Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not a sociologist

One thing I'd love to do is search through the transcripts of the Kangaroo Kourt and find every usage of the phrase "I am not a __________."

Here we come to a lovely example of an "expert" who seems not to be a lot of things. All questions by Calvert, answers by James Barham. Italics indicate where he is not something, bold is an interesting comment.

This is long, so if you don't want to read it, you can skip to the discussion by clicking here. I'm posting the full text so it's available.
Q. Would you please tell us a bit about your background and, you know, the work that you've done and the articles you've written and so forth?
A. Okay. I'm not quite sure where to begin. I was for many years a committed Darwinist. My-- you know, my understanding of-- I had graduate training in the history of science. I was in graduate school before when I was young but never finished my Ph.D.
Q. Where did you get your bachelor's degree?
A. University of Texas at Austin.
Q. And what was that in?
A. Classics.
Q. Classics? And then your master's degree was in what?
A. History of science.
Q. The history of science.
A. I was working on ancient astronomy.
Q. Okay, and you're now working towards your doctorate?
A. That's correct.
Q. And when do you expect to complete that?
A. Two or three more years.
Q. And what is your interest there?
A. History and philosophy. So my emphasis has switched from history to philosophy over the years.
Q. Now, is it fair to say that you are an independent scholar?
A. Yes, I've been working as an independent scholar for the last fifteen, twenty years.
Q. Could you explain what that means?
A. Well, it just basically means I'm following my own interests, reading things that I'm interested in, drawing my own conclusions. I have published about a dozen papers over the years. And I gather that one of my recent publications came to your attention. I got a call from you out of the blue, and that's why I'm here.
Q. And the paper that drew my attention, is that contained in a book?
A. The Debating of Design book?
Q. Yeah.
A. I assume that's what--
Q. Could you tell us about that book?
A. About the book?
Q. And your article, just briefly.
A. Well, the book grew out of a conference that I attended at Concordia University in Wisconsin. And I was simply asked to contribute, you know, to the ideas that I had been developing over a period of time, over a period of about fifteen years, which basically consists of two parts. A is a critique of the idea that natural selection is a complete and convincing account of evolution; and B, some-- trying to integrate some newer ideas to the sciences such as discipline as to the condensed matter physics and other methods as perhaps an alternative way of understanding the functional coordination of humanology that I believe is real and objectively there.
Q. Now, as an independent scholar, how does that distinguish you from other scholars? I mean--
A. Well, I was not being paid by anybody to do this research. I was just doing it because I felt compelled to do it.
Q. And you're not tied to any academic environment or university?
A. I was until very recently. I reentered graduate school two years ago.
Q. Did you feel like you had ultimate academic freedom in that as an independent scholar?
A. Nobody could tell me what I couldn't read, exactly, what I couldn't think.
Q. Okay. And is it-- I think when we talked you said that you had-- you have experienced two convergences in your life. Would you explain those?
A. Well, I prefer to say a loss of faith than a convergence, but I was raised-- I was born in Dallas, Texas, raised as a Southern Baptist, but I lost my Christian faith very young, many-- doing reading, Why I'm Not a Christian and other similar things, around the age of twelve. And I was a convinced materialist, atheist, Darwinist for some twenty years, but I was extremely interested in science. I was always interested in both the humanities and the sciences, hence my degree in classics and working on my Ph.D. in the history of science. And later, it just slowly over the years began to dawn on me that I couldn't reconcile these two sides of my life, my interests. On the one hand, I'm a human being interested in the arts and literature. I'm interested in the whole spiritual side of humanity. On the other side, I'm interested in the scientific account of how the human being fits into the universe, which is in complete conflict with the first account. So, you know, my curiosity led me to try to think things through more deeply and to see how I could reconcile these, and I came to doubt that natural selection was a complete explanation for the existence and function of organisms.
Q. In your book or the article that's in the Debating Design book, what caught my attention was this quote. You say, quote, "The mechanistic consensus holds that the known laws of physics and chemistry together with special disciplines such as molecular biology fully explain how living things work and the theory of natural selection explains how these laws have come to cooperate with one another to produce the appearance of design in organisms. According to the mechanistic consensus, design is not objectively real but merely an optical illusion like the rising and setting of the sun. On this view, living matter is nothing special. It is just chemistry shaped by natural selection." And that's what you describe as the mechanistic consensus.
