Diálogo Ininteligente

by Philip Pennance

A response to Daniel R. Altschuler”s article Diseño Inteligente Ininteligible

Albert Einstein “The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer”.

Recently, I stumbled across (not hard to do since there are discarded mountains of them all over campus) an old copy of the free (who would buy it?) University of Puerto Rico newspaper, Diálogo -a postmodern rag with socialist leanings. This particular edition (dated September 2005) contained the article Diseño Inteligente Ininteligible by UPR astronomer, Daniel Altschuler. The title alludes to a theory called Intelligent Design (ID) which attempts to formulate the concept of “design” and to examine whether some features, of the universe are better explained by an intelligent cause rather than by random Darwinian mechanisms. ID theorists argue that it is statistically improbable that natural selection alone could produce the diversity of life on Earth. Notwithstanding the title, the author, sets for himself the impossible goal of, in a couple of pages, simultaneously discrediting intelligent design, creationism, political conservatives, the war in Iraq, George W. Bush, the Catholic Church, religion and metaphysics. A natural reaction to such intellectual pretension is to ignore it. This is unwise. The author clearly believes what he writes, and naive readers, allured by the scientifically imposing —almost pompous— tone, tend to confuse such nonsense with serious discussion. The purpose of this “fisk” is to provide an antidote to the simplistic modes of thought and logical fallacies present in this intellectually flimsy Dialog opinion piece. It is certainly not intended as a defense of ID theory, which will stand or fall, like any other scientific theory, on its own merits. My concern is that if fall it must then it not be because of the scientific treason of rejecting a wrong theory for the wrong reason.

In what follows the sections of Dr. Altschuler’s article are in italics followed by comments in bold font.

[Altschuler] Recientemente han cruzado por mi pantalla noticias algo inquietantes. No; no me refiero a los muertos en las batallas que a diario se libran en Irak, ya casi no son noticia, de igual modo que ya casi no es noticia la sangre cotidiana que nos presentan en el noticiario. Desgraciadamente ya es habitual.

Hardly relevant to the topic of Intelligent Design. One might just as well have mentioned the 200, 000 or so children who, according to UN statistics, were dying every year under Saddam Hussein for lack of vaccinations and clean water, a result of Iraqi and UN corruption, or state sanctioned forced abortion and infanticide in China, but this would have spoiled the narrative —de rigueur in left wing opinion pieces— that the US is the source of all evil. In any case such news rarely “crosses the screen”.

[Altschuler] No; me refiero a la reciente noticia de que el presidente Bush, sin duda para ganarse algunos votos, ha expresado que él cree que la idea religiosa de diseño inteligente, un eufemismo de creacionismo, debe enseñarse en las escuelas junto con la evolución como teorías alternativas que explican el mundo que nos rodea. No es noticia que él piense así, ya que tuvo similares posturas como gobernador de Texas.

This reiterates the leftist fixation that Bush and the US are responsible for all the world’s problems, at the same setting up a straw man by, falsely suggesting that Intelligent Design is synonymous with the religious theory of creationism when in reality, it claims to be based on the mathematical science of information.

[Altschuler] La disputa es antigua y mi inquietud es provocada por la ignorancia de la ciencia que demuestra el presidente de la nación más poderosa del mundo. [sic]

The claim that “the dispute is ancient” continues the author’s attempt to identify ID theory with the much older creation theory which proponents of ID theory reject. In the previous paragraph, it was said that Bush supported ID theory to gain votes, now the same statement is ascribed to scientific ignorance. However, the aim of the author is clearly not consistency. Actually, the critique of Bush is a crude rhetorical device designed to induce those who believe that Bush is not very intelligent to invalidly conclude that Intelligent Design is false, from the mere fact that “Bush believes in it while at the same time to convincing those who do not believe in ID to conclude that Bush is stupid.

[Altschuler] Ya a poco de publicarse la obra de Charles Darwin en 1859, se realizó un famoso debate, entre Thomas Henry Huxley, presidente de la Royal Society y Samuel Wilberforce, Arzobispo de Oxford —religión contra ciencia, el primero de muchos. En 1925, se llevó a juicio al joven maestro de biología John Scopes, acusado de haber violado la ley de Tennesse que prohibía la enseñanza de cualquier teoría que negara la historia de la creación divina en las escuelas y universidades públicas del estado. Ha pasado a la historia como simbólico de toda esta estúpida historia. La ley fue revocada recién en 1967.

Like the notorious case of Roe versus Wade which legalized abortion through all 9+ months of pregnancy, the Scopes trial was not based on any real crime but was rather a legal device engineered by judicial activists —in the Scopes case by members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) an organization with a long record of discrimination against Christians. The actual train of events is described here. In reality, the required Biology textbook in the State of Tennessee, Civic Biology by Hunyer (1914), already included a chapter on evolution and undoubtedly many teachers actually covered this topic without much complaint. Scopes who held a law degree from the University of Kentucky was induced to stand trial merely to challenge the existing law. He later admitted that he had not taught evolution but had persuaded his students to testify as such.

