Anti-ScienceReligionScienceSkepticism

Defining terms

The comments on my post about intelligent design and bug_girl’s post about creationism got me to thinking. I’ve posted these questions in a Christian forum and in an ex-fundamentalist support group and am comparing the answers. So, to add a third group, I’d like to ask the questions here. I think it will be interesting to see how the answers from believers, doubters, and skeptics differ or converge.

What is intelligent design?

What is theistic evolution?

What is creationism?

Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

Remember, I’m interested in how you define the terms, not necessarily in what you believe. 

I know this isn’t a scientific survey, but I don’t have the resources for conducting such a study. If anyone does and is interested in helping me with some more in-depth research into this topic, please let me know.

Thanks!

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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79 Comments

  1. I love being wrong. So, I will start the putting of feet into mouths with my own simple definitions: Creationism I would define as much as an act as a theory. It is rigid adherence and insistence that a literal interpretation (whatever “literal” means!) of the bible is an accurate portrayal of what actually happened in real consensus reality as far as the creation of the Universe is concerned. When I think of Creationists, I think of people who perceive no daily benefit of claiming to “believe” in Evolution, but do see benefits from using the controversy as an ideological boundary in the war between “us” and “them”. Theistic Evolution is what I think of when I think of rational people trying to square their religion with newly discovered facts over the last 150 years. So, there is tremendous range and stunning and fascinating creative in the field. The excuses people come up with are mind boggling. A lot of people who direct energy toward this effort could have effective careers in reality-based thinking. I think of it as a very sincere effort, a very elaborate effort, and a hopeless one. But still, it’s nice that they are trying. Intelligent Design I think of as the most modern attempt to cynically dress Creationism in Scientific terms. I would even “retro-define” it as any attempt to cloak Creationism in pseudo-scientific terms.

  2. Hmmm…..

    Intelligent Design: The concept that life is too complex to have developed through completely natural processes and that there must have been a conscious designer who ‘engineered’ certain features. Tied to the concept of Irreducible complexity, the idea that certain complex features of living organisms are only functional in their full featured state, and not in any less complex forms e.g. Eyes, Bacterial Flagellum.

    Theistic Evolution: The concept that, while Darwinian Evolution is correct, it was started or guided by ‘god’ or the higher power of your choice.
    Note: I first heard this specific term here, I had previously heard of Guided Evolution, but my wife, a University Librarian, states that she had heard Intelligent Design applied to this concept long before the sociopaths at the Discovery Institute came along.

    Creationism: The concept that the universe was formed as-is in a giant twinkly cloud of fairy dust by a magical being that specifically engineered every life form and specifically placed each being in it’s ‘place’. Said being may or may not maintain the universe, and continue creating new life forms (thus the ‘discovery’ of new animals in out of the way places). Some traditions leave out the fairy dust and the word magical. Generally implies said creation occurred in a time frame comprehensible to humans. Thousands, not Billions of years.

    Overlap….. well, ID overlaps greatly with Creationism. It’s more of a pretty front end added to it to make it more palatable. Like Windows back when it just sat on top of DOS. Same problems too, clunky, crashes a lot.

    Theistic Evolution is pretty much separate because it explicitly allows for the observed universe to be true. For the other 2 to be ‘true’ then the observed universe has to be staged.

  3. I define Intelligent Design and Creationism as the same movement (a la Dover). I think it’s the belief that evolution is not a valid theory for the diversity of life on our planet. Instead, a “creator” created life as we know it.

    This should not be confused with the Young Earth Creationist nutbars who believe the universe is only 6,000 years old. They’re a separate category in my mind.

    I define Theistic Evolution as the belief that evolution is the mechanism used by a creator to supply diverse life on our planet. The initial “spark” came from the creator, all else evolved via evolution, based on the creator’s “plan.”

  4. Creationism is modern species created with a snap of divine fingers. It’s a mental short circuit. It’s the triumph of faith over reason. It’s choosing the stork and ignoring the zygote. It’s a rain dance on top of a weather radar.

    Intelligent Design inserts the possibility that the snapping fingers might have been alien rather than divine. (But we all know it was god *wink wink*.) It’s a marketing scam. It’s New And Improved, All Natural Flavors, Now With Real Lemons. It’s a fresh coat of paint and a new muffler, and we’re supposed to believe it’s a new car.

    Theistic Evolution means one of two things. EITHER the divine finger snap started the whole process, and it’s been running along unaided ever since, OR the divine fingers have been nudging and prodding and tinkering with the recipe ever since. It’s an attempt to quell the cognitive dissonance of concurrently believing in a naturalistic process and a supernatural creator.

  5. Finally signing up for WordPress so I can comment here…

    Intelligent Design, more accurately called Intelligent Design Creationism, I would define as the claim that there is a supernatural intelligent agent responsible for the current, and all past, forms of life on Earth. Theistic Evolution is slightly different – it is the assertion that there is a God who is capable of affecting the course of natural evolution and has done so – and is thus responsible for the current forms of life on Earth – but that generally things run on their own. Creationism is the claim that there is a God or Gods which created the universe, and in particular the Earth, and life on Earth, possibly in something near its current state.

    By my definitions I would say “Intelligent Design” is as the name I gave implied just a subset of Creationism dressed up in ostensibly agnostic or scientific language, but God by any other name remains the refuge of people who want fewer questions rather than more answers. Theistic Evolution is a weak form of Intelligent Design Creationism. All three are irrational positions to hold, based on a God of the Gaps – it’s just a matter of how small they’re willing to admit the gaps have gotten, or I guess how ignorant they’re willing to be in order to keep God in the picture.

    I know some people would define Theistic Evolution simply as believing in God and evolution, but I’m not sure why you’d need a name for that unless you think God interferes with evolution, and must have for things to be as they are – in which case you don’t really subscribe to the same evolutionary theory I do.

  6. Obviously, everyone defines these things differently, and I think it’s important to recognize that and be able to interpret the meaning intended by the speaker based on the context.

    That having been said, I understand these terms to be defined as follows:

    Creationism: The religious belief that the universe was created by a deity. This includes any number of variations from various religions, with different variations incorporating varying degrees of acceptance or denial of modern scientific knowledge. The strict Biblical literalism that most people call “creationism” is, I think, more precisely called “Young Earth Creationism”.

    Theistic Evolution: A subset of creationism that accepts evolutionary theory as accurately describing part of the mechanism used by the creator god.

    Intelligent Design: A politically-motivated movement based on pseudo-scientific arguments put forward to attempt to present any given form of creationism (as defined above) as being a valid scientific “theory”. Includes arguments based on analogies (mousetrap/tornado in a junkyard/etc), probability (fine-tuned universe/information theory/etc), and Michael Behe’s ignorance of evolutionary processes (Irreducible Complexity).

  7. What is intelligent design?

    Intelligent design is the belief that evolution is guided by an “outside force” such as a god.

    What is theistic evolution?

    I’ve not heard the term before. Intuitively, I would say it’s intelligent design where it’s explicitly guided by a god.

    What is creationism?

    The belief that humans were made in God’s image.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

    (“If yes”… you asked an either-or question, there is no “yes”.) I think I answered that question with my definitions, anyway.

  8. Intelligent Design: The idea that life could not have evolved into the myriad forms that it currently displays and, therefore, must have been designed with each species designed to perform a role in the world and each part of each animal designed for its function. At best, life was “designed” at the start to evolve into these forms, or evolved with help. At worst (as I believe to be represented by the core of ID proponents) all animals alive today have always been alive in more or less these forms as they were made that way.

    Theistic Evolution: The idea that, while most life is capable of evolving in a fairly Darwinian way and changing over time, some complicated organs and enlightened forms like people would be impossible without the direction of some divine hand. Also somewhat supports that hooey Great Chain of Being that implicitly makes us best and closest to the creator.

    Creationism: God did it. End of story. All life that exists has always existed in these forms, all of which were (more or less) perfectly designed to do what they do from the beginning.

