Vicki Davis on Science and Intelligent Design

Tweeting Vicki Davis to ask if she planned on seeing “Expelled” led to challenging her conflation of belief and theory, which led to this:

@petrock – Theory is not a synonym for belief, however, we may choose which theory that we believe ourselves, scientists do it all the time.

Scientists discern (i.e. “choose”) based upon evidence. To equate discernment between scientific theories with choosing between supernatural beliefs is an insult to science.

@petrock When you start judging the “legitimacy” of a theory — you are by definition interjecting your personal belief system.

When a theory is supported by evidence and one continues to test that evidence to see where it leads, this is not a “personal” journey. There’s a reason why scientific communities come together, and it isn’t because they share an “interjected”, “personal” belief. They simply share the urge to discover.

On Twitter, I was so taken aback by Vicki’s remarks that I made a rather useless retort wondering if she had been watching too much FOX (one of her favorite sources that has a reputation of having “news” anchors who often use similar reasoning). My apologies. I hope this post helps Vicki see where my thinking is at.

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30 Responses to “Vicki Davis on Science and Intelligent Design”

  1. Lovegod Says:

    Vicki’s point is that creationism and evolution are both valid theories. When you ignore the theory of Intelligent Design, you are not being a scientist! When you get a bunch of scientists putting the blinders on to God, then science is closed minded. It’s pretty stupid to just say there is no God when you have no scientific proof that he doesn’t exist! Look around and you can see evidence of Him everywhere! God made YOU!

    Peace.

  2. mindelei Says:

    I have to admit that I get rather annoyed by the fact that we all have so much difficulty remembering the difference between the use of the word “theory” in daily life and the use of the word “theory” in a scientific manner. In our day-to-day lives, a theory is simply an idea. But I would like to provide a definition of the word theory from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED):

    Theory:
    4. a. A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

    With science, it is not about proving a hypothesis; it is about disproving a hypothesis. As of yet, they have not been able to disprove evolution. If and when they do, hopefully we will have a better theory to stand in it’s place.

  3. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    I don’t view ID as a theory. It is a framework for interpreting evidence. As such, it provides a stark contrast to secular materialism. The root question is, is there a purpose and a plan to the Universe?

    Secularists/athiests assume that there is no purpose or plan. We’re just here. It all just happened by random chance. There’s evidence aplenty that when Darwin first published “The Origin of Species” they gleefully seized on evolution as a tool with which to destroy religion. Recent books by Dawkins and others continue in that same vein, mocking and deriding persons of faith as “deluded.”

    Persons of faith (from Anglicans to Zoroastrians) assume that there is in fact a plan and a purpose to the Universe, and that it can be discovered to one extent or another. Many of the greatest scientists in history were deeply religious individuals. (Many people forget that Gregor Mendel, the “Father of Genetics” was a monk.)

    It can be demonstrated logically that neither the existence nor the non-existence of God can be conclusively proven nor disproven. Both theism and atheism are at root matters of faith.

    But the implications of these worldviews are huge. If there is a Designer, then each human life has purpose and meaning. But if we’re just the product of a very large number random molecular collisions, then what’s the point of anything? Do what you want, and hang the rest. It makes no difference anyway.

    Hmm.. perhaps that’s why the number of hospitals named after St. Luke exceeds the number of hospitals named after Madeline Murray O’Hare? (To be fair, I have heard from many atheists that their philosophy is, “This life is all that we have, so let’s do as much good as possible.” Good for them.)

    The difficulty for the atheist, of course, is that humans appear to be hard-wired to see patterns and to seek meaning beyond themselves. Why should we naturally attempt find a thing which does not exist? There are no atheist aboriginal societies.

    I’m no fundamentalist, and I’m not a Biblical literalist especially as regards the first few chapters of Genesis. As a person of faith (specifically the variety as described by C. S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”), I’m less concerned with where we came from than where we’re going.

    Especially since, as a society, we appear to be riding in a handbasket. :-/

  4. Vicki Davis Says:

    I think that to debate such things in twitter is not the best use of twitter. I also think that when you stereotype me or anyone else that you are doing a grave disservice.

    To automatically assume that I am controlled by any news media is to condescend to me as if I am an unintelligent robot.

    I have studied Darwin, Karl Marx and many other belief systems other than my own. I believe in making decisions out of education not like the little kid sitting in the corner saying “Na Na Na, I can’t hear you!”

    The point is that evolution is the “theory of evolution,” however it is being taught as the “fact of evolution.”