However, the pejorative “stupid”, so easily applied with hindsight, completely ignores the historical context that in 1925 theories of evolution were based as much on speculation as on hard empirical evidence. At that time, there existed no biochemical evidence even for micro-evolution (within a single species) over shorter time scales. As regards macro evolution, empirical evidence of the detailed pathways between species was, and still is, exceedingly sparse. In fact, the term missing link had been coined to refer to conjectured species for which no actual fossil could be found —although the term missing chain may have been more accurate. Even today, no particular evolutionary model is referred to as the “Law” of Evolution and many statements made by evolutionists are not actually science. In the absence of a continuous fossil record, claims of the type “X is the ancestor of Y” are untestable except in the case of micro-evolution. The mere invention of plausible reasons why a certain hypothesized intermediate stage should be favored by “natural selection” does not pass muster as a scientific test. Many so called fossils have actually turned out to be fake. Australopithecine was the skull of an extinct ape, Piltdown Man was the jaw of an orangutan fitted into a human, Java Man was a mere gorilla, Nebraska Man was the teeth and body parts of an extinct pig, and Pithecanthropus Alalus, a fairy tale. Archaeoraptor was intelligently designed by a Chinese farmer who affixed bits of a theropod dinosaur to the head and body of a microraptor (the resulting fiction —like the discredited Gospel of Judas— was then sold to the ever amenable National Geographic Magazine).

[Altschuler] La Iglesia Católica dio un paso atrás (¿o adelante?) cuando en su discurso a la Pontificia Academia de Ciencias en octubre 22 de 1996 el Papa Juan Pablo II finalmente admitió la evolución biológica.

Actually, as early as 1950, when no DNA evidence existed even for micro-evolution, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis had already affirmed that there was no contradiction between evolution and Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church in fact never did formally attack the science of evolutionary theory as contradictory to its doctrine —nor is it ever likely to.

[Altschuler] Pero solo lo hizo en parte, ya que también postuló que hay una intervención divina en cuanto a la conciencia humana. Dice

“En consecuencia, las teorías de la evolución que, en función de las filosofías en las que se inspiran, consideran que el espíritu surge de las fuerzas de la materia viva o que se trata de un simple epifenómeno de esta materia, son incompatibles con la verdad sobre el hombre. Por otra parte, esas teorías son incapaces de fundar la dignidad de la persona”.

Fue solo medio paso.

This statement by Pope John Paul II was made by in the context of a discussion about the soul —a concept outside the domain of evolutionary theory. That there exist many aspects of being that lie outside science, but within the realm of metaphysics and religion, has been accepted by philosophers since ancient times. Science alone reveals little concerning, say, the problem of evil or the nature of consciousness. It cannot answer questions such as “What is truth?”; “What is reality?”; “What is Man’s place in nature?”; “Where do rights come from?” “Do ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, exist?”. It can provide no biochemical description of notions such as justice or beauty or dignity of the person.

The belief that (in principle) everything is scientific is the idolatry of scientism. If the principles ofmetaphysics and ethics are determined by blind chance —as evolutionists seems to maintain, then particular first principles and moral axioms are completely arbitrary and merit no special claim to legitimacy and, consequently, neither do the words of Professor Altschuler. As Pope John Paul II has also said “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

[Altschuler] Es decir que acepta la evolución biológica en cuanto al cuerpo humano, pero la conciencia, esa propiedad tan difícil de explicar, requiere intervención divina. Pero por difícil que sea explicar un fenómeno, o por que no encontremos una explicación, no tiene que ser divino. Sería el Dios de nuestra ignorancia, pero entonces sería pasajero, ya que con el tiempo nuestra ignorancia disminuye. Así, el movimiento de los planetas, por mucho tiempo inexplicable, no es causado por ángeles, como se creía.

Nor is the motion of the planets explained by a fictitious inverse square law force that “acts at a distance” nor by curvature of the space time continuum nor any scientific theory. These are merely sophisticated attempts to describe that which is perceived by the senses. Science “explains” no phenomenon but rather seeks relations on the set of sense data. It does this within the context of logical structures based upon primitive (undefined) concepts, axioms (unproven assumptions) and rules of inference. Such a logical structure describes an infinitesimal subset of reality —its constitutive domain, and no more. Explain it does not; answer the question why. . . ? it does not; answer the question how. . . ? it does at best partially.

Although many aspects of human experience can be described by scientific models, no one “understands” what is an electron really or why the velocity light is constant. Even the more succsessful models are incomplete -Quantum mechanics which well describes aspects of the behaviour of electrons does not for example explain gravity. Even the very form of physical theories is a product of our assumptions about the universe.