A. Right.
Q. Is that a fairly apt description of evolutionary biology as it is taught at the higher academic levels?
A. I think that's fair to say. It's the consensus mainstream opinion. There are, however, scientists who would dispute that.
Q. Okay. Is it fair to say that a core claim of evolution is that the apparent design of nature is just an illusion?
A. Well, it's kind of a sociological question. I haven't done-- I'm not a sociologist, but my impression is that, yes, that's the case.
Q. And would you-- okay. I'd like to turn your attention to a definition-- and by the way, have you read the minority report?
A. Yes, I've read it a couple of times. I don't know everything in it, but I've read it.
Q. I want to turn your attention to the evolution benchmark, which is on page-- page 15.
A. This is James Watson?
Q. Beg pardon?
A. My page 15 has the quotation by James D. Watson.
Q. Well, the page 15, if you'll look on the screen--
A. Oh, I see. All right.
Q. Okay. On the left-hand side is a general description of biological evolution, and then on the right-hand side the minority report has added some additional descriptive information. And the first sentence says, "Biological evolution postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal." Do you agree with that statement?
A. Well, I agree that the mainstream opinion is that. So when you say, "biological evolution postulates," if you interpret that to mean what most biologists believe, then, yes, that's what we believe.
Q. And the mechanism itself that you describe, is that mechanism itself that is postulated, does that mechanism produce a goal or a purpose?
A. I'm not quite sure I understand your question.
Q. Natural selection, random mutation.
A. Are you interested in my own opinion or the opinion of the majority of scientists?
Q. Yes. Well, an opinion of the majority of science.
A. Then, no, certainly. Because the claim is that there is no such thing as purpose. The very concept of purpose, value, meaning, all these concepts are simply illusions.
Q. And-- okay. I think you-- I believe you-- my question is-- for you is what is it that caused you to change your mind about the Darwin story?
A. Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, as I mentioned, it just seemed to be inconsistent. On the one hand, the essence of human life is purpose and meaning and value. And yet, the supposed scientific explanation for how we got here doesn't recognize any of these categories, so that in itself is a problem. But beyond that, it seems to me that the theory of natural selection simply presupposes the function and coordination of organisms at many points so that as an explanatory structure it was incoherent. You can't at the same time say there isn't such a thing as purpose and then presuppose purpose throughout.
Q. You have, I believe, written testimony, prepared remarks?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you bring extra copies with you?
A. I have them. Unfortunately, they're in the trunk of someone's car. I don't have them with me, but I can get them.
MR. CALVERT: We will provide those to the committee.
Q. (BY MR. CALVERT) Could you go into a bit more detail about why you doubt the Darwinian method?
A. Well, in the prepared remarks I made a couple of basic points. First of all, I want to draw the simple distinction which frequently gets overlooked between the fact of whether or not evolution has occurred on the one hand and our theory, our explanation of how that's happened on the other hand. I believe in evolution. I believe that we are here due to a process of common descent. What I'm questioning is whether the theory of natural selection as it's usually presented is a convincing and complete explanation of that. And the reason that I tend to doubt that it is, is because it seems to me if you examine the structure very carefully, you see that it's actually presupposing a function and coordination as it's alleged to have explained at many points. The basic problem is all selection can do is winnow. It can't produce anything. So the question is where does the coordination come from in the first place? An organism has to already exist, has to already be successful, has to already be a viable organism before it can be selected. So you're back to the question of the origin of coordination.
Q. So you think chemical evolution is a problem for--
A. That's a separate issue. I haven't studied that as deeply. It's a big problem. I agree with the previous presenter's remarks that we basically have no idea at the present how it happened. I, as a naturalist, believe that there will be an answer found, but that's a kind of faith that I have. I can't give you--
Q. That is a matter of faith?
A. Yes, naturalistic faith.
Q. I take it that-- from your article that you don't particularly embrace the idea of intelligent design?