    Overlap: Obviously, the three are not distinct. The best parts of ID overlap with TE, while the worst parts overlap with pure Creationism. None of the three is particularly great on the science side, with the order there being TE, ID, C.

  9. Intelligent Design: The belief that life is too complex to have arisen by natural processes, and that divine intervention is necessary for irreducibly complex features to form. A denial of the tenets of science, but trying to pass as science in order to subvert science in the educational space. Antithetical to everything a skeptic stands for.

    Theistic Evolution: The belief that that evolution explains everything we see in the natural world, but that a deity is responsible for starting the process, or guiding it through pseudo-naturalistic means (God directs the neutron that mutates the gene that sets eye colour). Scientific, with debatable (in the good sense) philosophical underpinnings

    Creationism: A complete denial of science, with the single virtue over ID in that it is honest about what it stands for, and doesn’t hide itself in a mockery of scientific language.

  10. What is intelligent design?

    I participate on the talk.origins newsgroup and have even asked this question myself on said newsgroup. I have yet to receive any kind of answer and even those who support ID cannot seem to provide an answer. I have no idea what it is and, so it appears, does nobody else, including those who believe in it.

    What is theistic evolution?

    Simply put, it’s somebody who believes in God who also does not deny the reality of evolution. It’s my understanding that there are many biologists who actively investigate the science of evolution who are also devoutly religious. They believe that God created the world and that evolution is one of the tools that he used.

    What is creationism?

    A notion (at least with a bit more behind it than ID) that God created the world and everything on it in six days according to Genesis. When this happened is up to debate as there are young earth creationists (YEC) and old earth creationists (OEC) who believe the same thing but do not agree on when this happened. YECs think the earth was created 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and OECs don’t claim any particular date although are inclined to agree with the geological evidence about the age of the earth.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

    ID and creationism are both the same but in different clothes. The only real difference between them is that ID does not specify God in order to try to get the concept into classrooms through the back door. They’ve failed gloriously each time they’ve tried and area likely to fail in Louisiana as soon as some idiot tries to introduce religious materials into a science class.

    Theistic evolutionists are more firmly rooted in reality. Although they claim (certainly with a lot more honesty than ID proponents) God kick started the whole shebang they recognize that the geologic and evolution evidence cannot be ignored and that God’s hand does not need to be specifically involved in the process.

  11. In short:
    Creationism: life was created pretty much as it is described in Genesis. (Macro-)Evolution did not happen.

    Intelligent Design: some evolution may have taken place, but critical components were created at an unspecified time, in an unspecified way, by an unspecified intelligent designer.

    Theistic Evolution: Fully accepts evolution has happened. However, this evolution is merely the tool a deity used to create life, either by just setting up the initial conditions, or by directly affecting mutations or natural selection along the way.

    Obviously, each of these three concepts has many variants and gradations. Creationists, for instance, range from Biblical literalists, all the way to more moderate creationists, who have a more allegorical interpretation of Genesis and will often allow for “micro-evolution”.

    For the most part, all three concepts are pretty distinct from each other. The difference between ID and some of the less extreme forms of creationism, however, is merely that ID refuses to name their unspecified designer “God”. Some ID advocates seem to forget this sometimes (Ben Stein comes to mind), so in that case, you’ll get an overlap between Creationism and ID.

    Even if ID would name their designer “God”, ID would still be distinct from Theistic Evolution: ID rejects that evolution is responsible for all variation in life, while TE fully accepts this. Therefore, ID is closer to Creationism than it is to TE.

  12. My personal definitions are as follows:

    Theistic Evolution: The belief that evolution did occur but that it was guided by God(s) in some way that is currently scientifically undetectable, in order to fulfill his/her/its plan.

    Intelligent Design: The belief that living organisms on earth were designed in whole or in part by the direct physical intervention of an intelligent entity and that the evidence for this intervention may be (and has been) detected by the methods of science and/or mathematics. ID’ers generally make no attempt to explain when or how this occurred, though a few of them (e.g. Michael Behe) grant that at least some of the processes of evolution can explain many features of the living world.

    Creationism: The belief that that living organisms (and everything else in the universe) arose by the direct physical action of a God or Gods. In the case of YEC this means that all living things were placed on earth about 6000 years ago during a period of about 6 24-hour days and have not changed appreciably since then.

    By the way I define them, there is no overlap between theistic evolution and the other two. The defining characteristic of TE is that it is an article of faith, not amenable to scientific verification. As a physical description of the way things happened it is scientifically consistent with and completely indistinguishable from evolution.

    ID, by my definition is a subset of creationism. Though most of the “intelligentsia” in the ID movement would not accept doctrinaire YEC, YEC IS logically consistent with the broad principles of ID. It simply fills in some of the details missing in the general ID story of origins.

  13. http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4082 has a nice page with descriptions.

    TE: “Evolution by natural processes is the tool god(s) used”. Anything from “god(s) knew consciousness etc would appear and didn’t interfere” to “invisible magic happened somewhere in the ancestry of humans to make me special”.

    Creationism: Anything that involves god(s) magically creating whole stars/planets/life/animals.

    ID: A movement out to destroy science and replace it with christianity. Adherents include anything from YEC to TE.

  14. @Sander: “invisible magic happened somewhere in the ancestry of humans to make me special”

    This, I think is at the core of Creationism and ID.

    Humans are special because they are. I don’t have to do anything to be special. I have inherent value because of biology. If I don’t have inherent value because of biology, then why do I have any worth.

    In my mind it’s the same as the core of Racisim.

  15. CREATIONISM

    The belief that God created the universe as related in the Bible about 6000 years ago.

    INTELLIGENT DESIGN

    A marketing term invented by creationists in order to get their ideas taught in science class.

    It replaces the less successful “Creation Science” term in this regard. Users of the term like to refer to the “Theory of Intelligent Design” even though it is not a theory in any real sense since it has undergone no scientific testing of any sort.

    The origins of the term are pure doublespeak, an attempt to make religious ideas look like secular inquiry.

    Now that the phrase has entered the public consciousness, it is sometimes used by people who are not trying to hijack science education but are unaware of (or unconcerned with) its origins.

    THEISTIC EVOLUTION

    A viewpoint accepting the scientific evidence of evolution while still believing in a creator.

  16. Creationism is the doctrine that life was crafted by the direct intervention of an intelligent, personal being identical to the one described in religious scripture. Intelligent Design is creationism in a rented lab coat. Some creationists make concessions to science, for example that the Earth is old or that species are related by common ancestry, but they all insist upon divine intervention. (The age of the Earth is actually a sticking point between groups, and Michael Behe’s acceptance of common descent doesn’t seem to have won him too many book sales — The Edge of Evolution flopped.)

  17. What is intelligent design?
    Billy put down that Beaker, God Did it, that’s all you need to know, let’s pray instead. Praise Baby Jesus.

    What is theistic evolution? Billy, isn’t it amazing that God planned this complex quantum chronodynamics, God truly is amazing and wonderful.

    What is creationism?
    Billy, stop poking your little sister with that stick or I’m gonna smack you now get back in the trailer we’s gots ta gets to the church for my b’nanna puddin gets warm.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

    In my opinion, they are all different degrees of faith. Literal/Blind interpretation on one end all the way to educated believer on the other. Some would say that they’re mutually exclusive, but really, who cares.

  18. What is intelligent design? The idea that some things in the make-up of life (the eye, bacterial flagellum…) are too complex, they are put together with parts that have no use aside from the whole, therefore they must have been made as such, by god (God?). They say that things are too well thought out to have been evolved (in an incorrect use of the “e” word).

    What is theistic evolution? God (whichever you believe in) created the whole Universe, started it in motion, and is now off playing golf somewhere using Black Holes as par 5’s. He now doesn’t give a poopy green blade of cosmic gamma ray about you.

