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10/31/09

Will Richard Dawkins Debate Stephen Meyer?, part 2

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s debate category

19 comments:

  1. Serious scientific arguments are put forth in serious scientific publications, not popular science books. If Stephen Meyer has some new evidence, he should publish it in a reputable journal, and then Dawkins will read about it, breaking the "vicious circle". Until then, Meyer is just playing make-believe scientist. Every real scientist understands and follows the rules that your ideas must pass peer review to be accepted. Intelligent Design proponents think that they don't have to follow the same rules. Dawkins is acting in the best interest of scientific truth, and I have nothing but respect for his decision.

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  2. "Serious scientific arguments are put forth in serious scientific publications, not popular science books."

    So if it's not in a journal, it's not serious? Awesome, I'll just go ahead and tell that to everyone who loves Origin of the Species so much. Let's see how well that flies.

    You guys say that it has to get into a "serious scientific journal." Of course, your objective standard for that is anything that doesn't have ID in it. If what you now consider a "serious" journal did allow in an article that had anything to do with ID, one of two things would happen. One is what already happened to Richard Sternberg. The other is that the rest of you would just shun that journal and cast it out of your precious circle of reputable journals - so of course no journal is going to want to do it. That's just one of the many reasons that right now it is not possible to meet your standard. And you all have to set it out of reach, because of false presuppositions for which you have no epistemological basis. Your foundations are weak, so of course the rest of the house can only follow suit.

    Though it might sound like it, I'm not trying to start something here, because I'm sure you'll disagree with me. I likely will not change your mind, and I'm fairly certain you won't change mine. But I think you all should at least consider how it looks to the other side and give a better explanation than "it's not in a serious scientific publication." Because to this side, it just sounds like grade A elitist crap.

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  3. Leslie,

    I can understand where you're coming from. You feel like ID is good science that is being treated unfairly by atheist scientists with an agenda to protect the status quo. But I assume that you, like most people in the western world, think that astrology is bad science. Now, I assume that you also agree that we need to have a way to sort out the good science from the bad. The way that this is done today is through a peer review process. Who better to judge the merits of research than other experts in the field? Is it elitist? Of course. That's why it works.

    As someone who has been on both sides of the peer review process, I've rejected papers and had my papers rejected. Thousands of bad or incomplete ideas are thrown out every year. Real scientists don't just give up and try to work around the system. They understand that this process, even with all of its imperfections, is the best BS detector we've got.

    Now what would you propose we do? Should we make a special exception for ID and say that it's so controversial that it deserves to be accepted without peer review? Should we do the same with astrology?

    Or are you suggesting that we tear down the whole peer review system for all of science and try to make progress through popular science books and oral debates? In such a system would psychologists be compelled to debate psychics?

    I might have some sympathy for ID proponents if they actually tried to follow the peer review process and repeatedly failed. They're not even trying. They don't even bother to submit articles, because they don't actually do any scientific research. You can count ID rejections on one hand. They have made it clear that their intention is to circumvent the rules completely and try to win over a sympathetic, religious public. That is just not how science is done.

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  4. Greg,

    As soon as someone compares ID to astrology, they show how much they are missing the point. I don't see why I should even have to explain the differences here. They seem obvious. Astrology, psychics, and ID. You really want to lump these into the same category? That seems patently disingenuous to me. But that's part of the problem here to me. It's not just that ID isn't in peer-review. I don't even think it's that these atheistic scientists have an agenda. Well some do, but that's not my point here. The problem is that much of those in this field have a false set of presuppositions. These presuppositions don't see ID as even possibly being scientific. It's not just that ID hasn't done science, it's that it can't do science. It's kind of like how my wife feels about fish. It's not just that she doesn't like fish, it's that she can't. Something about it is inherently disgusting to her. So no matter how good it looks or even tastes, she will see it as disgusting. Likewise no matter how well ID does in research or other areas, it's not going to be considered worthy. The foundations won't allow it.

    Now, I have no problem with peer review, but I think we've got to be realistic. P.R. doesn't determine truth or falsehood. Just because it has gotten through peer review doesn't mean it's right, anymore than it means it's wrong (I assume you agree here). And if the so-called experts are working off of false presuppositions, pretty major ones at that, I don't see why I should be compelled to take it as seriously. After all, which comes first - epistemology or science? Well, you can't even discuss the latter without the former, so I'd say it's the former. But if someone's foundation is shaky, everything built on top of it will be as well. So I don't take issue with peer review, I take issue with the peer reviewers. So no, I don't think we have to change the process. The process isn't as much the problem as the minds that make the process possible. It's the minds that need to be changed.

