your big birthin’ hips. The conflict between what we want and what our genes want leads to much of the human condition.

  27. Miss HT Psych Says:

    Niel: You have pointed out exactly my problem with Social Darwinian explanations of human sexual behaviour. It DOESN’T account for variation. In fact, I think it describes a small minority of relationships (at least in Western culture. I don’t mean to make any generalizations outside of the Western world). Thankfully this kind of explanation is out of vogue at the moment, and social constructionist views are more “in”. With social constructionism, you could argue that what you value is what you are attracted to. I think this type of explanation is much more plausable.

    Scott: You’re quite correct. And Social Darwinism was dreamed up before Darwin even published “The Descent of Man.” The unfortunate thing about Darwinian theory, though, is that it is so open to interpretation. In my opinion (and I realize it is just that), a good theory would be more clearly defined, so that if there were ludicrous misunderstandings than they may have been debunked in the, oh, 100 years since they were originally made.

  28. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Scott: But it’s not true that elephant seals have a 50-50 sex ratio. At least not at the meaningful level of fertile adulthood. See this abstract.

    What is true is that as many males are born as females in this species. Evidently most of the males die early. But I think that that is because of evolutionary inertia, simply because it’s difficult to evolve away the convention of X and Y chromosomes in mammals.

    In ants, the sex ratio at egg hatching is strongly manipulated, because gender is termined hormonally and not genetically.

    The fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful and Colorado City have their own solution. They exile teenage boys from the community at the slightest hint of rebellion. This sustains polygynous demographics, and the ones who are left are loyalists.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    That designer couldn’t be too intelligent if he designed rational beings who think that ID is science (and I am actually a believer).

  30. Wolfgang Says:

    > That designer couldn’t be too intelligent

    This is actually my favorite argument. An intelligent designer would not make mistakes (especially if she were God), everything would be perfect; At least the mistakes would not be obvious to us.

    (Evolution does not have this kind of problem since it favors creatures which are just good enough, they do not have to be perfect.)

  31. Scott Says:

    Dave: “I mean, could it be coincidence that there are 20 amino acids and our alphabet has just over 20 letters (and certain letters, like ‘X’ are clearly devil letters and should not be counted)? I think not.”

    That reminds me of my favorite argument for string theory. 10 numerals, 26 letters — need I say more?

  32. Cheshire Cat Says:

    “Then why aren’t they monogamous — because of Satan?”

    Surely there are better objections than that? All the Designer can do is create these beautiful beings, he cannot live their lives for them…

    Naturally, the elephant seals that surrender to lust go to elephant seal hell.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    “An intelligent designer would not make mistakes (especially if she were God), everything would be perfect”

    Not necessarily. If the purpose of this design is, for instance, to compute a function, then nobody says that we are embodying the optimal set of parameters. This is part of the problem: not only may intelligence be interpretation- or at least scale-dependent, but the very notion of “design” should imply the existence of a purpose. It is conceptually impossible for us to understand the purpose of our own design, for instance because we cannot decide what content of information we encode, if any. No experiment can be devised, in principle, to assess concludently the existence of a designer, therefore ID is not science (to summarize the painfully obvious).

  34. Anonymous Says:

    “Exercise: Use Darwinism to explain why computer science grad students never get laid.”

    Since they cannot get laid, computer science grad students spend more time sitting in front of the computer with their reproductive organs more constricted, which has been proved to favorize conception of male offspring, which is more likely to yield computer science grad students, which in turn has inspired the saying “they have us by the Cobol’s”.

    “Naturally, the elephant seals that surrender to lust go to elephant seal hell.”

    Elephant seals that surrended to lust become computer science grad students.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    “what you value is what you’re attracted to”

    Where this general “you” might have evolved to value the type of mate who is more likely to help his genes survive.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Scott, there is a simple way to avoid ambiguity when making sarcastic comments in the online world. The key is to enclose such comments in <sarcasm> tags </sarcasm>.

  37. Wolfgang Says:

    > It is conceptually impossible for us to understand the purpose of our own design

    But I do not need to know the purpose of my own design.
    All I have to do is look at my dog and be embarassed that he eats his own poop.

    Now I cannot imagine a designer who creates something (my dog) and then another something (me) being embarrassed about the first something.

    Unless the designer is somebody who likes to be embarrassed or who is amused by some of his somethings being embarrassed.

    Or maybe my imagination is just limited …

    It is at least clear that this would be a designer very different from what people normally associate with a believe in God. (And God and religion is what this is all about.)

  38. Scott Says:

    “Scott, there is a simple way to avoid ambiguity when making sarcastic comments in the online world. The key is to enclose such comments in <sarcasm> tags </sarcasm>.”

    What a <sarcasm>great</sarcasm> idea.