    What is creationism? The idea that the Christian God (or Allah, or whatever) created the Universe, the solar systems and all things in them including life forms, including us – and takes a special interest in what we do while we’re here, biding our time until he comes back to rapture the wonderful gay-hating, environment destroying, war-baiting, flag-waving, Jesus monkeys back to the Kingdom of Heaven where they’ll have to listen to Ben Stein deliver the keynote speech.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain. Yes, the IDists seem to include a lot of Creationists which is the basis for the wonderful term, “cDesignproponentists”.

    I rest my case.

  19. Creationism: The belief that God, or some other deity created the world as we see it.

    Intelligent Design: As above, with a veneer of faux-scientific language to claim undue credability. Some others have pointed out that the term was previously used to describe theistic evolution but that definition is no longer viable, in much the same way as ‘Gay’ no longer means what my great grandparents thought it did.

    Evolution: The theory that the complexity of life that exists today arises from the affect of natural selection on random mutations in a population.

    Theistic evolution: Mostly as above with the hand of god inserted into any gaps in our knowlege. The level of devine intervention varys greatly between individual belivers from a thin veneer that enables a beliver to accept the thoery of evolution, to constant direction towards a pre-planned state. Some belivers limit god’s involvement to abiogenisis.

  20. It seems as though “intelligent design” started out, some years ago, as meaning something like what everybody (at least around the skeptical/atheist blogs I frequent) now seems to refer to as “theistic evolution”.

    But, a bunch of creationists got together one day, and decided they needed to make creationism seem more sciencey, and so they bogarted the term “intelligent design”, to the lasting confusion of many innocent people.

    So, now what? What term is most appropriate? I guess I would say that it doesn’t really matter, so long as you *always* take care to define your terms before you start discussing them.

  21. It is my understanding that the intellectual mind sees these terms as being very close, that is to say that they are seen as primarily as speculation and superstition. In a spiritual sense, however, these terms are very different. I will define terms in the reverse opposite backwards order from which you listed them.

    Creationism is the most extreme of these terms. It is the belief that God created everything. Beyond this, the term ‘creationism’ shows God as a biblical character capable of the virtue prudence, which is related to the capitol ‘t’ Truth that is the Voice of God. Basically, to deny creationism is to deny that God is good at planning things. While this denial is good on an intellectual level, on a spiritual level is puts at risk your ties to the friendship of the community.

    Theistic evolution is just a god of the gaps theory. God of the gap theories tend to be more about pride than anything else. They usually just demonstrate that an otherwise rational person has so much pride in their religion that they are vain on it’s behalf. While this person is more likely to have a rational side, they are also more likely to be a zealot for their religion.

    Intelligent design is a very different approach spiritually. The first two approaches deal with spiritual logic; they are real, honest attempts at understanding the Self and the community. Intelligent design appeals, imho, to the realm of spiritual emotions. Spiritual emotions are largely controlled by one’s temperance. Extreme surplus of temperance leads to chastity and extreme deficit leads to lust. The “ideal” level of temperance is continence, a result of facts that leads to meekness. Intelligent design is nearer to modesty, which is both a form of pleasure and a form of humility/shyness.

    It is interesting to note that, in terms of spirituality, god tends to be seen in spiritual logic and the devil tends to be seen in spiritual emotions. This could be because it is only through spiritual emotions that one can create idols in their “heart.”

    … weak thesis … own, unproven theories … seems to claim knowledge he can’t have … starts talking to himself in the end …. Oh man, this is a crazy person post!

  22. ID is a recent relabeling of creationism.

    TE is an attempt to reach across the religion/science divide from the religious side.

    C-ism is a collection of ideas that are used to make the Genesis myth more science-like.

    ID was used as a legal dodge by some people to get around the court ruling to ban C-ism from schools. The biggest overlap between these two and TE is the belief in a deity.

  23. What is intelligent design?

    The following is what I understood of the idea of ‘intelligent design’ up until the past few years, when the term has taken on a new meaning which I will discuss below.

    Intelligent design is the belief that a conscious God (not necessarily the Christian god, but whatever god or gods of choice) directed the design of all living creatures, flora, and fauna, and the natural world as a whole to exist and function just as they do. As they are is how they were meant to be. Should a species go extinct or evolve, be destroyed or salvaged by another species, it is all because God designed it to do so, to act so, for purposes man cannot know, understand, or grasp.

    I will mention that this definition of intelligent design is one largely formed in the halls of philosophy, literature, history, and writing, and was not so much as ever even heard of in my scientific education.

    When I hear the words ‘intelligent design’ I instantly think of the poem ‘Design’ by Robert Frost, the analytical and interpretative discussion about which was my first introduction to the term ‘intelligent design.’


    I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
    On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
    Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
    Assorted characters of death and blight
    Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
    Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
    A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
    And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

    What had that flower to do with being white,
    The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
    What brought the kindred spider to that height,
    Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
    What but design of darkness to appall?–
    If design govern in a thing so small.

    Now, ‘Intelligent Design’ – capital ‘I’, capital ‘D’ – is the phrase previously applied to a general theistic belief and philosophy about the natural world and its processes, meanings, and purposes co-opted by Christian fundamentalists and creationists. These Christian fundamentalists and creationists took an umbrella term for a generic belief in an ‘intelligent designer’ that 1) suited their own definitions just dandy as in those terms, they were, indeed, believers in intelligent design, and 2) it was more palatable to those of other religious beliefs (and dis-beliefs) in the world of government, politics, non-creationist Christians, lay people, and the rest as it wasn’t then the red flag of religious zealotry it has become.

    This new Intelligent Design is really just creationism (see my definition of that below) in disguise, repackaged for self serving political and religious purposes by fundamentalists.

    What is theistic evolution?

    Theistic evolution is the belief that some divine being, creator, or god set the stage for or guided evolution to occur. Extinctions and evolutions occur due to the laws of evolution, or are stepping stones on the path to the evolution of Man.

    Under this ‘belief umbrella’, I believe there are, again, multiple interpretations. One of which is the belief that a ‘god’ was the divine spark of life setting forth evolution amongst other natural processes and that no conscious being had a hand in it. I would consider this to be the Deist take on theistic evolution, and the position least in conflict with the Atheist view of evolution.

    Another take is one in which the god involved is a conscious god who set forth evolution with intention of the result being human beings, who are, unlike the animals and other evolutionary steps, evolved to have an awareness of their creator and thus, are (sometimes) civilized. I would say this take on theistic evolution is similar to the Catholic church’s position (and the position of many other evolution believing Christians) on it. It’s the ‘Yes! Science is right, but so are we!’ attitude.

    What is creationism?

    Creationism is the literal interpretation of the natural world according to the Christian Bible, in specific reference to the story of creation in Genesis.

    Creationists believe a conscious God created Adam, the first man, in His own image looking just like modern humans, and that He breathed life into him, and gave mankind, through Adam, command of all of God’s creatures. No evolution. No ‘missing links.’ They hold a firm belief that ‘man did not come from monkeys’ (which demonstrates their great misunderstanding of evolution). Man has been as he as always been from the beginning, just as God created him, in His own image, and that all that is and ever has been exists solely due to the divine hand of God as told in the Bible. So, science can only be right so long as it is in accordance with the word and will of God.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

    I don’t think any are ‘the same’ as one another – but they do overlap.

    Not all believers intelligent design are creationists or proponents of theistic evolution. Creationists do fall under the belief structure of intelligent design, but not under that of theistic evolution. And, some believers in theistic evolution may straddle both intelligent design and theistic evolution, or teeter on the edge of atheism. I think Intelligent Design – capital I capital D – is the same thing as creationism, but as I said, dressed up to fool those of us who may interpret the term differently.

    In all – even when clearly defined they carry as much variety in the populations of those who describe themselves using these terms as one would find in the variety of folks ascribing themselves to being liberal, conservative or middle of the road when it comes to their political beliefs. There are harsh lines and areas of black and white, all mixed together with various areas of several shades of gray, making a wonderfully murky battleground.

  24. The very fact that some people do not instantly equate ID with creationism illustrates that The Wedge is working. It’s marketing genius.

    By the way, what’s the difference between Theistic Evolution and Deism?