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  5. As for trying to follow the peer review process, I haven't reviewed every time an ID paper has tried to get reviewed, and I'm not even sure how someone would do that. You actually know of every ID rejection? I find that hard to believe, but maybe you do. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. It's still not all that relevant to me because if I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn't keep trying either. At least not in current form. How many times should a person try to bust open a locked door before they decide it's time to go around?

    I think it's unfair to say they're just trying to win over a sympathetic religious public. Maybe some of them are, but it's unfair to lump that whole movement into that category. Again, I point to Darwin. He wrote a book, and you don't take issue with that, do you? Books, peer-review, debates - none of these things make a matter true. A position is worthy inasmuch as it corresponds to reality.

    At least for myself, the reason I want to hear Dawkins debate someone like Meyer is to get something accessible to the public. Debates help people learn, people who might otherwise not get certain types of information. Even if one of the sides is considered almost totally unworthy of respect, it's still helpful. If I lived in a town of people who thought astrology was true, and I wanted them to reconsider, and one of them asked me to debate, I'd do it. I wouldn't sit back with an attitude of elitism and tell them to shut up about it because they're stupid. That's not just goofy, it's childish. It's irrelevant how foolish I think their view is. I think atheism is pretty dang foolish, but I debate with people about it on a regular basis. Debating helps people learn. It helps me learn. If they debated, you'd have two different results. Those who already have their belief and will side with the one they sided with to begin with, and those who are truly interested in learning and actually get good information from the debate to help them make informed decisions. If ID is actually as ignorant as astrology, then I can't see what anyone has to lose. This "air of respectability" crap may actually be a true concern, but it's a pathetic one if it is. Besides, Dawkins needs to get off his high horse and realize that it already is respectable - there are intelligent, well studied people who take it seriously already. He isn't the gatekeeper of respectability.

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  6. Likewise no matter how well ID does in research or other areas, it's not going to be considered worthy.

    ID doesn't actually do any research.
    Nobody is getting any test-tubes dirty.
    Nobody even has a scientific defintion of what exactly is ID.

    You actually know of every ID rejection?

    Well, that's easy enough.
    Imagine you are a legitimate scientist that has somehow managed to do some science experiment that demonstrated ID.
    (That would be a world first.)
    You put some hard work into that experiment.
    Maybe two years of serious lab time.

    You follow the rules and write up a solid paper with no holes in it.
    It gets rejected.
    You try again with a different journal.
    It gets rejected.

    Now you know that the reason why your paper is rejected is because of the secret conspiracy against your god.
    Are you going to go quietly into the night and keep your mouth shut or...will you tell the world?
    Expose the conspiracy!!!

    What's wrong with publishing your paper on the Internet and demonstrating how to copy your experiment?
    Why not publish the rejection slips you recieved from the journals? Prove the conspiracy!!!
    Nobody does this. Ever. Guess why.

    ID is vapourware.
    Twenty years of doing no research at all.
    Not a single ID paper.
    Not a single experiment.
    Not even a single PROPOSED reasonable experiment scribbled down on a napkin somewhere.

    The frauds at the Discovery Institute even set up their own "Journal" to "publish" their papers.
    The "journal" was staffed exclusively by the ID people themselves.
    It didn't work very well.

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  7. "ID is vapourware.
    Twenty years of doing no research at all.
    Not a single ID paper.
    Not a single experiment.
    Not even a single PROPOSED reasonable experiment scribbled down on a napkin somewhere."

    Well, I'll tell you what, since you're the one making the claim I'll just ask that you back it up. Show me the proof for these claims.

    Meanwhile, I still don't understand why debating someone would be such a bad idea, regardless of how ludicrous you think their claims are. It's odd, Greg said before the debates and such just aren't how "science is done." Yet for some reason debating the person would give them respectability? If the concern is that it would give them respectability to the public, well again, according to Greg, the public is already sympathetic and religious, so they already respect them. So whom would such a debate influence to have extra respect for ID? Again, I want this debate because I think it would make the matter more accessible to the public, which to me would only help whoever has a better position.

