A debate forum should be opened to invite both evolutionists and ID people to discuss all the issues so that everything is on the table for everyone to see.

It's very diffcult for a layperson to do all the research on their own, too difficult to understand who is right by reading random articles all over the internet. I would like to see confrontation so that I can clearly see everything is being addressed by both sides,  and this way it is easier to hold everyone accountable for their information, and so it is easy to direct people to just one place.

I've already read the article by Eugenie Scott and I know that the NCSE probably finds this idea appaling. 

Only "professionals" on each side would be the one's posting on hypothetical forum.

My personal view as a physician and a scientist is that I have better things to do with my time! I would much prefer to focus my energies on trying to alleviate the suffering of my patients and to discover new treatments for chronic pain (which is my own area of expertise). There are massively entrenched views on both sides and the likelihood of a true debate rather than polemic tracts is most unlikely. Further, I am not sure there would be much point since the probability of effecting changes in ideas would be small.

WRT David's answer - POLEMIC TRACT BEGINS......

Adrian, if you really want to see what ID has to offer, then go over to Talk Origins (see out links section). They have laid out and dissected every claim that ID and the creationist movement have put out and show that ID is not science.

It simply has no scientific value - no theory, no models, no mechanism, no means of being tested, makes no predictions about biology or life. In 15 years not a single peer reviewed (i.e. approved by other scientists) scientific paper has been publiched claiming any form of design or mechanism for design.

It is not open to debate in the same way that no-one wants a debate on the theory of gravity, or the fact that the Earth is round.

Other websites like the Panda's Thumb and Pharyngula, provide a running commentary (and archives) on these issues. As a matter of policy, AAB do not comment on religion, only science. ID is not science and so has no place here.

We (the scientists) have laid out our cards - thats what science does. Everything we hve ever done is laid out in print and cross reserenced so anyone can chekc who said what, when, about who, and based on what data. Anyone can go and check any or all of this that they want to. This scientific process has been going on for centuries now, so why should we debate with people using (to continue the metaphor) cards they won't show us? Why won't they show us? It's because they don't have any cards and are trying to play with their own rules.

It can be hard for non-professionals to keep track of everything, but the trick is not to get trapped. The ID side what to confuse people with details that they don't understand. The simple fact is that evolution, through the means of natural selection and descent with modification happens. There is overwhelming evidence for this. If they are to 'disprove' evolution they have to overturn hundreds of years of work by tens of thousands of researchers who have written millions of papers. 15 years of work and their answer is 'no comment' - not much science there!

Just because physicists are still not sure how gravity 'operates' does not mean that it doesn't happen. Not surprisingly biologists have yet to figure out how every feature of every living thing has evolved, but that does not make evolution less true.

Sorry for the long answer, but I hope that helps. I suspect you'll get a few more shortly!

Briefly --

The eminent evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould advocated an understanding that he described as "non-overlapping magisteria", in which science and religion set out to ask and answer fundamentally different kinds of questions.  (Gould also pointed out that these two approaches to the universe by no means encompass all enquiry: poetry, for example, seeks to ask and answer different questions again).

I think that most scientists would say that, while Gould's position is a little over-simplified, it's based on an important insight.  Creationism, and its unacknowledged child Intelligent Design, are what you get when specialists on one magisterium (religion) start to expound their uninformed views on the other (science).  And the same thing happens in the opposite direction: as respected a scientist as Richard Dawkins, when he pronounces on the world of religion (as he increasingly often does, seemingly more often than he does actual science these days) is capable of equally breathtaking mistakes, misapprehensions and misrepresentations.

None of this is to say that you can't be both a scientist and religious: many scientists have proven this by example, including several of the contributors to this forum.  But those who are usefully active in both fields achieve this by carefully avoiding the seductive idea that their expertise in one area necessarily entitles them to comment on the other -- both must be learned.  In the same way, a scientist who is also a poet would be a fool to apply the techniques of scientific writing to his poetry, or to apply his poetic sensibilities in deciding a scientific matter.  Poetry and science certainly have things to say to each other (as Dawkins explains at length in the better sections of his book Unweaving the Rainbow) but the poetic contribution to science must be judged scientifically, and the scientific contribution to poetry must be judged poetically; and the same applies regarding the science/religion interface.

(Did I say "briefly"?  Oh well :-)

The last thing to say is that Ask A Biologist is a science site, and we're here to answer science questions.  Even those among us with religious tendencies are here in our capacities as scientists.  So here you will get scientific answers to your questions.  And judged as science, Creationism and Intelligent Design are badly lacking.

[And finally, finally, I will break the rule I mentioned earlier by speaking with my Christian hat on: as well as being bad science, creationism is in my opinion extremely bad religion.  Even the most committed biblical literalist can surely see that the word "day" in the earliest verses of Genesis cannot mean "period of rotation of the Earth with respect to the Sun" when the sun does not even come into existence until the fourth day! (Gen. 1:16).  Genesis is simply not a science textbook: it was never intended to be read as one.]