  25. Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

    Yes, all of them are creationism, but have different ramifications. I’ll explain underneath each:

    What is creationism?

    Creationism is a related set of ideas concerning the origins of the universe, and humanity’s place in it, and humanity’s relationship with its creator. Creationism has two very distinct usages stemming from this definion: the political (using the capacity of the state to coerce curricula) and the theological (emphasing the relationship humanity has with a creator). The theological is the less common in usage, especially in debate with regards to science and the incursions science has made in resolving (literally interpreted) mythical matters on the origins of the universe.

    What is intelligent design?

    Intelligent design is a creationist pseudoscientific political movement which seeks to displace actual science from western culture (per the Wedge Strategy). It has no other coherent meaning.

    What is theistic evolution?

    A type of creationism that is largely apolitical; recognising that theology is an inadequate tool for exploring the universe, it instead focuses on theologic aspects of humanity, religion, and the relationship humanity has with its creator. Though there are many variations within this category, the basis remains the same: teleological explanations are only acceptable where they do not conflict with science itself (and some would say, therefore, with creation itself).

    It is perhaps not suprising that many scientists who are religious subscribe to this variant. It is also probable that it is, in fact, the most common variant (at least in the US.)

  26. Theistic evolution is the belief that both god and evolution are true and compatible. Usually, this involves God being a distant cause and evolution a proximal cause.

    Creationism is the belief that the scientific view of cosmology and evolution are at least partially incorrect, and the only way to fix this is by explicitly including God or a “designer”.

    Intelligent Design is not a belief, no more than “Creation science” is a belief. It is a movement that wants to push their philosophy into the mind of the public, especially through the education system. Their philosophy is sort of a minimalist variety of Creationism that involves “questioning” evolution and only the mere suggestion of a “designer”.

  27. What is intelligent design?

    Creationism repackaged. It tires to cast doubt on evolution, and suggest that only a “designer” could have created life on Earth.

    What is theistic evolution?

    The belief that Evolution and religion are compatible. They accept that Evolution is a scientific fact, and some may feel that it is God’s tool for the creation of life.

    What is creationism?

    Creationism is an attempt to disguise the Genesis creation myth as science. It emphases facts that support their version. It also ignores or distorts facts that do not support Creationism. It does not follow the scientific method because it has already reached a conclusion, and is just looking for facts to back up their conclusion.

    Because the courts ruled that Creationism is not science, and is religious in nature, it cannot be taught in public schools. Intelligent Design is an attempt to get around those rulings, but in the Dover case, ID was ruled to be just another version of Creationism, and just as unscientific.

    Are any of these the same or do any of these overlap a lot? If yes, please explain.

  28. Since the basic definitions I’d use have pretty well been covered here, I’ll just add what little I have to say that comes specifically from my own journey.

    Creationism (I’m talking the 6-day young earth variety here, since that’s what they call themselves) is not science. It is a religious viewpoint, and enormous efforts are made to find scientific support for the preexisting conclusion. I have no issues with it as a religious viewpoint, but I object to any suggestion that it is science, as it is often portrayed in the Christian community. It works in reverse from the scientific method, and it does Christian children a disservice to call it “science”.

    Intelligent Design is the next level up of scientific responsibility, but I think it’s closer to Creationism than it is to theistic evolutionism. It allows for more tolerance of other religions (since it could include their version of deity), but at least in the Christian churches, it is creationism with a new name tag. Their use of the term is NOT the same as the more strict definition.

    Theistic evolution is viewed as a cop-out and very nearly heresy by MANY conservative Christians, but among the believers I know, there is a virtually silent but significant minority who is very comfortable with this view. It can range from the extreme of the Clockmaker who started things going and got the hell out of Dodge, all the way to the other end where God got things going and gave it a good hard nudge every time the process needed a little help.

    My current viewpoint is that I don’t know how this all came to be. I have issues with the philosopical endpoints of both pure creationism and pure evolutionism so I am disinclined to jump on either bandwagon.

  29. flib said:

    The very fact that some people do not instantly equate ID with creationism illustrates that The Wedge is working. It\u2019s marketing genius.

    Don’t forget writerdd asked for definitions, and ID does define itself as distinct from Creationism. After all, it uses sciency language, refuses to name the designer, and claims that any resemblance to creationism is merely accidental. To me, though, it’s clear that most everyone here is able to see that in practice, ID is just a form of creationism.

  30. Improbable Bee wrote:

    I have issues with the philosopical endpoints of both pure creationism and pure evolutionism so I am disinclined to jump on either bandwagon.

    I’m curious: What are the philosophical endpoints of “evolutionism”? Evolution is a scientific theory, not a philosophy, so why would it even have philosophical endpoints?

  31. I’ll handle these in the order in which they were asked. I did not participate in the comments regarding the blog posts made by writerdd or buggirl, but I was surprised by them.

    Intelligent Design is a repackaging of creationism for the exclusive purpose of introducing that subject into a public school curriculum. Best evidence for this is the search and replace of the term creationism to intelligence design in the book “Of Pandas and People,” made famous in the Dover trial.

    Both intelligent design and creationism can be considered evolution denialism, and both carry with them not only scientific notions, but ideological goals towards public education as well.

    Creationism is the belief that God created life forms in their current state a given length of time ago, and that species cannot change over time.

    Theistic evolution is the belief that God guides or directs the goals of evolution towards a specific end. Alternately, theistic evolution holds that God created the life forms in the world, but included within their makeup the tools for evolution into new forms or species, and does not control the direction evolution takes.

    Yet a third definition for theistic evolution is that God specifically guided evolution in the pathway that created humankind, but has left the process untouched or unguided with regards to other species.

    That’s my tuppence.

  32. I’m curious: What are the philosophical endpoints of “evolutionism”? Evolution is a scientific theory, not a philosophy, so why would it even have philosophical endpoints?

    Eek … OK, I was afraid somebody might jump on that. ;) (Also, I knew when I typed it that “evolutionism” wasn’t a word, but it was late and I couldn’t think of the one I wanted.)

    Evolution is indeed a scientific theory, but since it affects our view of ourselves, it ends up having philosophical ramifications. I will freely admit that having been brought up in the Christian community, my thought processes have been influenced by that perspective, and I’m not interested in starting a huge tangential argument about how one’s ideas on human origin affect one’s ideas of humanity.

    The simplest way to explain what I meant is that both the creation viewpoint (regardless of who you think created humans and how involved you think they were in the process) and the evolution viewpoint affect what you think it means to be human. If you think that humans were specifically, lovingly designed to be sentient and creative and interactive with one another, you will very likely have a different feeling about humanity than if you think that humans were essentially a VERY lucky accident.

    Whether or not one agrees with the philosophies behind it, it is hard not to place a different value on human life if you think that each one is specifically created versus being an everyday biological occurrence. I still have enough of my theistic beliefs to think there’s something more to us than biological accident, and again, I know I’m in the minority on this one and I don’t want to hijack the thread with it. Abortion, euthanasia of disabled infants, and euthanasia (voluntary or otherwise) of the elderly are all much more likely to be supported by those coming from an evolutionary standpoint than a more theistic standpoint.

    I don’t believe a lot of what I was taught as a child on this topic, and I think that’s progress. But since I’ve personally been an infant, I have a disabled child, and I plan to some day be elderly, I am leery of any philosophy that devalues the rights of any of those groups. Evolution is a scientific theory and creationism is a religious one, but they are (in part) theories of who we are. And they cannot escape having philosophical implications, since that is how our minds work.

    Whether they were designed to work that way or it is a happy accident is another argument. ;)

  33. “And they cannot escape having philosophical implications, since that is how our minds work.”

    This sentence reveals a great deal of the misunderstanding of science that many religious folk have.

    By that I mean, compare what you’ve said above with the following:

    Does a hammer have philosophical implications that it cannot escape due to our nature? It can be misused, certainly, but is that a consequence of the hammer, or something else unrelated to the facts and principles behind the function of the hammer?