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  8. ...since you're the one making the claim I'll just ask that you back it up...

    Wha...?
    How does that work?
    :)
    I'm pointing out to you that ID does no actual research.
    You are under the mistaken impression that they do.
    The ID movement are the ones making the claim.
    Think about it.
    When you decided to believe them wholesale did it ever occur to you to actually, y'know, ASK for some specifics?
    There are no experiments that can demonstrate ID.
    If there was, then we would all have heard about it already.
    The Discovery Institute would be shouting about it from the roof-tops.
    Did you even look at the links I provided?
    Go ahead and check out the Discovery Institute web-site for yourself.
    Lots of press releases there.
    Lots of adverts for coffee table books.
    Lot of links to blogs.
    Yet you will notice that scientific experiments demonstrating ID are conspicuous by their absense.
    Hmm.
    Are you familiar with the Templeton Foundation?
    They wanted to give the Discovery Institute a lot of money to fund ID research.
    All they asked for was a grant proposal on what they were going to research.
    The Discovery Institute couldn't even type up a proposal.
    Pathetic? Oh yes.
    Nowadays, the Templeton Foundation won't touch them with a ten-foot pole.

    It's odd, Greg said before the debates and such just aren't how "science is done."

    Greg is correct.
    Debates are just showmanship, razzamataz and grandstanding. It's not science.
    Actual scientific work is written, published in the scientific arena so that professionals with the relevent training and expertise can test it and comment on it. The process of peer-review.
    Loathed by crack-pots everywhere.

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  9. Cedric,

    "Wha...?
    How does that work?"


    You claimed that ID has done no research, and I just wanted to see some proof of that. All I have seen are assertions.

    As it is, it seems to me that there is ID research.

    But I'm sure you'll find something that disqualifies all of that.

    "Debates are just showmanship, razzamataz and grandstanding."

    I'm a bit taken back that you'd have the audacity to insult to this degree something that has been a respected form of learning and study for not only centuries but millenia. It's just another example of how elitist this mentality can be. You're right, debates are not science. Neither is peer review. Neither are books. Science is what you do, not what you write about. And again, just because something passes peer review does not mean it is correct. Neither does it mean it is false. I'm not saying peer-review is bad, but as I already mentioned, the problem is the reviewer, not the review process. When the reviewers are working off of false presuppositions, there will be problems in the process. Heck, the very fact that there are humans involved at means there will be problems.

    Regardless, did I say I wanted Dawkins to debate Meyer so ID would become science in the eyes of all? No, I didn't. That wouldn't happen. I said I wanted them to debate so the arguments would be made more accessible to the public. That is something debates are really good for. Even if one side is completely ridiculous, it's still good for that. Despite the fact that Dan Barker is a complete sham of an atheist apologist, Christians keep debating him. Why? Because they respect his position? Obviously not. And they certainly are not concerned they would make him sound respectable or something. On the contrary, they know he is influencing people who are gullible, and they want to do their best to stop that. So even if Dawkins thinks Meyer and ID in general are a complete sham, I don't see why that should stop him from debating the guy.

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  10. Hi Leslie,

    I agree with you that the disagreement is about presuppositions and the definition of science, not about specific claims of ID. You say you're interested in learning, so if I were you I'd give myself the homework assignment to answer the question: "Why are the presuppositions of science what they are?" Is it prejudice? Tradition? Lack of imagination? Or a more legitimate reason?

    If that's the key question, then a debate between Meyer and Dawkins is not the best way to get an answer. They'd probably just ramble on about mitochondria or something instead of getting to the key philosophical question. There are plenty of people more qualified than Dawkins to argue for the status quo philosophy of science, so if education and englightenment are what you're after, demand that someone else besides Dawkins debate Meyer.

    ID proponents have attempted to redefine science before, but then they must admit that doing so lets in a lot of bunk like astrology. (My choice of astrology wasn't arbitrary.)

    But you're right that ID is rejected for a somewhat different reason than astrology. Astrology makes predictions that fail, whereas ID makes no predictions at all. Think about why it's important for scientific theories to make predictions. If they don't tell us anything new about what to expect, what good are they?