The author commits the fallacy of false dichotomy when he asserts that there exists a contradiction between evolutionary theories and the possibility of divine intervention in the universe, either at its creation or during its evolution. We do not believe in God in order to fill a gap in our scientific ignorance or perhaps in the fossil record. Belief is a matter of faith and religious experience. Disbelief also requires a certain faith. It requires a distrust in our fellow man, so hubristic as to be capable of rejecting as fraud, delusion or the madness of crowds, all historical claims of miracles, and all religious experiences of all men, throughout all time.

[Altschuler] No sabemos qué es la masa invisible que los astrónomos han descubierto llena el universo, pero no por eso buscamos una respuesta sobrenatural, y no está del todo claro como es que surgen nuevas especies, pero eso no quiere decir que fue Dios quien las puso allí.

It is rather an understatement to claim that we do not know what is “dark matter” given that we do not know even know what an electron is really. We merely have better mathematical descriptions of the latter. It is a charicature to ascribe believe in God to scientific ignorance. It is highly doubtful that anyone believes in a God for the only reason that a particular class of material e.g. “dark matter” has not yet been well modeled. Most believers well understand that neither science nor religion are capable of answering all but a small proportion of questions.

[Altschuler] Pero además, ¿De qué humanos hablamos?: ¿Homo erectus?, ¿Homo habilis? ¿Homo sapiens neanderthalensis? ¿Cómo hizo el todopoderoso para decidir cuando comienza la conciencia y la humanidad? ¿Acaso mi perra no tiene conciencia? El Homo habilis de hace un millón de años, ahora extinto, ¿No fue creación divina?

It is likely that Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon Man and Heidelberg Man and even Danny Habilis are/where all forms of homo sapiens.

[Altschuler] ¿Y si lo fue, fue un mal diseño?

Why blame God for our problems?. If we have free will we have the ability to mess up.

[Altschuler] Recientemente, un alto funcionario de la Iglesia Católica, el cardenal Christoph Schönborn, arzobispo de Viena, calificando el discurso de Juan Pablo II como “vago y de poca importancia” dice en un ensayo publicado en el New York Times [ii] que “Puede que sea cierta la evolución en el sentido de un ancestro común, pero la evolución en el sentido neo-Darwinista: un proceso de variación aleatoria y selección natural sin guía ni plan —no lo es.”

Pero, ¿Cuál es el problema? Muy sencillo, dentro del esquema evolucionario no hay cabida para un Dios creador del ser humano “a su imagen y semejanza”. La vida se va desarrollando por medio de un algoritmo automático, sin guía ni plan

Algorithms are are, in themselves, a guide. Moreover, algorithms also typically require an input —an initial state and possibly an author!

Science is very powerful, but, as Thomas Aquinas well understood, is limited in the sorts of truth it can reveal. Our very notions of matter, space, time, energy, etc. are but simplistic abstractions with only local validity. Science cannot explain —merely describe within a closed system of reasoning— phenomena such as the big bang, gravity, electromagnetism, etc. To pretend that there is no knowledge outside such a system is a philosophical dead end. There can be no “theory of everything”, for, by Godel’s theorem, no logical system which is sufficiently descriptive is all powerful. A sufficiently powerful theory, will always admit semantically true statements which are unprovable.

[Altschuler] El influyente teólogo inglés William Paley, argumentaba en 1803 que si al encontrarnos con un reloj, cuyo claro propósito es dar la hora, concluiríamos que tal complicado objeto tenía que ser el resultado de un diseño. Su premisa era que no puede haber un diseño sin diseñador. Varias versiones del argumento de Paley son utilizadas en el presente por los creacionistas, bajo el eufemismo de “diseño inteligente” o el oxímoron de “creacionismo científico”. El argumento general tiene la forma siguiente: observamos un mundo ordenado, el orden requiere una inteligencia que lo produzca, por lo tanto Dios diseñó el mundo. Por mundo ordenado se puede indicar la molécula de ADN, una célula o el ojo humano, entre otras cosas.

Aquellos que desean que la vida sea creación divina, o al menos que la del ser humano lo sea, esgrimen una de las leyes fundamentales de la Física (para colmo) para intentar demostrarlo. Argumentan (correctamente) que la vida, con sus estructuras altamente ordenadas como el ADN, significa una disminución de la entropía, y que esto contradice la segunda ley de termodinámica. Pero la ley se cumple para sistemas aislados, y tanto la Tierra como la biosfera y sus organismos no los son. El flujo de energía solar permite una disminución de entropía local, a expensas del aumento de la entropía total del universo, sin contradecir esta ley fundamental. En cierto sentido nuestro metabolismo no es más que un insumo de entropía negativa para contrarrestar la tendencia de aumento, que al final, cuando morimos, se cumple.

