Monday, January 30, 2006

Uncommon Descent: Don't dispute common descent

My favorite moment from the Dover trial was the discussion of a Board member's interview with a local Fox affiliate. On the stand, he was asked if he ever referred to teaching creationism in science classes. "No," he insisted, only "intelligent design." Then they showed the video of an interview he did in which he said that creationism should be taught in science classes.

His explanation? "[W]hat happened was when I was walking from my car to the building, here's this lady and here's a cameraman, and I had on my mind all the newspaper articles saying we were talking about creationism, and I had it in my mind to make sure, make double sure nobody talks about creationism, we're talking intelligent design. I had it on my mind, I was like a deer in the headlights of a car, and I misspoke. Pure and simple, I made a human mistake."

I expect many similar moments as the creationists at Bill Dembski's blog try really hard to only talk science:
I will remind everyone again - please frame your arguments around science. If the ID movement doesn’t get the issue framed around science it’s going down and I do not like losing. The plain conclusion of scientific evidence supports descent with modification from a common ancestor. You are certainly welcome to have other opinions based on faith in something other than science but I’d ask that you go to a religious website with them if you must talk about it.

You certainly don’t have to agree here with descent with modification from a common ancestor but I’m going to start clamping down on anyone positively arguing against it. It’s simply counter-productive to our goals and reinforces the idea that ID is religion because nothing but religion argues against descent with modification from a common ancestor.
Emphasis from the original.

Sure, the site is called "Uncommon Descent," and that makes DaveScot's little rant extra funny. And sure, even fancy ID advocates at the Kansas hearings got a bit confused about common descent.

Each witness was asked some version of this question: "Do you accept the general principle of common descent that all life is biologically related back to the beginning of life, yes or no?"

The DI's Stephen Meyer: "I won't answer that question as a yes or no. I accept the idea of limited common descent. I am skeptical about universal common descent. I do not take it as a principle; it is a theory. And I think the evidence supporting the theory of universal common descent is weak."

Angus Menuge: "Not as defined by neo-Darwinism, no."

Nancy Bryson: "No."

Ed Peltzer: "No."

Russell Carlson: "No."

Warren Nord: "I agree with limited common descent, but I don't believe in universal common descent because I don't see any scientific evidence for it, compelling evidence."

Michael Behe: "My position is similar to Professor Nord's"

Jonathan Wells: "Well, I stated in my power point that I find it extremely unlikely based on the evidence that the animal phyla are related through common ancestry. Other biologists have said they're dubious of common ancestry at levels higher than that. The levels in between, I don't know."

Bruce Simat: "From the data that I've been following it's probably not true."

Charles Thaxton: "Well, I have difficulty with common ancestry"

I'm sure the only problem is that they haven't framed the issue right. I bet that with DaveScot riding herd, all the unscientific nonsense will disappear. No more discussion of a young earth, no more comparisons with astrology. No more insisting on special creation of humans.

The problem as it now stands is that, scrape away the attacks on common descent, and all you have are page after blank page with the occasional observation that science can't explain something right now. Intelligent design is an extended argument against common descent.