    As you so well stated, no one really knows the creation of the universe. I believe it is fair to state all theories and you know what, I think that even includes the theory that is growing in favor w/ some scientists of alien origin.

    I am not threatened by the theories — to look at the theories of the origin of the world gives us amazing insight into many schools of knowledge and people.

    It is when one group gains dominance and will not allow other theories to be shared that we have problems.

    Now, as for me and myself, this is what I know. God is real. Jesus Christ is my best friend. Now, there are some that will judge me and totally treat me like I’m an idiot for believing and knowing such things to be true.

    However, I also believe in human choice and freedom to choose. We are here but for a moment on this earth and have every right to choose what we will believe. It is my job to treat each person who makes their choice as a human being worthy of respect and kindness. I’m not a designated judge of mankind, I am a designated servant of God.

    I will treat you with respect and give you the right to believe as you will. I, however, also ask you to treat me and other Christians with respect. Although you do not believe as I, it does not make me inferior or stupid.

    And if you already know what you think I believe, then why ask! I don’t know that twitter is really the right place to engage in these debates.

    My point on creation is that all theories that have a reasonable following should be shared. And that they should be shared as theories not facts.

    I think that is fair and an educated response.

    Best wishes. I have a big presentation tomorrow and my bags did not make it here, so I’ll be working with other things over the next few days. Catch you later.

  5. Peter Rock Says:

    Corrie, you say:

    “[Intelligent Design] is a framework for interpreting evidence.

    Interpreting evidence of what?

    Then you claim:

    The root question is, is there a purpose and a plan to the Universe?

    How do you know this is the “root” question? Is there a “root” question? Perhaps a better question is – “Why do I ask myself what the purpose and plan is to the Universe?”

  6. Peter Rock Says:

    Vicki, evolution is not an explanation of “the origin of the Universe”. It is an explanation for the development of species afterward, but not the origin of all.

    Neither science nor the bible nor any book of knowledge can unlock that mystery. Quantum mechanics may take us right to the door, but that door will never let any knowledge walk through it. It can’t.

    ID is an attempt to speak to The Origin of the Universe by claiming that behind the door is a “designer”. If someone wants to propagate what they *believe* is behind the door, then they should do it in their church, synagogue, mosque or home. I support their freedom to do so. Just leave science in schools alone! (Is this where I post a Chris Crocker-like Youtube video to get my point across?)

  7. Peter Rock Says:

    Mindelei says:

    With science, it is not about proving a hypothesis; it is about disproving a hypothesis.

    That’s so simple and cuts right to the heart of the matter.

  8. skydaddy Says:

    Vicki – AMEN, SISTER! :-)

    Mindelei – Indeed. That is one reason that I find Christianity to be a valid and rational worldview. CHRISTIANITY IS FALSIFIABLE:

    Just produce a corpse/set of bones/ossuary/occupied grave (with good provenance, of course, either by preponderance of evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt) that can be identified as belonging to a 1st-century CE itinerant rabble-rouser/rabbi/healer/preacher named Y’shua Ben Y’suf, of Nazareth or Capernum, where the body is that of a robust man in his early thirties, and has been scourged and crucified in the Roman manner.

    As Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, then all our teaching is in vain.” Produce the body of the Crucified Carpenter, and I’ll become a Buddhist Pagan overnight.

    Rocky:

    You said [quote]
    Corrie, you say:

    “[Intelligent Design] is a framework for interpreting evidence.”

    Interpreting evidence of what?

    Then you claim:

    “The root question is, is there a purpose and a plan to the Universe?”

    How do you know this is the “root” question? Is there a “root” question? Perhaps a better question is – “Why do I ask myself what the purpose and plan is to the Universe?”
    [/quote]

    Both Intelligent Design (ID) (along with its cousin theism) and It Just Happened (IJH) aka Secular Materialism are frameworks for interpreting ALL the evidence of EVERYTHING you see ANYWHERE. No matter where you look – at the farthest galaxy or deeply into the smallest parts of an atom – you will interpret what you see in the light of your worldview.

    And has been demonstrated countless times, your worldview can blind you.

    You ask, “Why do I ask myself if there’s a root question?” GOOD QUESTION ! :-D No, seriously, that is an EXCELLENT question!!

    If we are just the current result (not the end product – there’s no such thing as an end product) of random processes, then there is no reason why we should reason. Maybe we don’t really reason. Maybe “it’s turtles all the way down.” Maybe the abyss is staring back, and winning.