If I were to find a Heineken bottle on mars I would be skeptical not only of religious explanation but also the adscription of this wondrous phenomena to a

“local reduction in entropy, at the expense of an increase in the total energy of the universe”

and would rather lean towards a design explanation based on the existence of an intelligent entity —let us call it homo alcoholis.

Similarly, if a sober man were to encounter a minotaur in his path, he would have no need to invoke darwinian evolution as an explanation. Rather, it would be sufficient for him to recall that Homo sapiens is already capable of “designing” chimeras —part brute and part man. Moreover, this hideous and dehumanizing practice which circumvents conjectured evolutionary mechanisms of natural selection has already been legalized by the British government. It is not in dispute that the laws of physics allow for local decreases in entropy. However, the label on a Heineken bottle has semantic meaning far beyond the mere random rearrangement of molecules in the letters. Intelligent design theorists conjecture that the probability of such arrangements arising in the absence of an “intelligent” mechanism is negligible. Whether or not this conjecture is provable hinges on a mathematical formulation of the notion of intelligence. However, it does not lie within the scope of intelligent design theory to describe the source of any provably intelligent order and to claim otherwise is a misrepresentation of the I.D. position.

[Altschuler] Otro argumento muy utilizado por los opositores a la evolución dice que no se encuentran en el registro fósil las esperadas formas intermedias entre una especie y otra. Pero aunque no les guste Australopithecus africanus es intermedio entre Homo sapiens y un simio ancestral. Los recientes descubrimientos con respecto a la evolución de la ballena[iii] muestran quizá mejor que ninguno este desarrollo. Las ballenas son mamíferos descendientes de un animal terrestre, el cetáceo más antiguo que se conoce (Pakicetus) que habitó las tierras hace unos cincuenta millones de años y que muestra muchas estructuras intermedias entre mamíferos terrestres y las ballenas, Ambulocetus es un anfibio intermedio y Dorudon un animal acuático que aún presenta estructuras terrestres (como patas traseras). El estudio detallado de estos fósiles muestra muchos cambios adaptativos para la vida marina. Pero no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver, y siempre se puede argumentar que no se ha encontrado una forma intermedia entre dos formas intermedias.

No precise biochemical or mechanical “pathway” between two distinct species has ever been found and, in the abscence of a continuous fossil records, none is ever likely to be found. Even when conceivable paths between two species exists, lack of uniquness coupled with insufficiency of fossils makes it impossible to determine which, if any, “path” was actually followed. Thus the concept of “intermediate form” between distinct species is an ill defined notion. In particular, the notion of the progressive appearance of, say, ‘whaleness’ is subjective and likely untestable. In reality, the almost total ignorance of precise homotopies between species coupled with the sparsity of fossils results in a whale of a model, one slack enough to accomodate the Titanic.

We know from mathematics that a missing term in a sequence cannot be determined unless we know a priori the type of sequence. Similarly, in a sequence of fossils, missing elements cannot be determined unless the precise evolutionary mechanism which generated the sequence is known. But, the fossil record is sparse and the precise mechanisms unknown.

[Altschuler] Creen que los fósiles con edades de millones de años fueron puestos allí por Dios (al menos así me lo han dicho algunos) para probar su fe, ya que la edad de la Tierra es de 6000 años (lo que a mi me dice que creen en un Dios tramposo). Lo que me asombra es que esto me fue expresado por personas con un buen trasfondo educacional y que yo consideraba inteligentes. Otros me dicen que los fósiles que se encuentran en sitios insólitos, como peces en las alturas de los Alpes, son consecuencia del diluvio universal, un cuento tan absurdo que no aguanta ni el más superficial examen. Si, según ellos y la Biblia, todos los seres de la tierra fueron creados para nuestro bienestar, entonces ¿Cómo me explican el mosquito?

Notwithstanding the fact that ID theory, the subject in the title, has nothing to do with the bible, the author repeats the straw man identification “intelligent design = bible literalism” Ironically, ID theory seems to be acceptable to some atheists. Indeed, Richard Dawkins, Oxford biologist and well known, though ineffective, proponent of atheism admits in an interview that life may have been planted on earth by intelligent aliens, a belief also adhered to by one of the discoverers of DNA, Francis Crick.

[Altschuler] La verdad es que no hay que analizar mucho para darse cuenta que hasta un ingeniero mediocre podría diseñar algo mejor.

The truth is that even the most simple biological cells far exceed in complexity anything ever designed by man. No scientist has succeeded in creating life from non life, or penetrated the mysteries of human consciousness.

[Altschuler] ¿Me van a contar que un ser de inteligencia insuperable, todopoderoso, omnisapiente y bondadoso no parió más que nosotros? Me van a decir que un animal que mata a otros con encono, que utiliza su poca inteligencia para diseñar armas de destrucción masiva y es lo suficientemente estúpido como para construirlas, que abusa física y sexualmente de otros, y destruye el entorno en el cual habita, es resultado de un diseño inteligente? No, hombre, con ese cuento a otros. El diseño inteligente resulta ser una mezcolanza patética de pseudociencia piadosa ininteligible, creada por personas ininteligentes.