A. You know, when you were reading my remarks, I was wondering if you slipped, because I usually eschew the word design. I usually prefer the word theology because it seems to me that design is building in an answer to the question. I just want to pose the question. The apparent purpose of this is the question if Darwin as a complete explanation of the metaphysical system claims that it's able to solve the problems of-- that's what I'm denying. But I don't want to say that there's-- necessarily we must therefore conclude that there was a mind external to the universe. It seems to me there could be other ways to explain the origin or the purpose in the universe and the value in the universe and origin from some kind of internal mechanism that we simply haven't discovered.
Q. So I take it your position is that-- and where you disagree with the Darwinian concept, the Darwinian concept poses the purpose of concept.
A. That's correct.
Q. And you're-- you think that there is real purpose there.
A. That's correct.
Q. And the question is what caused it.
A. That's correct.
Q. And you don't have an answer to that question?
A. Well, I have some ideas.
Q. You have some ideas.
A. They're tentative. I point to them in my argument. As I said, there's some very interesting-- there's interesting work being done in physics, in condensed matter physics in particular. How to get coherence from internal law-like processes, but not random processes. But it's-- you know, it's a frontier field and it's certainly premature to say that any particular theories are going to pan out.
Q. There is a provision in the minority report on page 4 where it says, "According to many scientists, the core claim of evolutionary theory is that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion." And I take it you agree with that?
A. Sure.
Q. And that other scientists disagree. And would you agree with that?
A. Yes, there are scientists who disagree with that.
Q. Now, do you think it's legitimate for science to explore the history?
A. Certainly.
Q. Would you also-- what is your comment about the second-- the third sentence, "These standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement." Do you think that that's a reasonable posture given the present state of science on intelligent design?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. You have looked at the other provisions in the minority report regarding the teaching of evolution, the issue of historical sciences and so forth. Do you believe that those are appropriate provisions, that they call for student understanding that would actually enhance their understanding of biological evolution?
A. Yes. By and large I was in agreement with nearly all of the-- the main quarrel I would have is again the failure to properly make the distinction between the fact of evolution versus the explanation for it. I wish that-- that would be my chief criticism.
Q. Well, how would you do that?
A. Just say what I just said. I don't think that-- I mean, it seems to me that there's a conflation of issues. You know, one can argue that we can infer common descent directly from the body of evidence even in the absence of the theory of natural selection, and then it's a further question of whether the theory of natural selection is a complete and convincing explanation of these factors.
Q. Do you have-- and it would be helpful to me if you could articulate your idea in writing.
A. Oh, well, I have these.
Q. Do you have a particular suggestion, then? Do you have it with you or--
A. Well, again, I don't have them here. Unfortunately I left them in the car, but, you know, I can go get them and bring them in.
Q. Well, I have a copy of your report here. Would that be of any help?
A. Is that the most recent version?
Q. Well, I'm not really sure. It's called Test Prepared Remarks, Topeka Hearings, May 7th.
A. I was still working on those up until yesterday, so I'm not quite sure. But anyway, yeah, more or less, that's it.
Q. We have two minutes. We probably don't have time for that, but it will show up in your written testimony?
A. That's correct. I have them.
Q. Do you think-- could you briefly explain your views on methodological naturalism and whether that is an appropriate concept and use in origin science?
A. Thanks for reminding me. I should have said that before when you asked me my opinion of the standards. There are two-- there's a distinction that would be helpful to make, it seems to me. On the one hand, we use the word naturalism to mean that the natural world, the universe as a whole is complete and that we should not look outside of it to some transcendent realm for a causal explanation in short. Naturalism is opposed contrastably with the supernatural, theism. On the other hand, sometimes we use it to mean avoiding any normative language, avoiding discussing things in terms of purpose, design, intelligence, avoiding these categories which we felt not to be properly part of science. I myself am a naturalist in the first sense, but I am denying that the second sense of naturalism need be the case. It seems to me that there's no good reason why we can't eventually expand our notion of what science-- empirical science is, and there are people who have some ideas about how to do this already. Whether they pan out is another question. But there are people, Robert Loughlin, in condensed matter physics, has a new book out in which he's trying to explain the concept of-- Stuart Kaufman is perhaps a better name. Who would-- there are certainly naturalists like I am in the first sense, but they're not naturalists in the second sense. They're saying these categories are not illusions, they're real, they're objectively there and we must find a new way of understanding that goes beyond Darwin.