    I actually listened to the two podcasts you mentioned. The first one with Michael Egnor boiled down to an uncontroversial point: "Treating biological systems *as if* they were designed might give us insight into how they work." Biologists have been aware of that for a long time. So what?

    As for the second, I think it's a funny coincidence that Dembski published in SMC because I published my first paper as a grad student in SMC. It has the highest acceptance rate and lowest prestige of all the places I've published. But that's just a funny aside. The real problem is that his work has no relevance to biological systems. Here's a great explanation of why that's the case.

    As for your other references, yes, it's true that ID proponents are capable of doing good non-ID science. I don't know anyone who says that they are not. But the core ideas of ID--stuff like irreducible complexity and specified complexity--are completely worthless and have been debunked.

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  11. You claimed that ID has done no research, and I just wanted to see some proof of that. All I have seen are assertions.

    No.
    Here's what happened.
    You brought up the falsehood that there is ID research.
    I said there wasn't.
    It's not up to me to prove you wrong.
    That's not how it works.

    If you claim that there is indeed ID research and somebody calls you on it, then the onus is on you to support your claim.

    For example: you say that the Discovery has a photo of Bigfoot.
    I say they don't.
    I don't have to prove that they DON'T have a photo of Bigfoot. That's nutty.
    You are the one who has to back up your claim with positive evidence.

    As it is, it seems to me that there is ID research.

    Then I invite you to look again with a more critical eye.
    Take the first link you provided that displayed the "ResearchID.org:Research categories tree".
    Follow the links in the tree at random.
    They don't go anywhere useful.
    It's all supposition and vague references.
    There nothing tangible.
    It's just an endless series of rabbit holes.
    Check out the edit date..
    "This page was last modified 04:30, 26 June 2006."
    That was a few years back. Hmm. What happened?

    Then there's the Seelke article.
    There' no mention of ID at all. Nothing.
    Seelke mentions evolution, (several times in fact) but ID? Not a whisper.

    Same deal with Egnor and Dembski.
    Dembski at least has a paper but there's no mention at all of ID.

    Yet look closer. We have Seelke who was doing somthing that had nothing to do with ID in 2002, Dembski got a peer-reviewed paper that had nothing to do with ID in 2007, Egnor was talking about doing something that had nothing to do with ID in 2009.
    Notice something odd?
    Well, the ID movement got kick-started in...1987.
    If ID is actually science, wouldn't you expect there to be some experiement or something that happened in 1987...before the publicity machine of the Discovery Institute got underway?

    Here's how it normally works in the real world:
    1)A discovery made by scientist in lab.
    2) Scientist gets all excited and tells his friends. Writes a peer-reviewed paper about.
    3) Fame and fortune is lavished on scientist.

    The Discovery Institute just skipped steps one and two and went straight to three.
    Doesn't that seem just a little strange to you?
    Just a little?

    It's just another example of how elitist this mentality can be.

    It's got nothing to do with "elitism". It's got everything to do with practicality. How can you have a debate with someone who's dead? Or speaks a foreign language? Or who's data could fill several books? A debate is not practical in the modern world except in very rarified circumstances. Why do you not acknowledge this?
    Science does not use the process of peer-review to promote elitism. It uses it because its the most useful system there is to communicate scientific ideas.
    Did you even bother to watch the video I posted for you? Please do so.
    I take the time to check out your links properly.
    I'd really appreciate it if you returned the courtesy.
    Here's another shorter one that might help out.

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  12. Curse you GregK!
    (shakes fist impotently at the monitor)

    You went ahead and gave the link to Good Maths, Bad Maths while I was still typing away.
    Grrr.

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  13. Greg & Cedric,

    I hope you'll forgive me for not responding to you each point by point. This would take too long, and honestly I'm almost too lazy to even write this. But I'll try to make some main points.

    I'm not trying to argue over specific points about ID, like irreducible complexity, or whatever. The things I linked to were just examples that seem to me to show there have been areas of research in ID. If you guys don't think those count as research, then whatever I guess. But I think you should keep in mind that even if their research is wrong (i.e. let's assume the math link is correct) it's still research, so you can't just go around accusing them of not doing any. I think it's interesting that Greg even mentioned the credentials of that journal. That was exactly what I said would happen earlier, is it not? If something is published in one, you'll attack the journal.