Christians do not blame evil on the existence of an incompetent God who, at the moment of creation, required a few pointers, but rather might ascribe its existence as somehow necessary to allow freedom in created beings. One gets the impression that the only God of which the author can conceive is one who creates robotic humans, without free will, governed by a simplistic moral system —rather like the recent UN millennium goals, designed to bring about some kind of distopic “New World Order”. In reality, it is precisely free will that made it possible for a man such as Maximilian Kolbe to put aside preservation instincts and self interest in order to save the life of another human being.

The problem of evil is one of the great mysteries of both religion and philosophy and has serious repercussions for atheists. Indeed, if our moral axioms are the product of blind evolution, then the very concept of evil is relativized and ethics becomes meaningless. Hitler did not invoke God but rather Darwin when he stated:

“But what if the strong (Aryans) choose not to dominate and exterminate the weak (Jews)? This would be against Nature, whose “whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow.” —in Mein Kamp

Some of the philosophical difficulties which the problem of evil poses for atheists are elabotated in an excellent essay by Benjamin Wiker.

[Altschuler] Además, si fuera forzoso concluir que alguien diseñó el mundo, o el DNA o a los humanos, no necesariamente tenía que ser el Dios cristiano como alegan los creacionistas, podrían haber sido otros dioses, o muchos de ellos que trabajaron juntos, es decir un comité de dioses. Esto último al menos explicaría la razón por la cual el diseño resultó ser tan defectuoso.

As stated previously, the metaphysical problem of nature of the intelligence lies outside the scope of ID theory.

[Altschuler] En un plano más básico, aunque el deporte favorito de los creacionistas es buscar fallas a la evolución, esto de ninguna forma probaría sus ideas. Buscan afanosamente cualquier incertidumbre o controversia (que siempre se encuentra) en la ciencia de la evolución, pero no parece preocuparles que Génesis nos cuenta que en el primer día de la creación Dios hizo la luz, pero recién en el cuarto día creó el Sol. No importa, dicen, Dios opera de forma misteriosa. Así cualquiera. Lo cierto es que poco se podría entender del mundo biológico sin referirse a la evolución, del mismo modo que poco del mundo que nos rodea sería comprensible sin la mecánica cuántica.

En un plano más básico, aunque el deporte favorito de los darwinistas es buscar fallas a la religión, esto de ninguna forma probaría sus ideas. Buscan afanosamente cualquier incertidumbre o controversia (que siempre se encuentra) en la religión, pero no parece preocuparles que Darwinism nos cuenta que evolucion es gradual pero (segun Steven Jay Gold) “All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between the major groups are characteristically abrupt.” No importa, dicen, Evolucion opera de forma misteriosa, sin guía ni plan. Así cualquiera. Lo cierto es que poco se podría entender del mundo espiritual sin referirse a la religión, del mismo modo que poco del mundo que nos rodea sería comprensible sin la filosofia.

[Altschuler] El concepto de evolución biológica de Charles Darwin y Alfred Wallace, es de gran fuerza explicativa por su sencillez y hay un sinnúmero de excelentes libros que se lo pueden explicar al que este dispuesto a hacer el esfuerzo. Observamos que se transmiten las características de un organismo de padres a hijos, es decir que hay herencia, y observamos que hay variaciones en algunas características de los descendientes es decir que la descendencia es con modificaciones. En el transcurso de los milenios esto lleva a un cambio en las propiedades genéticas de una población y puede llevar al establecimiento de nuevas especies si de alguna forma un pequeño grupo queda reproductivamente aislado del resto, quizá por una barrera geográfica. La selección natural actúa como un filtro que determina diferencias en las tasas de reproducción y supervivencia de distintas variedades, las cuales tienen diferente capacidad para sobrevivir en el ecosistema en el cual están inmersos. Al ocurrir cambios en un ecosistema algunas especies no pueden sobrevivir y se extinguen, mientras que en otros casos, las presiones filtran ciertas cualidades que contribuyen a la supervivencia de ciertos individuos que de esta forma contribuyen su aval genético con nuevas características a la población. El proceso de evolución no es causado por el deseo de mejorar una especie, no tiene guía ni plan, ni tampoco es una tendencia necesaria de ir de lo simple a lo complejo.

While the author might regard Darwinist ideas of Random Mutations and Natural Selection the Principal as the the Principal or Even Sufficient Causes of Evolution, a growing list of scientists disagree with the claim.

According to Colin Reeves, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Coventry University:

“Darwinism was an interesting idea in the 19th century, when handwaving explanations gave a plausible, if not properly scientific, framework into which we could fit biological facts. However, what we have learned since the days of Darwin throws doubt on natural selection’s ability to create complex biological systems – and we still have little more than handwaving as an argument in its favour.”