Q. So you would find fault with particularly origin science as opposed to using methodological naturalism that essentially denies purpose?
A. Yes, I would deny that.
MR. CALVERT: Thank you very much, Dr. Barham. I believe-- Mr. Irigonegaray, your witness.
Q. Sir, I have some initial questions for the record. How old, in your opinion, is the earth?
A. Four and a half billion is the accepted view. I would accept that. I have no reason to doubt that.
Q. Do you accept that general principle of common descent, that all life is biologically related back to the beginning of life?
A. I do.
Q. Do you accept that human beings are related by common descent to prehominid ancestors?
A. Yes, I do.
MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Counsel, would you please put up page 15 for me, please?
Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) And by the way, sir, while he's doing that, did you take the opportunity to read the majority report in toto?
A. No, I've only read the summary of proposed revisions.
Q. And who sent you those?
A. Mr. Calvert.
Q. Did Mr. Calvert, in order to give you a fair and complete evaluation-- opportunity of Kansas standards for children, send you the majority report as well?
A. I was given to understand that all of the relevant--
Q. No, sir, listen to my question. Listen to my question, please. In order for you to have a fair and complete understanding of what the Kansas standards are all about for Kansas children, did Mr. Calvert include for your review the majority opinion commonly referred to as Draft 2, yes or no?
A. I can't give a yes or no answer to that because of the way you phrased it. In order--
Q. Let me rephrase the question. Did you receive Draft 2 for your review?
A. If it's distinct from this, which is entitled Summary of Proposed Revisions, then the answer is no.
Q. Do you see on page 15 where it says, "grades 8 to 12 indicators"?
A. On the left?
Q. Yes. Would you please read that statement marked No. 1 for me?
A. "Biological evolution descendent modification is a scientific explanation throughout history of diversification of organisms from common ancestors."
Q. And do you know whether or not that's the majority opinion?
A. That is the majority opinion, isn't it?
Q. All right. And then take a look to the right, No. 1a. And would you read that for the record?
A. "Biological evolution postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernible direction or goal. It also assumes that life arose from unguided natural process."
Q. Now, I want to ask you something. Do you see on the majority position anywhere the terms unpredictable and unguided?
A. Obviously what's on the right is not on the left.
Q. And would you further agree with me that you would oppose for the teaching of simply unpredictable and unguided natural processes?
A. Well, I don't think that that's being taught. I think what it's saying is that mainstream-- the mainstream interpretation, biological evolution postulates that.
Q. Sir, in all fairness, that's nowhere in the majority opinion.
A. Well, this is an expansion explanation of the too-succinct version on the left.
Q. The fact is that nowhere-- in order to be fair to the majority in Draft 2, nowhere does it state unpredictable and unguided, and that is simply a straw man argument that has been created by the minority to create controversy where there is none, correct?
MR. CALVERT: I think the rules do not permit questions that actually have embedded in them arguments for a particular position or not. I think they are limited to just questions.
A. It's not a straw man argument.
MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Hang on a second, sir. There's been an objection made by Mr. Calvert on the record. I respectfully disagree. Throughout this entire process the minority has insisted that it is inappropriate to have unguided and unpredictable in the teaching of Kansas children's scientific curriculum. The fact is, those two words appear nowhere in the majority report. The fact is that is nowhere in-- on the majority report the intent of the majority, and that the minority has placed these two words in its report simply as a straw man argument to come in here and argue on supposition that those two issues exist when they do not. And my purpose in questioning the witness is to ascertain whether or not he agrees with that proposition.
A. I disagree. It is not a straw man argument because that is a correct assessment of the majority opinion of the scientific community in this country.
Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) So in your opinion, the majority of the scientific community in America follows 1a?
A. Yes.