Hope some of that helps.

Just a very short one!

Mike says "none of this is to say that you can't be both a scientist and religious".

Exactly right, but you CAN'T treat religion AS a science and that is where ID falls down.

Although I agree with the opinions that have already been expressed (especially with regards to the scientific value of ID), a forum along the lines of what Adrian has described could actually be of great educational use from the point of view of the general public.  Even if it did just turn into one big argument (which it undoubtedly would), it would still provide an excellent demonstration of the different approaches used by scientists and the proponents of ID, and would help 'lay people' to make up their own minds when it comes to claims made by the different groups.

As it stands, we appear to have ended up with two sides: the 'bonkers creationists' and the 'evil scientists', both of which are saying "don't be fooled, believe us", and I can see that this only results in a great deal of confusion for non-experts.  When I think back to my own education, I learnt virtually nothing on how science is actually 'done'.  Yes, we learnt how to set up a hypothesis, but we never learnt why.  In short, we never learnt about the scientific method and the philosophy behind it, and I think there's probably a great many people who are in the same position.  This makes it incredibly easy for someone to misinform the public by throwing words like 'scientific' around to justify their own religious beliefs.  A forum such as this would be a great way of helping people to make an informed decision on what is science and what isn't, and what's worth listening to and what should be disregarded.  If nothing else it would force supporters of ID to justify their claims in an open, scientific forum.  That it would have little impact on the views of the 'professionals' on each side of the debate is largely unimportant.

Last edited by Phil Jardine (21st Apr 2007 18:34:42)

Well debates have been tried in the past (Dawkins even took part in a couple at various times). Experience tells us that they do not work however. Without being rude to the general public, much of what we do is very technical and complicated and really you need an excellent science background to follow the complexities of the arguments.

Therefore the "opposition" need only throw out some made up statistic, site an out of date paper, or previously discredited piece of reseach and the scientists will be unable to back up their arguments (often based on years of research by dozens of scientists) to a level that the public would understand.

The result is confusion for the audience and no understanding of what was said - just that there was disagreement. And that is the problem, for the basics (age of the earth, evolution as a fact etc.) there IS no disagreement, but one can be made to appear just by disagreeing!

Why no debate forum?  Because the potential debators do not speak the same language.
The science side looks for empirical evidence, proof, and inferences that can be drawn using logic.  The religion side, well I don't really understand their method of argument since I don't happen to speak that language.  Because of the "language" gap, there can be no winner to this debate, only two extremely frustrated debators.

Last edited by Ajna Rivera (19th Aug 2010 05:03:09)

ID proponents say that they believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. We can all cherry-pick the odd observation(s) that may not be currently explainable by science. We don’t even know EXACTLY how we urinate but as the years go by the mechanisms (and complexity) involved are being revealed by scientists. If ID proponents wish to suggest that the intricacies of life are consistent with a divine intelligence, their point is currently philosophical, not scientific! The ‘philosophy of science’ is at the heart of the debate, and many don't speak the same language as Ajna suggests, or don't want to 'go there', although others dive in: 

“There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. - Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, 1995.

Last edited by Steve Lolait (21st Aug 2010 11:29:03)

I would like to see confrontation so that I can clearly see everything
is being addressed by both sides,  and this way it is easier to hold
everyone accountable for their information, and so it is easy to direct
people to just one place.

There are dozens of places on the internet that try to do this, and each and every one of them fails for a simple reason: ID-proponents do not "address everything", but rather usually address nothing they are asked. They do not like to be "held accountable" for their positions (because these have huge flaws, which are easily shown up), and always, in my experience, fall back on strawman arguments, quote-mining, evasion, Gish-Gallop and, often, outright lies.

So adding another forum where scientists waste their time debating people who do not debate, but only want to spout disinformation and confuse fence-sitters about the facts, would distract us from doing what should be done: properly communicate science to the public.

"and this way it is easier to hold everyone accountable for their information"
That is exactly what the scientific literature does. All the information is there. Attributed to the authors and referenced to their sources and with all of the data / observations supplied. This is what our arguments and ideas are based on. As noted above, there is no scientific literature produced by the ID crowd. If any ever appears then it can be judged by everyone. Our data is there to be judged - science is available to all.

As an evolutionary biologist working in an evolutionary biology department I have absolutely no interest in these sorts of "debates" and neither do the vast majority of my colleagues. For me David and Heinrich have it spot on in their comments!

"My personal view as a physician and a scientist is that I have better things to do with my time!

"another forum where scientists waste their time ...would distract us from doing what
should be done: properly communicate science to the public.