    Here's my issue I guess with all of this. Set aside current beliefs for a second and imagine that intelligent design is actually true. I don't mean any of the science stuff, I just mean, imagine that the world actually is designed. What could be done to prove this? Anything? Would scientists still be forced to go off of the assumption that it is not? If so, isn't that a weakness in the current way we tend to view science?

    It seems to me that much of science today excludes design a priori. So even if it is true, we have to move forward as though it is not. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    Of course, for me at least, even if intelligent design is not "scientific" it's still true. Before you think I'm retarded, understand that I just mean science is not the only way of knowing things. As a philosophical argument, design could still be plenty strong, and even "the only game in town."

    I understand how peer review works. I understand why it is used. I have no problems with it as a process. But again, my problem is with all the foundations for the science that is going on today. There's so much that is screwy there, that peer review and other things are undermined, so it's hard for me to take it as seriously as you guys do.

    By the way, there's another podcast specifically dealing with Seelke's work and its connection with ID, etc. It's on iTunes - the podcast is called Darwin or Design. If I had a direct link to give you I would, but you should be able to find it pretty easily. You might want to go in about 20 minutes into it if you decide to listen, because the first stuff really isn't about the research he's done. Regardless, Seelke seems to think his research has implications for ID, so perhaps someone should correct him and let him know it has nothing to do with it. Seems a bit arrogant to me, but what do I know?

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  14. Oh, by the way Greg, I meant to add that I have no problem with someone other than Dawkins debating w/ Meyer. He did a sort of discussion/debate with Peter ward before, and I think Michael Ruse did something with him as well, and I found both of those very interesting, though they weren't formal debates. The main reason to have Dawkins do it is because Dawkins is a popularizer of atheism and outspoken against ID. So being so harsh in that direction, it would be interesting to see what he has to say when he is dealing with the issue more directly. But again, I'd be happy to see others too.

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  15. But I think you should keep in mind that even if their research is wrong (i.e. let's assume the math link is correct) it's still research...

    Leslie, nobody is saying that "the research" is wrong.
    That implies that there is "research" to be wrong about.
    I saying that there is no research.
    None.
    No Research.
    Not at all.
    Not even a tiny squeak of research.
    Zip.
    Nada.
    Zero.
    Fail.
    Nobody is rolling up their sleeves and getting a test-tube dirty in the performance of an ID experiement.
    The Templeton Foundation offered them money on a platter for research proposals.
    We're talking about real cash from sympathetic religious types who only asked for a...research proposal.
    Not actual research. Not successful research.
    Nothing so serious.
    Just a plan on paper on how to do some ID research.
    The proposals never materialized!
    Think about it.
    For a fat wad of cash, all the Discovery Institute had to do was sketch out a research proposal.
    Doesn't that make you scratch your head a bit and wonder what the Discovery Institute is playing at?

    If something is published in one, you'll attack the journal.

    You are grasping at straws. The paper never mentioned ID at all.

    The Discovery Institute is playing an endless pea-and-shell game. For over twenty years, they have been taking money from the faithful and have offered up nothing in the way of work.
    Actual hard-core scientific work on ID.
    It's all sizzle and no steak.

    There's no conspiracy to stifle ID. ID has heaps of publicity and plenty of money.
    They say that they are doing research but it never materializes.

    Remember the "ResearchID.org:Research categories tree" site you linked to?
    It looks pretty fancy, yeah?
    Lots of sciency sounding titles and descriptions? Professional formatting? Looks good.
    Yet when you clicked the first link, you probably noticed that it did not give you a research experiement. Nothing concrete.
    If you tried again with a different link, then you probably ended up with some cutesy sciency jargon but, once again, no actual bona-fide research.
    Leslie, I've clicked every link.
    Every last blessed one.
    They are all rabbit holes.
    ID is a fraud.

    There's so much that is screwy there, that peer review and other things are undermined...

    Even if this were absolutely true, that doesn't explain why the ID people don't even publish "peer-reviewed research" in their own worthless "journal".
    Check out the date. What do you think is the hold-up?

    Leslie, don't take this as a personal attack on you. It's not. I don't have a problem with you.

    Nor is this an attack on your religious beliefs.
    I don't care what you believe in.
    Whatever floats your boat, go with it.