Q. Although it's nowhere in the Kansas standards, correct?
MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Counsel, I would urge you not to do that.
Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) Correct, sir?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where in the standards do you find the term Darwinism in the majority opinion? Oh, you haven't read the majority opinion, have you? Would it surprise you to learn that the term Darwinism is not in the majority opinion?
A. Would it surprise me? No, it wouldn't surprise me.
Q. In your opinion, would teaching according to the majority opinion, which is Draft 2, equate to teaching materialism and atheism?
A. Can you repeat the question?
Q. I'd be happy to. Is it your opinion that to teach children in Kansas pursuant to the position of Draft 2 equates to materialistic and an atheistic perspective?
A. Pursuant to the position of Draft 2? You mean everything contained in the summary of--
Q. As it relates, yes.
A. That's hard to say. That's speculating about how it's going to be interpreted by the children. I think that it's fair to say that that is the framework within which the doctrine is being taught to the children. And therefore I would like to see it made possible for teachers who question that metaphysical framework to be allowed to present challenges to the mainstream view. But what the children get out of it, I can't speculate.
Q. Would you agree that the document marked as Draft 2, irrespective of what the authors may think about their religious beliefs, in your opinion, then, supports materialism and atheism? Is that what I understand you to say?
A. Implicitly I think it's-- it's not explicit, though, I'll grant you that.
Q. So it is perhaps your suggestion or opinion, although it is not what it says?
A. Based on my understanding of the larger context within which these ideas, which, after all, are simplified for presentation to children.
Q. Does draft-- it's kind of hard to question you about Draft 2 if you haven't heard it, but would-- did you-- have you been told by anyone that in Draft 2 that the only opportunity or the only decision presented is that natural selection is the only mechanism involved in the history of life?
A. That's my understanding.
Q. And your understanding based on what?
A. Well, why are we here today if that's not the case? If it were possible to question that, we wouldn't, any of us, be here.
Q. And it's your understanding that the Kansas standards do not allow for questioning?
A. Yes.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to have Mr. Calvert or anyone involved on the minority side read this sentence to you, "There are many issues which involve morals, ethics, values or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain but for which solid scientific literacy is useful." Would that resolve your concern about what Kansas should do as far as opening the door for a full and complete discussion?
A. I certainly approve of the statement, but--
Q. Would it be a surprise to learn, to you, that that is precisely what the majority opinion says?
A. It still does not address the issue specifically about the origin of life, the adequacy of natural selection as the theory of evolution, however.
Q. You would agree with me, then, that if, in fact, Kansas standards do state that there are many issues which involve material-- which involve morals, ethics, values, or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain but for which solid scientific literacy is useful, that is the appropriate way to proceed, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Does that sentence seem to reflect naturalism, the philosophy that matter and energy is all there is, or does it seem to reflect the philosophy that there's more to the world than what science can investigate?
A. That particular sentence appropriately does indicate the limitation of our current scientific understanding.
Q. And that does, in fact, make it clear, does it not, that the majority in the committee understands that there's more to human knowledge than what science can provide and that Draft 2 does not imply, enforce or support naturalism over any theological view, correct?
A. Not quite, because there's still the question about evolution itself.
MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Thank you, nothing further.
Q. Sir, how would you-- do you teach class now in high school or college?
A. I'm a teaching assistant in an undergraduate program.
Q. How is the best way to prepare students to distinguish data and testable theories of science?
A. Well, I don't teach science. I teach philosophy, so it would be-- I'm not a scientist, I'm in philosophy of science. So I would simply talk in general terms about knowledge and about scientific knowledge in particular and about the difference between, you know, what's observable and what's an inference, just talk in general philosophical terms.
Q. Then let's go to a different question, then. With a background in philosophy of science, are there philosophical claims about science that are made in the name of science?
A. Oh, yes, there certainly are. Are you asking what are they?
Q. Yes, what are they?