    Or.

    There can be an Or, can’t there? You will admit to the possibility of alternatives?

    Suppose that there is Order. (Look at chaos theory – there are strange attractors – order amidst the disorder.) Systems self-organize. Flocks… flock. (According to a few simple rules, as it turns out. “Thou Shalt Not be found more than X cm from any two of thy peers, lest thy foe consume thee.”)

    Why ask why?

    My young friend, that is a VERY good question. One that I myself asked many years ago. If I may be so bold as to offer advice, go and think about that question.

    But as you do, consider that there is an alternative to staring into the abyss.

  9. Peter Rock Says:

    skydaddy (aka Corrie Bergeron):

    Again I ask, interpreting evidence of what?

    The question, “Why do I ask myself what the purpose and plan is to the Universe?” I can’t ask myself because I don’t ask myself what the purpose and plan is to the Universe. Apparently, you do. So tell us, why do you?

  10. Lovegod Says:

    Evidence of GOD! DUH!

    Skydad, you are WAY too patient with the kiddo here. AMEN to you and may he find a little J in his life as he ages. With all due respect Rocky, you’re a little baby taking on wisdom and truth. Admirable and understandable but once you let God and Jesus into your life, then you really start knowing what the big picture is all about.

    Peace.

  11. skydaddy Says:

    You ask, “Again I ask, interpreting evidence of what?”

    EVERYTHING. How can I make that more clear? Either there Is A Reason, or There Is Not. I look at the night sky – especially as revealed by the Hubbe Space Telescope – and I see the awesome, infinite power of God.

    I look into the quantum state of the electron, at the the paradox of Up versus the Strange charm (or was that Color?) of the… OK. if Neils Bohr couldn’t explain it then I don’t feel so bad. :-)

    As regards a Purpose and a Plan, well…

    Is there a Shoe? Does it fit? Then wear it.

    And walk a mile or two, even if it’s someone elses’ footwear..

  12. skydaddy Says:

    Lovegod, thank you. Frankly, IMO Rocky is t(w)eeetering on the edge of trolldom IMR. I’ve spent enough hours casting pearls before swine.

  13. Clay Burell Says:

    One of my favorite sayings from Gone with the Wind is when Rhett Butler tries to calm Scarlett after a fit of guilt over the horrible things she’s done to survive, and a fit of fear of hell-fire.

    Rhett tells her she’s not going to burn in hell, as I recall. Scarlett will hear none of that. She’s sure she is going to burn.

    (I’m telling a story. Please don’t jump in with “The Lord will save her when she gives her heart to Jesus” or whatever – I’m an ex-Baptist and Southerner, like Vicki, and heard all that type of thing for 20 years. I’m just setting up the story for such a great line from classic cinema. Here it comes.)

    Rhett, seeing Scarlett won’t listen, smiles and says,

    “Far be it from me to question the teachings of childhood.”

    Dawkins calls it a meme, right?

    It’s nice to think your friend is the creator of the cosmos, that you and your loved ones won’t die, and that milk and honey await.

    And it’s really hard to think otherwise and let go, when you’ve devoted most of your life to living by that system of rules.

    And I’d really have no problem with it, if it didn’t try to undermine and confuse public understanding of basic science and its method, and attack it by devious (or else merely scientifically ignorant) means.

    Vicki, I’ve heard your “I’ve read Marx, Darwin, and Nietzsche” line twice now – you used it on Arthus’ call-in as your authoritative trump card, right after “I’m an educator, and I believe evolution is just a theory” – but I’m not convinced you understood them too well.

    Nietzsche nowhere writes a systematic refutation of the existence of god – he assumes it based on his understanding of history, and really traces the origins of the belief, its effects on culture and history, and the possible consequences of its death and decay as modernity continues replacing it.

    You say Darwin’s scientific work is a “belief system,” which similarly suggests a misunderstanding that Darwin “believed” instead of “hypothesized based on evidence.” Darwin probably would have asked what you meant by his “belief system” when, like all scientists, he was observing, asking questions, forming hypotheses – and ones that are overwhelmingly the most satisfactory thus far to explain our Origins along with all other animals on this planet.

    Skydaddy, don’t you think the falsifiability argument is silly? “You can’t find Jesus’ coffin.” We can’t find Adam’s either, and he did die, according to your belief. Most Roman-era corpses are dust by now, or else buried.

    But far be it from me to question these teachings.

    Adults taught as children in the Middle East would be as fervid in their defenses of Allah.