    Now replace “hammer” with “evolutionary biology” (or any science).

    Evobio may be seen by some as devaluing our “special status,” but this strikes me as being phenomenally myopic. I think our ability to learn about the universe and ourselves is what makes us special, not a fact of biological accident or religious dogma.

    (And I should point out that Social Darwinism is not owned only by nontheists. But that is a topic for another time.)

  34. Ah, but unlike evolution, a hammer has nothing to say about who we are. Your analogy falls apart quickly, does it not?

    On the subjects IB pointed out (yes, this is me running off on another tangent, but that’s kind of what I do, I suppose), I completely 100% support voluntary euthanasia of the elderly or anyone else. I 100% do not support euthanasia of elderly or disabled individuals against their will – that’s called murder. I 75% do not support abortion (which I’m aware is highly unpopular in the skeptic crowd). I freely admit this last one is heavily influenced by the loss of a child I didn’t know I might have had until it was too late for me say anything on the subject.

    Are these influenced by my atheism? I couldn’t say, since I’ve got no other standard to compare it to. I tend to think that were I a religious person, I would have a completely different worldview, and that my outlook on a great many subjects would be different, but that this is the default me, so to speak.

  35. “Ah, but unlike evolution, a hammer has nothing to say about who we are. Your analogy falls apart quickly, does it not?”

    Who is not a question answered by our natural history. What is.

    What are we? We are hominin primate placental mamalian vertebrate chordate deuterostome bilaterian eukaryotic biotans.

    Does that statement tell us who we are? It tells us nothing about the way we should behave, whether we shoud treat our neighbors like someone who lives near us, tell the truth or whether we should turn the other cheek.

    It has vast utility, however, in deducing our place in the universe, how medicines which work on closely related animals might affect us, or how studying the process that generated us can be used to generate better communications engineering (one of the applications of genetic algorithms). It can help us help ourselves and help others live better.

    And those who tell us all that makes us unspecial have no idea what they are talking about.

  36. I’m amazed you can say all that (“our place in the universe” especially) and yet insist there are no philosophical ramifications.

    Where we come from is intrinsic to who we are. This goes for us as individuals, societies, and the species as a whole. I can’t imagine how a person could think otherwise.

  37. I think it’s obvious I was responding to the specific “philosphical implications” sensu original poster (cf. above).

    Science is a form of philosophy, but not in the way most people tend to view philosophy, which focuses on matters moral, ethical, and of identity.

    For them, the utility of science tends to go unnoticed.

  38. So what you’re saying is that science has nothing to say on matters moral, ethical, and of identity? I would beg to differ, most especially on the last.

    Or are you saying that what science has to say about our identity does not have philosophical implications as regards our view of ourselves and others? I would beg to differ on that point as well. Moreso, in fact.

    Perhaps you are saying that our view of ourselves and others does not have a constant and direct impact on our opinions re: abortion, euthanasia, etc.? On that, sir, I would differ most vehemently.

    Or is that I simply completely fail to understand what you’re trying to say? I sincerely hope so.

  39. I have yet to see a good argument how the theory of evolution logically leads to any stance on abortion or euthanasia. I also resent the idea that accepting evolution means that you automatically value life less – this simply does not follow.

    The only reason that there seems to be a correlation between acceptance of evolution and pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia stances, is because there is a strong correlation between accepting evolution and rejecting religion’s moral absolutism.

    Sorry for initiating this tangent, I will now stop.

  40. “So what you’re saying is that science has nothing to say on matters moral, ethical, and of identity? I would beg to differ, most especially on the last.”

    Science simply does not address, prescribe or proscribe morality; it doesn’t speak to it or offer a valid means of determining whether abortion is wrong or whether it is ethical or not to not cheat on your taxes.

    Science is procedural means of sussing out reality–the sort that can be observed, directly or indirectly–not a way to live our lives.

    Science is not immoral, amoral, or nonmoral. These adjectives have absolutely no meaning when used to describe something that is used to deduce the stucture of atoms or counting deer populations. Science is a tool, not a manual of instruction regarding what you should do with the knowledge that comes of the structure of atoms, and it is wrong to suggest that it does.

    “Perhaps you are saying that our view of ourselves and others does not have a constant and direct impact on our opinions re: abortion, euthanasia, etc.? On that, sir, I would differ most vehemently.”

    In case I was unclear, identity in this case refers to how we represent and see ourselves, e.g. who we are, not what we are. Science doesn’t address those issues, any more than religion or politics can determine how Escherichia coli can evolve the capacity to consume citrate.

    I can see how people who don’t do a lot of science reading (I read the technical literature for vertebrate paleontology, with the occasional seductive microbiology paper as a diversion) might confuse science with a philosophy as used in the casual sense.

    But none of the papers, monographs, books or cladograms I have ever read have ever told me how I should live my life or offered any insight into the ethics or abortion or any other topic that fell outside the purview of the document.

    At this point, I think if you’re going to disagree, please provide some reasons for why you believe otherwise.

  41. These adjectives have absolutely no meaning when used to describe something that is used to deduce the stucture of atoms or counting deer populations.

    Science doesn’t address those issues, any more than religion or politics can determine how Escherichia coli can evolve the capacity to consume citrate.

    I read the technical literature for vertebrate paleontology, with the occasional seductive microbiology paper as a diversion

    Ah, I see the problem here. You define science far too narrowly. Perhaps in your universe sociology is also not science. Likewise psychology. It seems to line up with your general outlook here that they would not be, at any rate. Maybe this will help – science is the pursuit of knowledge. Science is, to a lesser degree, a method of said pursuit.

    Perhaps you think that science has nothing to say on the subject of morality, ethics, or how we see ourselves, but you are completely, utterly, 100% wrong on that. Perhaps there is no objective truth of morality or ethics, but there are those who think there may just be, some of them are out there seeking the answers to those questions scientifically. You denigrate and disrespect their laudable work with your unthinking and uneducated attacks.

    But none of the papers, monographs, books or cladograms I have ever read have ever told me how I should live my life or offered any insight into the ethics or abortion or any other topic that fell outside the purview of the document.

    How very correct of them to keep the content of their document pertinent to the point at hand. How this translates in your mind as proof that no scientific documents can address human morality of self-identity is beyond me. You said yourself that you are not reading papers on this subject anyway, and in fact have ruled out their content from the realm of science without looking at them.

    To reiterate – by your own admission – you do not consider them science because they are not in the papers you read. You read papers on biology and paleontology. Somehow because papers on other subjects do not reference these issues, they are not science. By this definition, particle physics is not science because it is not referenced in papers for which it is outside the purview. Neither astronomy, geology, meteorology, or microbiology… unless you’ve read a paper that referenced microbiology when the topic fell outside the purview of the document. Have you?

    Your logic is so unsound, I cannot imagine how to begin setting you back onto the path of reason.

  42. I don’t see how your presumption that I would exclude sociology or psychology from science is relevant.

    However, if you show me a sociology paper that makes unsupportable claims, and prescribes moral choices to the population at large, then, no, it isn’t science. And it doesn’t matter how many sociologists say it is. Methodology is critical.

    So you’ll have to forgive me; the only papers I’ve read in sociology and psychology concerned violence in video games, as a way of verifying the claims made by scapegoaters. Once I ascertained that what I was reading was being misrepresented by those more interested in politics, I haven’t done much reading since then.

    (Even so, I don’t recall any of the papers I read as having advocated or presented any moral position as being scientifically derived. I recall reasonably sound methodology, a population study or so, and conclusions more or less what one would expect.)

    “Perhaps you think that science has nothing to say on the subject of morality, ethics, or how we see ourselves, but you are completely, utterly, 100% wrong on that. Perhaps there is no objective truth of morality or ethics, but there are those who think there may just be, some of them are out there seeking the answers to those questions scientifically. You denigrate and disrespect their laudable work with your unthinking and uneducated attacks.”

    Such as? Why haven’t you named any researchers or cited any papers? How can anyone ascertain a work’s “laudability” when it is not presented?