Professor Altschulers version of events above is precisely the traditional handwaving explanation. A more honest appraisal of our current state of knowledge has been given by by Biochemist Chris Williams. According to Wiliams:

“As a biochemist and software developer who works in genetic and metabolic screening, I am continually amazed by the incredible complexity of life. For example, each of us has a vast ‘computer program’ of six billion DNA bases in every cell that guided our development from a fertilized egg, specifies how to make more than 200 tissue types, and ties all this together in numerous highly functional organ systems. Few people outside of genetics or biochemistry realize that evolutionists still can provide no substantive details at all about the origin of life, and particularly the origin of genetic information in the first self-replicating organism. What genes did it require – or did it even have genes? How much DNA and RNA did it have – or did it even have nucleic acids? How did huge information-rich molecules arise before natural selection? Exactly how did the genetic code linking nucleic acids to amino acid sequence originate? Clearly the origin of life – the foundation of evolution – is still virtually all speculation, and little if no fact.”

Some scientists believe that the obsession with Darwinism is damaging progress in Biology. Dr. Vladimir L. Voeikov, professor of bioorganic, Moscow State University; member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences has stated:

“The ideology and philosophy of neo-Darwinism which is sold by its adepts as a scientific theoretical foundation of biology seriously hampers the development of science and hides from students the field’s real problems.”

[Altschuler] La prueba más contundente de evolución se encuentra a escala molecular. La diferencia genética entre los humanos (Homo sapiens) y los chimpancés (Pan troglodytes) es muy pequeña, menos de un dos por ciento, y sin embargo la diferencia visible es grande. Tuvimos un ancestro común que vivió hace unos cinco millones de años. Con el tiempo se acumularon pequeñas diferencias genéticas que culminaron en las diferencias observadas. Es la razón por la cual algunos proponen que sería más acertado llamar al chimpancé Homo troglodytes[v] aunque a mí me suena perfecto para los humanos. Con raras excepciones el mismo código genético es utilizado por todos los organismos, esculpido en la molécula de ADN (o ARN en algunos casos), estas moléculas a su vez compuestas por las mismas cinco bases químicas. Se observa una gran similitud en las secuencias genómicas de organismos pertenecientes a diversos grupos filogenéticos. El proceso fundamental de síntesis de proteínas en todas las formas de vida es similar e indica que se ha conservado casi intacto por los últimos tres mil millones de años a partir de un ancestro común. Todo apunta a un parentesco histórico, a un único origen. Todo sugiere que no necesitamos leyes especiales y sobrenaturales para la vida y que el mito de la creación de las diversas culturas se plasma en esta nueva versión real.

It is not true that the genetic difference between man and chimpanzee is around 1%. According to Cohen, Evoltionary Biology: Relative Differences: The Myth of 1% Science 29 June 2007: 1836 “human and chimpanzee gene copy numbers differ by a 6.4%. In any case, percentage difference is not a measure of the difference in quality of intelligent design and natural selection models. After all, totally unrelated objects may have many similar features —whether designed or not. This type of argument is as meaningless as an exercise in the San Juan Star (decribed here) which asked students to calculate the percentage difference between two distinc religions. Using logic like this, one could claim that a monkey is more like a potato than a man because both monkey and potato have similar carbon content yet unlike men fail to believe in global warming or drive SUV’s.

[Altschuler] Y ahora me entero que un miembro de la cámara de representantes, quiere emular a Bush con una resolución concurrente (R. Conc. de la C. 47) que dice en parte en su exposición de motivos:

“El asunto especifico de la creación del ser humano ha representado un serio debate sobre diferentes posturas que pretenden explicar el mismo” y que finaliza con “Hoy esta Asamblea Legislativa se solidariza y apoya las expresiones vertidas por el presidente de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica, George W. Bush, en torno a que la teoría del diseño inteligente en cuanto a la creación del ser humano debe enseñarse en conjunto con al teoría de la evolución en las escuelas públicas de dicho país. ” La resolución expresa además que la teoría de diseño inteligente, “ha sido atacada por aquellos que postulan que el sistema público de enseñanza no puede promover ningún tipo de concepto a favor de un ser supremo que intervenga con la humanidad. . . ” Parecería que quien redactó la resolución no conoce la Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, que es donde se postula tal cosa.

Bush again! —like a monkey on the back. There is a difference between teaching ideas and “promoting” them. To prohibit the intellectual discussion of ideas is called censorship.