    However, Intelligent Design is a scam.
    I'm not saying your god or whatever is a scam.
    I'm saying that when the ID people claim to be doing ID research or that they have a super-duper new theory, that they are lying through their teeth.
    Get a little suspicious. Treat the claims of the ID people with the same judicious caution in the same manner as if you were checking out a dodgy used car.
    Pop the hood. Kick the tyres. Ask to see the maintainence manual.
    You won't like what you'll find.
    I don't know if you like Catholics or not but the key witness in the Dover trials was a very famous biology professor called Ken Miller.
    His criticisms of ID are civil, easy to understand, scientific and very interesting.
    It's a long video.
    When you get the time, please check him out.
    He's a first class educator.

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  16. Thanks for your response, Leslie.

    imagine that the world actually is designed. What could be done to prove this? Anything? Would scientists still be forced to go off of the assumption that it is not?

    Scientists need not assume that there is no designer. Ken Miller believes in a designer. He just believes in one that designed life via an explicable process that can be understood through empirical study of the natural world.

    Scientists just need to proceed as if the designer did not use miracles in the design. Miracles are by definition inexplicable events. If science is the search for explanation, then it should be obvious why miracles are not satisfactory scientific answers.

    It seems to me that much of science today excludes design a priori. So even if it is true, we have to move forward as though it is not. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    If you're talking about miraculous design, then it is not excluded as the truth. It's just that to pursue scientific inquiry without a complete sense of futility, you have to assume that there *is* a natural explanation. Only an insane person would search for an explanation that they knew they'd never find.

    I get the sense from you that you think that the important distinction between miracles and scientific explanations to a scientist is that one is supernatural and the other is natural. According to this thinking, atheist scientists don't believe in the supernatural, so they reject that category of explanation.

    But that's not the key distinction. It's not some kind of capricious prejudice. The real reason scientists care about natural explanations is because they actually have the power to explain things. They take a big mysterious thing and break it up into smaller, less mysterious chunks. They increase our knowledge and understanding.

    The miracle answer, on the other hand, as much as it may be true, does not increase our knowledge or understanding.

    If you choose to believe in miracles, that's fine. Don't let me stop you. Just recognize that they have no place in scientific research or science classrooms. Not because of bias or bigotry, but because science is in the business of explanation.

    And evolutionary theory has been extremely fruitful at generating explanations. We know why animals on islands look more like their mainland counterparts than animals on similar islands far away, and so on. While biologists continue increasing our knowledge, ID proponents sit back and shoot spitwads, saying "Oh yeah? Well I bet you can't explain *this*!" But just open up any recent Biology journal and you'll see that the natural explanation route is doing quite well for itself, with no stagnation in sight. The miracle route, on the other hand, hasn't led to many publications lately.

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  17. Cedric, why don't you go over to www.uncommondescent.com and try out come of your assertions among people who are heavily focussed on ID.

    That is, if you are actually truly wanting to engage and not just throw stones...

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  18. ...if you are actually truly wanting to engage and not just throw stones...

    I don't know who you are or what your problem is but if you bothered to read my posts here you'll see that I have indeed been engaging with Leslie.

    Haven't called him any nasty names.
    Haven't even bothered to ask him about his religious beliefs.
    All I've done is point out that ID is a sham.

    There's no ID research.
    Not a single experiment to call their own.
    Just solicitaions for more money.

    Thou shalt not bear false witness, remember?

    ...why don't you go over to www.uncommondescent.com...

    I know it well. It's a echo-chamber. There's a sign on the door that says "Dembski sycophants only".

    The site holds the world record for banninations.
    It's become so notoriously bad that pandasthumb.org has a running thread commentary on uncommondescent.com.
    The thread's been going on for (3/4?) years now and it's still going strong.
    Want to read all the comments that are sneakily deleted? Well head on over and check them out.

    Want to argue about ID?
    No problemo.
    Make it interesting and they will give you your own thread.
    It's almost impossible to get banned.
    The tolerance level is very high.
    Just be prepared to support your position.
    That's all they ask.

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  19. you talk about ID as unscientific yet all I see and hear on tv documentaries today by "scientists"are multiverses and 12 dimension worlds where Elvis and John Lennon are alive and well and there are also universe bubbles floating in space in their millions.LOL and Dawkins calls ID a fantsy yeah right!!

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