    (Incidentally, when I first typed that, Blogger replied: “Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not allowed: <sarcasm>”)

  39. Anonymous Says:

    - “With social constructionism, you could argue that what you value is what you are attracted to.”

    In fact, this is just good design for Darwinism – you don’t limit the number of things the brain can find to be “good”, and thus allow it survival in a variety of situations. If you had hard-wired qualities (Fat? Smart? Strong? Quick? Sly?) they’d only fit certain situations. The mechanisms of “valuing” things can be slightly swayed from “valuing things for their survival advantage” because it’s a higher cognitive function.
    Gilad.

  40. Bunny Dee Says:

    I have no idea if I would choose to believe in Darwinism or ID… in fact, I find myself believing in both, most of the times.
    Intelligent Design seems to be way too intelligent for us to understand; it uses a seemingly random system, but it seems to make so much sense at the end of things… Emergence is what they call it, I believe. Still, the method through which this occurs seems to draw on Darwin’s basic premises. Evolution, survival of the fittest and blah-de-blah.

    So, no, I don’t believe that an old guy with a beard designed everything, but whenever I check out the world around me (thankfully, the arts and social sciences won me over, but I did roll around in scientific mud for a while) THINGS MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE. And science is the only way we have at the mo to find out how and why.

    In ancient greek, “theos” (god) was initially an adjective, and it meant “awe-inspiring / awesome”. I’m not sure exactly how the mechanisms of life, the universe and everything were created, but I find them pretty awesome indeed.

    Thanks for reminding me, once again, that there are people out there who use their heads and challenge what they believe they know, in every direction – examining each case-in-point separately, and grasping the multiplicity of explanations and facts that lie behind it. I’m getting sick of getting caught in logical fallacy cobwebs lately…

    [sorry ’bout the long comment]

  41. Wolfgang Says:

    > THINGS MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE

    Apparently you have never encountered US politics.

  42. Miss HT Psych Says:

    Gilad – That’s true. Hmmm… I wonder if anyone has ever posed that position before. I’ve never heard it in evolutionary discussions of sexual attraction and relationships, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t said it. I’d like to check on that. It would be a big redeeming point for them (in my estimation).

  43. Scott Says:

    Miss HT: You should read The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. Basically, it’s a book-length exploration of Gilad’s point: that our brains are designed for survival and reproduction on the African savannah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them for other things. Also, as with everything by Pinker, it’s extraordinarily well written.

  44. Scott Says:

    A quote from Pinker:

    “By Darwinian standards I am a horrible mistake … But I am happy to be voluntarily childless, ignoring the solemn imperative to spread my genes. And if my genes don’t like it, they can go jump in the lake.”

  45. Wolfgang Says:

    Scott,

    > but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them [our brains] for other things.

    are you suggesting that there is difference between us and our brains?

  46. Scott Says:

    > are you suggesting that there is
    > difference between us and our
    > brains?

    I would never make such an absurd suggestion! (My brain might, however.)

  47. Miss HT Psych Says:

    Scott: Thanks for the suggestion! I was in dire need of a book to start reading at the gym tonight (doing schoolwork for the third week in a row would have been oh-so-boring). I’ll pick it up before I go…

    In general my exposure to Pinker’s ideas have been limited. At the University of Western Ontario (where I did my undergrad), my developmental and cognitive psychology professors (especially those specializing in sexuality and/or evolutionary psychology) have been disdainful of his ideas. Can’t hurt to check it out first hand though…

  48. Anonymous Says:

    “All I have to do is look at my dog and be embarassed that he eats his own poop.”

    Presumedly you are not embarrassed at your dog running around naked, why would you be embarrassed because it eats its own poop?

    “THINGS MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE.”

    1. Of course they make sense. They evolve upon precise laws modelable scientifically.

    2. You can make ‘sense’, or even ‘make sense’, of just about any (incomplete) set of data. It does not mean that it makes any sense.

    3. If you mean that it makes sense for things to be the way they are, I would propose that people hurting each other like imbeciles, or being killed by the hundreds in a few seconds, with all they have unique and interesting, makes just about enough sense – but definitely not too much.

  49. Anonymous Says:

    The designer has designed some of us to not believe in any designer; we are simply following the designer’s plan.

    The designer has also designed some of us to believe in different (sets of) designers, so that groups believing in different versions of the designer can keep each other occupied by fighting wars.

    Presumably, the designer was working under a deadline and that would explain all the deficiencies in the design. The next version will fix some of them.

    The designer, as far as we are concerned, can thus be defined completely by the design doc. Darwinism is an attempt to understand this design doc. ID/creationism attempts to understand the designer, hoping to please the designer and get a better role in the next version.