    Memes. If only they united instead of divided, and led to critical openness to evidence instead of error and illogic.

  14. Lovegod Says:

    Maybe the little piggy will one day come back to this post and take your pearls with him. Don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time here. You’ve laid the groundwork despite his ignorance. And even if the ignorant baby boy doesn’t get it, others will see your wisdom and help spread Jesus and ID.

    Peace.

  15. Peter Rock Says:

    Clay says:

    “[Evolution is] the most satisfactory thus far to explain our Origins along with all other animals on this planet.

    Yes. But to be clear, the origin of species, not the origin of the universe.

  16. Clay Burell Says:

    Of species, Peter, of course.

    I wonder if the future won’t open ways we can’t now imagine – you know, the way healing the sick by the thousands and flying used to be considered only possible as “miracles” – new ways to seek answers to the question of the origin of the universe.

    That’s the cool thing about scientific inquiry. It turns miracles into routine acts.

  17. Evan Thornton Says:

    When in doubt on such weighty matters, I often consult the good Reverend Huber, whose excellent treatise on the nature of faith has been turned into a video by the good people at Nimpsy Ministries

    http://tinyurl.com/znwhy

  18. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    Wow. It’s hard to see the forest for the straw men around here.

    Y’know, what gets us faith folks so riled is when the supposedly staid, evidence-based, “just the facts, Ma’am,” testable-hypotheses-only-if-you-please crowd starts treating us like we’re stupid because we believe.

    I can’t speak for others, but I don’t think that unbelievers are stupid. (Foolish, yes, but that’s not my word – that’s what God says. So take it up with Him, ok?) I also don’t think that unbelievers are evil, satanic, or incapable of good actions (check out Romans 2).

    But golly, some of them folks are just plain mean.

  19. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    Clay,

    A baby’s birth is a routine act. But it’s still a miracle.

  20. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    re falsifiability – see http://sddc.blogspot.com/2008/05/falsifiability-and-christianity.html

  21. Lovegod Says:

    @Corrie B

    AMEN! Well said! And as Ms Davis says, it DOESN’T matter what you believe – EVERYTHING is a belief! We don’t go around saying you are stupid for believing in evolution even if its not the smartest thing to believe it. We only expect RESPECT for our beliefs, THAT’S ALL. You read in a book that we all came from a bunch of mud and we know that He made us in His image WITH LOVE. You go think about your MUD and we will get to know HIM with science ID-style! So are you with us or not with us? Understand Rocky? You can have science AND God or sit there with your evolution asking questions and feeling bad about yourself. I’m not saying that you are bad if you don’t believe in God and His Son but Corrie has been patient with you and given you the way. Maybe you should rethink your attacking Ms Davis and Corrie and Christians everywhere??? Wasn’t such a good idea now that you think about it huh?

    Peace.

  22. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    I expanded on “Falsifiability” here: http://sddc.blogspot.com/2008/05/falsifiability-and-christianity.html

  23. Clay Burell Says:

    Corrie, I re-read my comment and don’t see any meanness in it (we both know we laugh with a sort of incredulity at our mutual blindness to each other’s points of view, but that’s not mean). Since I like you, Corrie, I hope you don’t take my honesty as meanness.

    As for birth being a miracle, I’m not sure I agree. Science seems able to explain the process pretty well. But this may be a semantic thing.

    Defined broadly, my favorite quote about miracles comes from what is, to me, one of the wisest spiritual traditions on the planet, the non-theist, humble, wise thing called Taoism. Chuang-Tse, I think, was the one who said:

    “The greatest miracle of all is that we are sitting here, talking.”

    But I fail to see how anyone can prove that’s the result of Jehovah, Jesus, and company. And as soon as we start insisting it does, we go from “sitting here, talking,” to – sadly – “sitting here, fighting.”

    Humility – intellectual humility – avoids that fight.

  24. Johannes Says:

    the issue here isn’t what Ms. Davis personally believes to be true – for her – in her own heart and mind. The issue is the division of church and state.

    As for the legitimacy of creationism as a theory? That’s for all of you to debate. In other countries, this is regarded as an especially American issue for evangelicals.

    The ultimate question is whether you wish to live in a theocracy where there is no division between church and state.

    It’s ironic that the use has used the argument of theocracies when planning military invasions of other countries. Particularly countries they deem as “fundamentalist” – when they do not regard their own views as such. The very “theory” of creationism is wrapped into an entire belief system. It is inseparable from that belief system and as such non objective.