    “By this definition, particle physics is not science because it is not referenced in papers for which it is outside the purview. Neither astronomy, geology, meteorology, or microbiology… unless you’ve read a paper that referenced microbiology when the topic fell outside the purview of the document. Have you?”

    Okay, this is just stupid. I never said palaeontology and microbiology were the alpha and omega of science. I used them as examples. Do you have any experience in this topic? Your arguments here don’t appear very well informed, even as you accuse me of that same arrogance, I note you have brought nothing to this discussion.

    “To reiterate – by your own admission – you do not consider them science because they are not in the papers you read. You read papers on biology and paleontology. Somehow because papers on other subjects do not reference these issues, they are not science.”

    If you believe that morality cannot be ill-inferred by studying the natural world, I can only conclude you have not been paying attention to biology at all. There, if anywhere, morality has be “scienced” at great and unfortunate length. Try reading some of the papers on Tyrannosaurus rex published in Nazi Germany. Or just about any biology paper published under Trofim Denisovich Lysenko’s thumb in the former Soviet Union. These papers are heavy with moral prescription (in the former, T. rex is held up as a “Nazi superpredator”, in the latter, natural selection is often denigrated as a tool of captitalist stooges, and soviet communism is praised endlessly whenever the subject appears to endorse it).

    Quite a lot was published along those lines. Lots of effort fruitlessly expended. Those papers made definite moral and ethical recommendations that were deeply suspect, scientifically vacuous, even, and ultimately of little to no value outside of history.

    Did I just dismiss them all? Yes. Yes, I did. (If fifty million people say a foolish thing, then it is still a foolish thing. –Anatole France. Wow. What a jerk.).

    I have a small amount of experience reading scientific literature. I make no claim to have read extensively, but in spite of my lack of formal education I’m not incapable of pegging poor methodology when I see it. Furthermore, my point was not that it needs to appear in a paper to be considered science.

    “Your logic is so unsound, I cannot imagine how to begin setting you back onto the path of reason.”

    Does it make any more sense to retort with a shallow diatribe about how I’ve made some point you appear to personally not like? Don’t assume I’m going to know what you’re talking about. Belly up to the bar, put your money where your mouth is and make your case. Start with a summary of what you’ve read, PDF links to papers, and/or useful meta-commentary. Show me you know what you’re talking about.

  43. Dodgy, dodgy… but it won’t work. From this, it seems that you in fact do not consider sociology and psychology science.

    You may attempt to shift the burden of proof as you like, but it will avail you nothing. You made the claim, the burden of proof lies with you.

    Do I truly need to cite the volumes upon volumes of scholarly works and the thousands upon thousands of researchers in these fields at you for you to believe they exist? Or would you simply dismiss them out of hand because you once read a paper claiming video games cause violence. By that logic, I could dismiss biology as a science by the very Lysenko papers you yourself pointed out, couldn’t I?

    “By this definition, particle physics is not science because it is not referenced in papers for which it is outside the purview. Neither astronomy, geology, meteorology, or microbiology… unless you’ve read a paper that referenced microbiology when the topic fell outside the purview of the document. Have you?”

    Okay, this is just stupid. I never said palaeontology and microbiology were the alpha and omega of science. I used them as examples. Do you have any experience in this topic? Your arguments here don’t appear very well informed, even as you accuse me of that same arrogance, I note you have brought nothing to this discussion.

    This is the saddest and most profoundly ineffective dodge I’ve ever come across, and that’s a Hell of an accomplishment. At no point did you come within a parsec of actually responding to what I said. You said that morality is not science because papers on biology didn’t reference it when it had nothing to do with the biology at hand. You said that. By extension, that would mean that nothing is science unless it is actually referenced in a scientific paper when it has nothing to with the actual subject of the paper. Your words, not mine.

    You have not made a point I dislike – you’ve not made anything like a point at all, in fact, unless that point is that your mind is a jumbled mess.

    I’d love to have a serious and rational discussion about the intersection of science and philosophy (you do know what PhD is an abbreviation of, don’t you?), but first, you’ll have to demonstrate that you understand the basics of reason but untangling the mess of your last two posts into something that actually allows science to exist in your mind.

  44. I must say that I am glad I missed this conversation earlier in the day. My thoughts on this are admittedly unformed, and that is a lot of why I am on this site in the first place. There’s a lot in my head that was put there by well-meaning but absolutely unthinking people in my early years, and finding any solid basis for my thoughts (on ANY subject) necessarily requires me to sort through and critically assess what is already in my belief system. I am, in many ways, at the beginning of this process, and while there are a few things I have strong thoughts about (e.g., the impossibility of truly separating the theory of evolution from any resulting effect of one’s view and definition of humanity), I am not yet to the point where I can articulate why I think them. It doesn’t make those thoughts less valid, it just means they’re not finished.

    And frankly, while it would certainly be nice for everyone if no one expressed a thought they couldn’t defend to the nth degree, it would be a hell of a lot quieter (and less interesting) if they didn’t.

    Rystefn, on the other hand, is clearly several years farther into this intellectual process, and he was aided by having a bit less nonsense in his head to start with. As a result, while I will not say he speaks for me, he expressed far better than I could have why I think what I think.

    scotte, my apologies for starting a tangent that resulted in frustration for you. My “misunderstanding of science” (which I understand to mean that I have a broader definition of it than you do) may be less than accurate — however, it is VERY common, and I suspect that there are many, many more people who take my broader view than who adhere to your much more focused definition. It doesn’t make my view right that lots of people share it — it just means that your definition of “science” will be much more frequently misunderstood than mine, and the confusion of terms may end up causing arguments that were not in fact the ones you meant to have.

  45. A little late to the conversation but it seems to me a fairly simple delineation with the first two presenting as some form of suspended disbelief combined with an accommodation of certain scientific evidence. .

    1. (I.D.) God started it and then did some of it.
    2. (T.E.) God started it and then did most of it.
    3. (C.) God did all of it.

  46. Rystefn,

    You regard my ignorance as a dodge, which is odd since there is nothing dodgy about wanting to know more.

    If I can make a positive assertion (namely, science has nothing to do with morality, that science is a tool), and you refuse to respond with information that would prove it wrong (on some bizarre excuse of not wanting to assume the burden of proof), then why are you here?

    This:
    “You said that. By extension, that would mean that nothing is science unless it is actually referenced in a scientific paper when it has nothing to with the actual subject of the paper. Your words, not mine.”

    …reveals you understand words, but not context.

    Scientific information is disseminated via periodicals, typically in the form of papers (books are a slightly different matter; they are not generally subjected to peer review). Generally, this is how science is experienced (and the closest to science most autodidacts get).

    So even though my field of interest has been marred by antiscientific thinking and assertions in the past, much of those mistakes have been flensed away as the field levels out in discipline (and is allowed to mature without political or religious oversight).

    I know what PhD stands for. I also know what tradition is. These really aren’t relevant to my points. What would be relevant would be some discussion about why it is unreasonable in this case to allow science from publications, or, better, an explanation of why you believe sociology should be even raised here.

    “From this, it seems that you in fact do not consider sociology and psychology science.”

    And why do you say that? Be specific and provide examples taken from the fields of sociology and psychology that would be inconsistent with what I’ve stated.

    “You have not made a point I dislike – you’ve not made anything like a point at all, in fact, unless that point is that your mind is a jumbled mess.”

    Touche. Hm. Let’s see, by contrast, you:

    Refuse to respond with any understanding of scientific literature.
    Fail to respond to my questions, even when offered a clear venue.
    Resort to ad hominem.

    Well now. I’ll take my jumbled mess over an empty space any day. At least I can find what I’m looking for.

  47. Your only question was essentially the same as a creationist demanding that I prove there’s no god. You are the one asserting that sociology and psychology are not science. You are the one asserting science has nothing to say about who we are and how we self-identify. The burden of proof lies with you.