  50. Wolfgang Says:

    > Presumedly you are not embarrassed
    > at your dog running around naked,

    He has pretty long and dense fur.
    The designer did a really good job there.

    >why would you be embarrassed because >it eats its own poop?

    That’s just how I am.

    By the way, dogs also eat bird poop which can make them sick.
    Why would a reasonable designer not fix that? If I (designed by the designer) can recognize the design flaw (and there are many, also in other species) the designer had to be aware of it too.

    There are possible explanations (time [?] pressure, but did she not design time as well?) but none very convincing to me.

  51. Osias Says:

    Tsc! Dogs were made by the Devil to make you desbelieve the Intelligent Designer!

  52. Bunny Dee Says:

    “”THINGS MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE.”

    1. Of course they make sense. They evolve upon precise laws modelable scientifically.

    2. You can make ‘sense’, or even ‘make sense’, of just about any (incomplete) set of data. It does not mean that it makes any sense.

    3. If you mean that it makes sense for things to be the way they are, I would propose that people hurting each other like imbeciles, or being killed by the hundreds in a few seconds, with all they have unique and interesting, makes just about enough sense – but definitely not too much.”
    (Anonymous)

    Well…
    1. What I meant is that they make MORE sense than can be explained by the scientific laws we already know or have thought of right now. That’s why I said “too much” sense.

    2. Even the fact that we can make “sense” of things seems to kind of prove my point. I’m not saying that the sense itself was put there by any ol’ guy-with-a-beard, just that there is some logic in chaos, whether someone put it there or it managed to emerge on its own.

    3. I was talking about the big picture. And in the big picture, the world survives, and it evolves. And then it dies. The world, not people, not political leaders, not even humanity in general. I don’t really know what “the world” *wants* to do, but it seems to be doing quite well from where I’m standing.

  53. Anonymous Says:

    “There are possible explanations (time [?] pressure, but did she not design time as well?) but none very convincing to me.”

    But maybe she did not mean to design us perfectly – just functionally, to a first approximation. Maybe she indeed has a sick sense of humor. Maybe her species does not have a sense of humor at all. Or perhaps she is not even a she, perhaps her species has 26 different sexes, and she is a fhe, or a xhe. If only for this, how could we measure with some certainty if phe exists or not?

    “Even the fact that we can make “sense” of things seems to kind of prove my point.”

    I don’t know what to say. Perhaps I got your point wrong.

  54. Bram Says:

    The problem is twofold. The statement ‘A model most be simpler than the data it explains’ is too abstract for most people to grasp (at least, the way they’re taught now. I believe that most people could learn to understand it, if they were every taught abstract concepts, but that’s a whole other discussion.)

    The other problem is that to most people the story of biblical creation appears much simpler than the story of adam and eve. If fact, I’ve heard multiple people tout adam and eve (yes, actual biblical literalism) as much more appealing than science because of its simplicity. To you and me it’s obvious that they’ve got it backwards, but most people have very large chunks of their brain and lots of their experience devoted to understanding of humans and their relationships, with hardly any experience in natural processes, so the difficulty of their brain understanding the concepts is very different from the innate complexity of the concepts.

  55. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    If the question is how science is taught, the really hard part is to bridge experiment and theory. I have two kids in school and I get to see science education in action.

    A lot of time is spent on theoretical fiat. Here is the periodic table, here is some evolutionary history, etc.

    A lot of other time is spent on the annual science project, which typically amounts to experiment without theory. You are supposed to follow something called The Scientific Method. I will skip the details of what The Scientific Method is, since everyone with an American education has heard it a thousand times. It leaves out the essential step of using theory to plan and interpret experiments. The scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which an alleged witch weighs no more than a duck would be just fine as a grade school science experiment.

  56. mick Says:

    Haven’t waded through the comments but I think you are spot on. ID is all about the trivial solution.

  57. jason Says:

    Sorry but this is driving me nuts, people are confusing “evolution by means of natural selection” with all sorts of things like social darwinism, eugenics and survival of the fittest. evolution is none of these please let us be clear about that. the notion of survival of the fittest was put forward by a sociologist by the name of Spencer in the 19th century it has nothing to do with natural selection. people also seem to be talking about sexual selection but calling that social darwinism and survival of the fittest which it is not. when it comes to sexual selection there is no chance of something as moronic as survival of the fittest gaining any ground at all. it is not only beauty that is in the eye of the beholder but ugliness, mediocrity, genius and interest as well. the idea that there is any one thing that is fittest when when it comes to sexual attraction is utter nonesense. social darwinism is a red herring, it has NOTHING to do with evolutionary theory.

  58. krause Says:

    Intelligent design may be boring and unconvincing as a theory.
    But what about darwinism ? Some math people don’t like it either; see: http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od172/schutz172.htm

    catchword: anthropic principle