[Altschuler] La Sección 3 de dicha constitución dice: “Libertad de culto. No se aprobará ley alguna relativa al establecimiento de cualquier religión ni se prohibirá el libre ejercicio del culto religioso. Habrá completa separación de la iglesia y el estado. ” Es ésta una expresión mucho más contundente que lo que dice la primera enmienda a la constitución de los EE. UU: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . ” Esos hombres y algunas mujeres que redactaron estas constituciones sabían lo que era la persecución religiosa que les motivó a escribir esto. De paso, cada vez que en un acto oficial del gobierno, una graduación en una escuela pública se hace una invocación se está violando la constitución de Puerto Rico.

According to Robert Meyer:

“Jefferson likely borrowed the idea of “separation” from the 17th century advocate of religious liberty, Roger Williams. But Williams’ understanding of “separation” meant that the civil government shouldn’t regulate the church or encumber the conscience of the individual. This was the idea promoted in the First Amendment. Not until the Everson decision in 1947, do we see the religious clauses used to keep religious precept out of government. In fact, if we read Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796, we discover that Washington believed religion to be an essential pillar of support for good government.”

Video on the real views of the writers of the constitution.

[Altschuler] La idea religiosa de diseño inteligente no es admisible en el salón de clase, menos en el de ciencia, en el cual lo más importante reside en la prueba de nuestras ideas por medio del contraste empírico y coherencia con nuestro aval de conocimientos.

That some religious people believe that ID theory is a better explanation of some features of our world than natural selection does not make it a religious theory. This can only be decided by examining its content —something the author has assiduously avoided— preferring instead the logical falicies of ad hominem and straw man. In any case, science religion and philosophy are fundamentally connected and to remove any of these from the classroom is to provide a deficient education.

[Altschuler] Lo que se enseña en la clase de ciencia debe ser determinado por los científicos, lo que se enseña en la de historia por los historiadores, y lo que se enseña en literatura por los literatos.

In the light of evolutionist concerns about censorship in the eighteenth century is rather ironic that today, they themselves advocate the banning of alternative viepoints. The extent of current censorship is well described in the excellent 2008 movie Expelled “No Intelligence Allowed”.

Unfortunately, control of the science curriculum by “scientists only” is a dangerous notion. Like communism, the idea is attractive (to some) but such a policy is unworkable in light of the moral and intellectual disorder of the real world. In the ranks of degree wielding scientists are many who are ignorant of anything outside their narrow specialization. More than a few lack common sense or, worse, have no respect for truth. As the recent Math wars and the Whole Language controversies have demonstrated, the field of school curricula is a battleground of competing ideologies and philosophies. Interference in Education by the National Science Foundation has already wreaked havoc in the schools by imposing educational theories bordering on the insane.

Scientists are as subject to the phenomena of “group think” as anyone else. For thirty years, most have kept a tight silence around the entirely preventable deaths by malaria of 50 million people, caused by banning DDT on the basis of the fictitious claim that it is highly toxic —actually, one can eat a spoonful without observable harmful effect.

Like lemmings, many scientists cling to unproven fables involving CO2 and “anthropogenic global warming”. Spurred on by pecuniary incentives and political favors “experts” in climate, whose mathematical and statistical training is limited to a handful of courses condescendingly entitled “mathematics for scientists”, feel an urge to impose their lunatic ideas on society. The result is economic havoc and starvation when the price of corn rises in parallel with its conversion to bio-fuel. On what basis should we expect an improvement in education if “scientists only” were the sole arbiters of what is to be taught in the science classroom?

[Altschuler] El creacionismo científico, no es científico, y el diseño inteligente no es inteligente.

In the absence of any definition of intelligent design this is merely empty rhetoric. Incredibly, Altschuler’s article totally avoids all references to the works of the actual ID theorists he is attacking.

[Altschuler] La raíz del problema, por demás comprensible dadas nuestras circunstancias finitas, es la premisa de Paley, que es falsa. Es posible tener un diseño sin diseñador.

Another false dichotomy. Paley never said it was impossible to have a design without a designer. The question is, whether it is possible to have the design of certain irreducible complex objects without a designer.

[Altschuler] A pesar de lo que dice el Papa, no es necesario tratar la mente como una causa primera y es posible considerarla como una consecuencia. Ver la inteligencia como producto de la ininteligencia no parece tener sentido, pero lo tiene si entendemos a Darwin, y esto nos libera de la necesidad del diseñador inteligente. Y es que si necesitamos un diseñador para producir un diseño, entonces caemos en una regresión infinita: ¿Quién diseña al diseñador?

We certainly need a designer to produce a Heiniken bottle fully equipped with label and containing beer. I don’t see an infinite regression here. A finite sequence of designers would suffice with perhaps one God as first element —a sequence of Gods would of course contradict the notion of God. But, as already pointed out ID theory claims not to enter into the metaphysical question of the source of intelligence.