    I can see that I’ll likely never get anything like a real point out of you here. I can also see that you honestly think that because you’ve never seen morality in a paper about microbiology when the morality had no bearing to the point at hand, science cannot speak to morality. I can see how you fundamentally fail to understand that I could make the same argument that microbiology is not science because I’ve never seen microbiology mentioned in a paper on physics when microbiology had nothing to do with the physics at hand.

    You can’t even see how flawed your logic here is, and then you try to demand some sort of documentation from me? You reject the idea of these sciences being actual science, then you demand I provide you some publications you can dismiss out of hand? You don’t understand why I wouldn’t bother to waste my time in this way?

    You think calling me out for an ad hominem somehow undoes all of these valid points against you? I’ll answer that last for you: yes. It’s a time-honored debate tactic – distract from the fact that you have no substantial response by crying foul about my closing sentence. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t end your statement with your own ad hominem. How else could we distinguish between a legitimate complaint and someone who simply cannot accept that they have no real response?

    Here’s a hint: the person on the right side rarely cries “ad hominem,” and when they do, they never immediately follow the complaint with their own in response.

  48. How are my tactics specifically creationist, Rystefn? Asking for specific information which you may have but which I do not is not the tactic of a creationist.

    “You are the one asserting that sociology and psychology are not science.”

    Where did I ever say that? And why are you unable to respond to my question, Rystefn?

    See, I never said they weren’t. In fact, if you read what I wrote above, I actually said my experience was rather the opposite, that my reading in those fields–as limited as it was–was that they were perfectly legitimate sciences.

    But, strangely, you continue to insist that this is not the case.

    Why do you believe that I think sociology is not a science? Responding with specific, addressable examples from the field which contradict with what I’ve said about science will accually move this discussion forward.

    “I can see that I’ll likely never get anything like a real point out of you here. I can also see that you honestly think that because you’ve never seen morality in a paper about microbiology when the morality had no bearing to the point at hand, science cannot speak to morality.”

    Yes, arrogance can be a very blinding factor in discussions. This is why I asked you to be specific, so that I would have something to either address or make me realise, hey, I’m wrong.

    Failing that, it means you’re not likely to make much headway.

    “Here’s a hint: the person on the right side rarely cries “ad hominem,” and when they do, they never immediately follow the complaint with their own in response.”

    I’m sorry you disliked that. So do you have something for me, or not? It’s okay to say something like, “I don’t know, I’ll have to do some research and get back to you.” I say that all the time. (And then, I go and do the research and get back to them.)

    Hey, that’s how we learn things. Or I do, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

  49. Ad hominem is “against the man.” (more or less) It is, technically, what I did, however, it is generally used to refer to the logical fallacy of the same name. If that was the intent, in this case, it was used incorrectly, because it’s only a logical fallacy if it is used as an argument in defense of a point or as an attempted rebuttal of a point, and I did neither. In fairness to scotte, neither did he, and I would never have accused him of the fallacy. However, as he and I used it in the same general context (closing an argument by calling out opponent mentally inferior), the phrase applies equally to both, whether correctly in the literal meaning or incorrectly in the more common usage.

    Interesting to note, so long as your opponent is a male person, it is technically also ad hominem to stab him, since that is also against the man, rather than against his points or position. This is, needless to say, frowned upon in formal debates.

  50. (The hell is a quatloo?)

    “Interesting to note, so long as your opponent is a male person, it is technically also ad hominem to stab him, since that is also against the man, rather than against his points or position. This is, needless to say, frowned upon in formal debates.”

    Dunt dun dah dah dah dadadadah! Dunt dun dah dah dah dadadadah! (±dah or so.)

  51. (Since when am I a newcomer?)

    Yeah, I know what ad hominem is, along with a few other key ones, but I realized that it might not be a bad idea around here, just generally, to refresh my memory on the whole list of logical fallacies. Not because of posters using them (although of course we all do sometimes, since not everybody can be just like Spock), but because skepticism in general is aided by the ability to quickly recognize the weaknesses in woo-based arguments.

  52. Scotte, if you are not saying that sociology and psychology are not sciences, then I apologize for misunderstanding you, but since I think I can safely assume that neither has ever appeared in a paper on paleontology when it fell outside the purview of the document in question, I think you can see where I might come to this understanding.

    Regardless – you DID clearly state that you do not consider the question of human identity a scientific one.

    In the end, though, and more to the original point, you denied that human origins have ANY philosophical implications of any kind, as though the knowledge of human origins cannot impact how we see ourselves, which is clearly silliness. If you demand that I present some sort of scientific literature to back that claim, you are perfectly within your rights to do so, but understand that I will consider the most appropriate response to be simply to laugh at you.

  53. Wait…. there’s a newcomer here? Did I miss something, or is it just that you have to have been around for a few years before you stop counting as a newbie in this circle?

    Also, why would I stab the person who started it? That would serve no purpose of any kind, since I enjoy this sort of thing and wouldn’t want to discourage it.

    DD, though, might want to shiv me a little for helping to so completely derail her survey…

  54. Man. I thought you people were nerds.
    It’s a reference to the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion, where Kirk and the boys are forced to act as gladiators for a race of superior energy beings, who watch over the fights and wager quantities of “quatloos”, some of them on the “newcomers” aka the Enterprise crew. The joke was that we were watching over the fights with detached amusement making wagers on the outcomes.

  55. I can’t stand Trek.

    Oh no. I don’t know if we can be friends any more.

    OK, sorry I don’t have time to respond to anything more substantial. I have been studying all day and then doing homework, plus walking a hell of a lot on cobblestones and I am wiped out and my whole body hurts.

  56. “…but since I think I can safely assume that neither has ever appeared in a paper on paleontology when it fell outside the purview of the document in question, I think you can see where I might come to this understanding.”

    Not really, but whatever. I think the utility of my examples were pre-empted by your reaction, and that’s what you ran with, rather than anything to do with what I was actually saying.

    “Regardless – you DID clearly state that you do not consider the question of human identity a scientific one.”

    Because I don’t, but again, context matters. If you mean what we are (which could be construed as identity), then fine, it applies. If you mean who we are, then what application does it have? Choosing to be a moral person has nothing to do with what we are (cf. above). If some people feel they can use what they are as justification for immoral behavior, that has nothing to do with the science that tells us what we are.

    “you denied that human origins have ANY philosophical implications of any kind, as though the knowledge of human origins cannot impact how we see ourselves, which is clearly silliness.”

    Philosophical implications are not part of the original work (the science). Implications come after the work is absorbed and processed, after the science is done; it is not a part of the scientific process itself. That’s why they’re called implications, ne?

  57. “Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion”

    I don’t think I’ve seen that one.

    I like Star Trek (the original, anyway, though there were some decent shows in the next generation one).

    So what’s a quatloo? I’m envisioning a triangular coin with a forehead alien banker on one side and a duck-sheep-crocodile on the other.

  58. If you mean who we are, then what application does it have?

    Science is the pursuit of knowledge, not the pursuit of appliances. All puns aside, if you can’t see how who we are could directly apply to the science of psychology, there’s no help for you… at least none I can give.

    You’re absolutely right, philosophical implications have no place in the research stages – they are, in fact, the results. I know you feel the need to insist that since it’s not directly applicable to citrate absorption, it must not be science, but that’s because you’re dense (ad hominem). Neither does behavioral psychology.

    I think it’s interesting that you use the phrase “immoral behavior” as though there is some clear definition thereof while solidly denying that there is any such thing. Since, in your estimation, science cannot speak to morality, can I assume that you are a moral relativist? Does that not, in fact, mean that morality is merely a social construct (and sociology isn’t science, since it doesn’t deal with particle physics, right?)? Now, I do accept that sociology, which deals with such things, is a science, and that the research they do into social constructs and their origins is laudable, as is all pursuit of knowledge – this is me simply relaying what I understand to be your stance. If I am wrong, please correct me and explain what your stance actually is.