A. Well, we've just been discussing them at some length, the idea that natural selection provides a complete explanation for not only living organisms but human beings and all of our characteristics, I think, is simply false. I think it's a philosophical framework. It's a world view, it's metaphysics, but it's not an empirical claim that can be shown or demonstrated.
Q. So the difference between a philosophical claim of science and an empirical-- and a testable theory of science would be the empirical analysis of that, the evidence-- the empirical evidence?
A. Sure. If you go to the laboratory and do repeatable experiments, that's one thing. And if you're making inferences and making, you know, extremely general claims about the way the world works, that has a different--
Q. Do philosophical claims of science have any ability of evidence behind them or are they inferences from other pieces of evidence?
A. I mean, I'm not saying that's bad, I just want to make a distinction, that's all. Naturally we-- most all of us want to arrive at a coherent and comprehensive world view. There's nothing wrong in that. It's just that you can't then claim the same authority for that world view that you claim for in the laboratory as a scientist what you can actually show me in a repeatable experiment. When the scientist steps out of the laboratory and makes these much more general claims, we're wearing a different hat, wearing a philosophical hat.
Q. Do you have any background in talking about the religious claims of science?
A. I'm not sure what you mean, the religious claims of science.
Q. That's what I'm asking, if you had any background, and the answer is no apparently.
A. I guess not.
Q. That's what I was asking. Is it possible to take evidence and to develop two different sets of philosophical claims from it?
A. Sure.
Q. As a philosopher of science, what is proof? What constitutes proof?
A. Well, there are all kinds of different kinds of proof. There's deductive proof, but that's really not relevant to empirical science. In science we have inference to the best explanation. We construct theories, we take all of the evidence at our disposal and we weigh, we judge, we make a determination as to what makes sense to us. Human beings weigh these decisions in different ways, therefore they come to different overall opinions about what makes sense.
Q. Is-- do scientists in general, bench scientists as well as scientists that are interested in the philosophy of science, are they interested in what is the truth?
A. Sure. Now, even among bench scientists, obviously you're going to have disputes. You're going to be weighing evidence in different ways, but there the connection between what we can observe and the theoretical aspect is much closer, much narrower, and eventually enough evidence is accumulated where there is-- everybody becomes persuaded and there a consensus forms, but these much more general questions about purpose and value, I don't think we can arrive at a consensus in the same way on those. Not yet, anyway.
Q. But at the same time, even though there is more argument among the philosophers of science as opposed to the bench scientists, that's still a correct statement to say they are interested in what is the truth?
A. Oh, absolutely, we're interested in the truth. And I think most scientists and most philosophers are.
CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Thank you very much. We're going to take a break.
MR. CALVERT: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask Mr. Barham to look at the second page of his document that he was referring to that he had read and then read the title to that, the second page. I just want to make a point that you were referring to the fact that you'd read the summary of the proposals, and I believe the document you have contains not only--
A. Oh, I see. I'm sorry, yeah, I read the--
MR. IRIGONEGARAY: What is going on here? They're out of time.
CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: We're going to take a break. It is 9:45. We're going to reconvene promptly at ten o'clock.

Done! Can anyone tell be what he's talking about with condensed matter physics? Loughlin? Kaufman?

My impression when he spoke was that he didn't quote know what he was talking about, and reading through his answers, it's even clearer.

To simplify: his beef is that natural selection can't explain everything.

I just saved you an hour's listening to audible.com's version of the event. He's sort of a historian (of ancient astronomy) and sort of a philosopher, and sort of a guy who sat on his couch and read whatever interested him. Not a sociologist, not one to bring important papers in from the car, and not one to read the material he's testifying about.

No, he just thinks there's probably more out there than natural selection. After all, how can life have purpose if natural selection doesn't have purpose?

Here's a question with identical logical structure, see if you can spot the problem: No cell in my body can experience love, so how can I love Ms. TfK?

Or: An engine doesn't have an air conditioner, so how can a car have an air conditioner?

Seriously, that's what the Board got for their money (which is really the taxpayers').