[Altschuler] Y para cubrir esta interrogante se torna necesario recurrir a lo sobrenatural. Pero hay otra forma que no violenta la lógica. El orden biológico es consecuencia de las leyes de la física, química y biología. La evolución nos explica lo que observamos, y no es necesario explicarlo con un diseñador. Si, sin guía ni plan. Un gran número de pequeños pasos automáticos de un algoritmo natural, con el paso de los milenios devengan la diversidad y organización que observamos.

This is precisely the point at issue. As noted previously, more than a few scientists disagree with the claim that random mutations and natural selection are the principal or even sufficient causes of evolution. ID theorists claim that their model is a better explanation but, unfortunately, much handwaving and lack of rigour can be found on both sides of the debate. For example, Altschuler refers to a “natural algorithm” without explaining its nature. Mathematical algorithms require input (or an initial state). What is the input of this natural algorithm? Can darwinists account for this initial state?

[Altschuler] La mente es una propiedad emergente de este proceso. No se necesita nada más. A los que ignoran la ciencia les parece milagroso, para los que la conocen es meramente maravilloso.

Perhaps someone should inform all those scientists and philosophers throughout the ages that they have wasted their lives trying to understand the problem of the mind.

[Altschuler] No me puedo oponer a que cada cual crea lo que quiera, y el que no desee conocer la realidad tal como la conocemos hoy, resultado de un viaje intelectual fabuloso, que se quede bruto —es su opción. Pero es inadmisible que aceptemos a los jóvenes se les enseñe lo que no es cierto, que se les de gato por liebre, que se les estafe intelectualmente y condene a la ignorancia. The auther clearly includes himself in the “politburo” who will officially define which of various competing scientific models is the “true” one and may be taught.

[Altschuler] La lucha contra la tiranía del dogma, contra la parálisis inducida por los libros sagrados que aprisionan la mente, comenzó con Copérnico, Bruno y Galileo y continuó con muchos otros héroes (muchos olvidados).

Bruno was burned at the stake for his belief in the transmigration of the human soul into animals, magic, divination and for other heresies —not for his writings in support of heliocentric cosmology. In fact, there was no official Catholic position on the Copernican system which was regarded not as a heresy but rather as a model producing results in good accord with observation. Galileo did not fight against the “tyranny of dogma” —he was a devout Catholic. His main mistake was to declare the Copernican theory true when in fact he did not posses the evidence to sustain such a claim. For this he suffered house arrest, a most lenient punishment for the times. His ornate marble tomb in the famous Santa Croce Church in Firenza, Italy evidences of the esteem to which he was held by the Church. The very fact that the 400 year old Galileo episode (for which the Church apologized) is virtually the only case ever cited by those proclaiming that the Church is an obstacle to science is in reality evidence of the lack of any such dichotomy. To use that this as evidence of a tyranny of dogma is as ridiculous as invoking the manifold blunders, misconceptions, and stupidities of scientists to discredit the scientific method.

Altschuler clearly believes that the world would be a better place without the concept of God —an old idea that whenever it has been seriously tested has led to catastrophic results. Compared to the purges of the 20th century, driven by the atheistic regimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Fidel Castro and others the Inquisition was a relatively benign affair. More recently, in Britain, a culture of death has filled the vacuum left by the rapidly vanishing of religion and eliminated the previously strong respect for life.

As for Bruno he would equally likely have been slaughtered by these regimes for the crime of being a priest who believed that an infinite God created an infinite universe.
[Altschuler] Se han ganado batallas importantes pero no la guerra. Queda mucho por hacer para romper la maraña de cadenas que inmovilizan la mente y el espíritu humano y no le dejan cobrar altura. Lo que menos necesitamos es la ayuda del gobierno para mantenernos en la edad media.

Altschuler’s article is ideological rather than scientific in nature, an incomensurable collection of half truths, part of a larger war against religion. As an attack on religion it fails for reasons explained above. As a refutation of ID it is scientifically flawed. Since the domain of ID lies roughly within the spheres of information theory, probability theory and complexity, a proper refutation (if that were the real objective) would necessarily hinge on mathematical problems in its definitions and axioms and not on straw man creationist arguments. Indeed, some mathematicians have attacked ID theory on the grounds that one of its key concepts “specification” is lacking a sound definition. If this is the case, the problem of determining the existence of intelligence from design would seem to be an open one.

[Altschuler] Ah si, por si le picó la curiosidad: John Scopes fue declarado culpable y tuvo que pagar una multa de $100.

arecibo observatory

This is actually not the end of the story. Scopes’ conviction was overturned on a technicality so he did not pay anything.

Footnote: Not so long ago, the well known Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory, at which Dr. Altschuler served as Director, participated in a program called SETI (search for extraterrestial intelligence). Logically, either this supposes the ID theory has solved the problem of defining and detecting intelligence or the observatory was wasting our tax dollars. The arguments against intelligence design presented by Dr. Altschuler appears to support the latter hypothesis.

“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”—Augustine

Philip Pennance – May 18, 2009