    However, and this is they key point you just can’t seem to get through your thick skull (ad hominem), WHAT we are is intrinsic to WHO we are. Where we come from is an integral part of how we see ourselves. The science of human origins speaks heavily to morality, ethics, and self-identity, and anyone who cannot see that is, quite frankly, an idiot (ad hominem). In fact, I cannot imagine a scientific question with a bigger philosophical impact, except perhaps for, “are we alone?”

    Since science thus far says that it cannot speak to the existence or nonexistence of a deity beyond the vague, “there is thus far nothing we have found which would require one,” any conclusion we make either way is a philosophical one. To make a philosophical decision without considering the philosophical implications of that choice is as irresponsible as making a physical decision without considering the physical implications. Yes, I’m comparing what you’re doing to jumping off a bridge without looking to see what’s under it.

    I’m not saying that undirected and uninfluenced evolution intrinsically means that euthanasia is ok. I’m saying that the question of whether we are accidental or intentional impacts our worldview. Bee made a point about some specific areas where she feel that impact would be seen in a population as a whole, which is speculation at this point, but it is not blind speculation, and is, in point of fact, a testable hypothesis. Now, generally accepted research ethics precludes anything like a truly conclusive test on the subject, but it is, nonetheless, testable. Since this thread is dedicated to a simple, informal check, I don’t think she was out of line to put it forward.

    Perhaps atheism causes a definite trend one way or another, I can’t say (though atheists are more likely to support abortion, in my observation). Whether it does or does not, however, it is ridiculous to say that it has no impact at all.

  59. Also, why would I stab the person who started it? That would serve no purpose of any kind, since I enjoy this sort of thing and wouldn’t want to discourage it.

    Thanks — I didn’t really have time in my schedule today to be stabbed anyway. And if being somewhat tangential encourages conversations like this, hey, I’m all for it!

    Where we come from is an integral part of how we see ourselves.

    I think this is probably the most succinct summary yet of what I was trying to express. Definitions of science and philosophy aside, this is precisely the point I was trying to make. No matter how objective we like to think we can be, our view of our origins will affect our view of ourselves.

    To see how deeply these beliefs affect us, all you have to do is try to change someone’s mind on their origins. Any really committed conversation on this will cross the line from fact to feeling so smoothly that you have to wonder just how firmly that line is drawn at all on this subject.

  60. Beowulff, no one said it did. Since the specific philosophical point being discussed here is whether or not humanity was an accident… well, I suppose a theist could still consider humanity a complete accident, but I’ve never met one who did.

  61. Creationism – In its pure form, it is only a statement about a god creating the universe as we know it without any necessary comment on how, how long, or whether the god gets involved in the creation. However, once the Protestants started translating the Bible into the vernacular and misreading poetry as a scientific, historical account that creationism in the West became a rather specific 6,000 year silliness. That said, it is equally accurate to say that Inuits believing in Raven or Hindus believing in Brahmin are also creationists.

    ID – The failed scientific theory that life and consciousness can’t be fully accounted for through evolutionary pressures. Of course, it is implied that that which we don’t understand is attributable to God (or perhaps a hyper intelligent multi-dimensional alien or maybe Galactus) – a failed scientific case for god in gaps.

    Theistic evolution – A form of creationism which rejects Intelligent Design and holds as a key tenet that a creator god brings the universe, life, consciousness, moral choice, whatever into being by creating the rules that allow for it to happen and getting out of the way. While some would assert that this is a God in the Gaps notion, holders of this belief are likely to see god in the laws and not in the gaps and the practice of science as a way to better understand the nature of the divine.

    As a result, I’d claim that ID and TE don’t share much in common as someone who believes in TE would find the notion that the divine would be so silly as to not be able to come up with an eyeball or consciousness without interfering with the process to be an anathema. A deist can believe TE, but would consider ID to be an affront to any sensible creator.

  62. Rystefn, you are describing differences between a theistic and an atheistic view, not differences between an evolutionary view and a non-evolutionary view. You are muddling up the conversation by confusing the two. And while there is strong correlation between people accepting evolution and people rejecting religion, correlation does not necessarily imply causation, let alone being able to interchange the two.

    Furthermore, whether humanity is an accident or not doesn’t logically lead into any argument about things like the value of life. You can just as easily argue either way, for instance:
    – accidental origins means life is less valuable. Since man wasn’t created by a god, life isn’t sacred anymore.
    – accidental origins means life is more valuable. If life was an accident with a small probability of happening again, we’d better take good care of the life we have (and no god is going to do it for us).
    Science won’t logically lead you to one or the other. Religious views might, or philosophical views, but not scientific views.

    You see, what you keep missing, is that science is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. That even goes for sciences like sociology and psychology. Your hammering on and on about these sciences is just a red herring: while these sciences may indeed study what we think about morals and ethics or identity, they have nothing to say about what we should think about them.

    On the other hand, religions tend to have some very strong ideas about what people should think. Freeing oneself from religion and its moral absolutism will indeed likely change one’s outlook on moral or ethical issues. However, that has little to do with evolution (the original topic, remember?) or science, except to the extent where scientific evidence can make people doubt their religious convictions.

  63. Yes you are. I haven’t misread it. Compare your own words:

    The science of human origins speaks heavily to morality, ethics, and self-identity, and anyone who cannot see that is, quite frankly, an idiot (ad hominem).

    and

    Perhaps atheism causes a definite trend one way or another, I can’t say (though atheists are more likely to support abortion, in my observation). Whether it does or does not, however, it is ridiculous to say that it has no impact at all.

    Somehow you managed to move from “evolution” to “atheism”. It’s muddling the discussion, and you’ll need to do better than your childish “Nu-huh” to refute that.

    Also, you didn’t respond to any of the other arguments in my post either.

  64. I say again: “Beowulff, no one said it did. Since the specific philosophical point being discussed here is whether or not humanity was an accident… well, I suppose a theist could still consider humanity a complete accident, but I’ve never met one who did.”

    In this case, I am perfectly right to make the connection I am making. The discussion is NOT between evolution and not-evolution. It is between accident and intent. Intent requires either a deity or space aliens, and no one here is advancing space alien engineers, so I ignored it. If YOU want to discuss it, I’ll gladly just laugh at you and walk away.

    Yes, I ignored everything else you have to say. If your opening statement is a simple demonstration that you utterly fail to read anything I’ve said – especially my earlier response to you on this precise subject, why the Hell should I bother to read five more paragraphs? I only have so much time, thank you, and if you want to get my attention, you need to lead in with something that at least demonstrates basic literacy and understanding of English. Well, if you’d rather hash this out in a different language, I make no promises, but I’ll give it s shot.

  65. How childish. Oh well, we were off topic for far too long anyway.

    On topic: it’s nice to see that there appears to be a high level of consensus in the definitions of TE, ID and creationism, more than I was expecting, frankly.

  66. Childish? Perhaps. I am the motherfucking Pan.

    Honestly, I’d have been surprised to see more than one or two dissenters from the common consensus around here on this particular subject, immersed as we all are in the same facets of the subject – especially given the previous two conversations on the subject.

  67. On topic: it’s nice to see that there appears to be a high level of consensus in the definitions of TE, ID and creationism, more than I was expecting, frankly.

    That’s not really true. It may be here among skeptics, but these definitions do not match what I’ve been getting from Christians and ex-fundies. I have a feeling that we are representative of what the general public thinks.

  68. writerdd: I was only referring to the definitions offered here, I have not seen the ones that Christians and ex-fundies are giving. Will you do an article comparing the reactions from skeptics and (ex-)Christians? That might be quite educational.

    I’m not really sure what you mean by your last sentence, though, I can’t tell for sure whether “we” refers to “skeptics” or “Christians and ex-fundies”, for instance.

  69. Ah, ok, that’s interesting then. As a majority of the general public (in the US at least) tends to be Christian, I would have expected that the general opinion would line up more with the Christian definitions, rather than with the skeptical definitions (hence my confusion with your use of “we”). I’d be glad to be wrong about this one.

    Looking forward to the write-up then, have a good stay in Lithuania.

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