  25. Peter Rock Says:

    skydaddy (aka Corrie Bergeron) says:

    Y’know, what gets us faith folks so riled is when the […] crowd starts treating us like we’re stupid because we believe.

    I don’t care if you believe. Whatever floats your boat. What I’m treating as “stupid” is the claim that ID isn’t creationism/monotheism in disguise, but a “scientific alternative” to evolution. Want to stand behind that? Then I’ll shed no tears when you interpret my words as a personal attack on your cognitive capabilities.

    This guy believes. And while I may not share his beliefs, he’s apparently a lot smarter than several persons (myself included) we’ve heard in this post’s comments.

  26. A Sunday Science Sermon | Beyond School Says:

    […] proponents of Creationism and Intelligent Design going on in America. Many of our edubloggers are guilty of that.  In my book, no responsible progressive will stay silent and cede the battle for scientific […]

  27. John Larkin Says:

    I dearly wanted to understand and comprehend the debate within the preceding comments but I seemed to be taken in so many directions. There was agreement and disagreement, bridges and chasms, never the twain shall meet. I was hoping to write something truly cogent. All i can write is this…

    I guess I am simply happy that I am alive. Been close to the other side. I believe this debate will be rather pointless if we do not collectively figure out a way to save the planet that give us life in the first place, no matter whom or what created it, and provided the underlying platform for these notions of origin, life and creation to arise. Food riots, climate change, drought, melting ice-caps. It worries me.

    If we all depart along with a dead planet what will happen to our debates, theories and beliefs then?

    Best wishes, John.

  28. Love Democracy Says:

    When the creationists win, it is the end of democracy as we know it. Furthermore, the end of the US as a world leader for scientific research.

    We’ve already lost most of our industries to cheaper third world labour. We’re heading into a recession, and morons like this want to ruin the last great thing we’ve got: our very integrity and the respect of other nations.

    This isn’t about a lone creationist let loose in the public education system. This is about the presence of such people in the public education system.

  29. aniline Says:

    “The point is that evolution is the “theory of evolution,” however it is being taught as the “fact of evolution.”

    As you so well stated, no one really knows the creation of the universe. I believe it is fair to state all theories and you know what, I think that even includes the theory that is growing in favor w/ some scientists of alien origin.”

    OMG. Can someone please tell this poor lady that evolution is a theory that explains the origins of biodiversity on earth. It has nothing to say about the creation of the universe!

    One other thing: the relationship between theories and facts. A theory is a self-consistent collection of ideas which explain facts. We make observations. We check those observations until we can be reasonably certain they are facts. Then we explain those facts using a theory. The theory explains the facts, and the facts reinforce the theory. If at some point the theory proves flawed in explaining new facts, we modify the theory. In this way, theories are organic and in a constant state of growth themselves.

    I get so tired of repeatedly explaining this sort of thing to people who supposedly should know better. I do not know Ms. Vicki Davis, but from how she writes and speaks about herself I can conclude she is an educated person. Educated people have no excuse.

    All I can say is, try harder.

  30. Vicki Davis Says:

    I just returned to this conversation after being gone for a while. I guess I missed being called a “moron” and to “try harder.”

    ;-)

    It is so important to respect the opinions of others and yes, I certainly believe church and state should be separate. There is a big difference between state sponsored religion and discussing the alternative that some people believe that a creator created the universe.

    There are multiple theories for where human beings came from … why not share them all? Atheism and theism are two sides of the religious coin — why should atheism be allowed and theism not.

    I did not ask for this debate, I was twittered into it.

    I believe that all people deserve respect no matter their opinion. I do not profess to be an expert on this topic.

    I do however, know my belief system to be true but I respect the rights of others to have their own.

    What bothers me most is the way that both sides of the issue seem to be painting one another. It is my job to love the people God put here, His job to judge.

    I don’t think this debate is going to change the minds of anyone here — pretty much every commenter has made up their own mind here and none of us professing to be experts, the only point I would like to leave here is to ask those who have written to take a look back at what they’ve said about the other side and read it as if it was said to them.

    The total lack of respect and condescension is amazing. Let’s agree to disagree and move on to some things that we do agree on.

    I have learned some great things from Pete on Open Source and he helped me out on my Mom’s computer problem — I appreciate it very much. He is very knowledgeable about open source software and this particular debate has been going on since the time of Socrates and before. So, let’s move on, but let’s remember to treat others with respect when we disagree, I feel like I’m back in elementary school here.

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