When its good to keep quiet

This post covers the May 27 and 28, 2008 posts entitled: “MSNBC’s Alan Boyle and Sean B. Carroll Argue Scientists Should Keep “Quiet” about Support for Intelligent Design”.  This post is broken down into two parts with the first Luskin’s answer to Carroll’s opinion and the second is Luskin attacking Carroll’s facts.  To be honest, I completely agree with Sean B. Carroll.  We should be teaching our children the best theories of the day, not unsupported ones.  Educators should keep quiet about Intelligent Design and any other unsupported idea. 

Luskin writes (emphasis mine):

The implication is clear: Boyle and Carroll think that there should be no academic freedom for scientists or educators to speak in favor of intelligent design. In Boyle and Carroll’s world, if you have real doubts about evolution, then like Newton, you should just keep “quiet.”

I have to hand it to Luskin here. He shows us what the “academic freedom” bills really are: Intelligent Design bills.  The rest is Luskin rehashing how all ideas should be given equal credence.

In the second part of the post, Luskin tries to poke holes in evolutionary theory by pointing to the unresolved issue of a complete tree of life (TOL). As I have written before, ID proponents love to point to unresolved issues in science (evolution, geology, etc) as somehow giving validity to ID. In this case, Luskin is using the imperfect science of creating phylogenetic trees. These may be imperfect due to mathmatical constraints, lateral gene transfer, high frequency of mutation, etc, but they generally produce a tree that is in agreement with evolutionary theory.  However, problems do arise when trying to work out the details.

The inability to construct robust phylogenetic trees is not due to evolutionists being wrong. If common descent was wrong, then you would never be able to produce trees that match up so well with evolutionary relationships. Luskin is taking small problems in evolutionary biology as reasons to discount it, while ignoring the complete lack of data supporting ID.

Luskin then writes about the relationships between genes of different species: 

“Since their DNA might be similar due to functional requirements and not inheritance from a common ancestor…”

This statement goes a long way to illustrate the lack of understanding that Luskin has in regard to conserved sequences. Genes are quite complex and are made of different regions. Some of these regions are the parts that are critical for the genes function, while other parts are unimportant. The less important parts are still similar between species, but since they are not important for function, they are definitely not similar due to simply functional requirements.

I want to finish by showing a quote of Luskins that illustrates a new technique used by IDers:

If the loss of function by turning off genes, and the usage of the same genes to build organs in vastly diverse organisms—a fact cited by design-proponents as supporting common design—are the best facts [Carroll] can muster against design, then it would appear that ID has very little to fear from the discoveries of evo-devo.

So IDers are now going to take evidence that really supports evolution and say that it supports intelligent design? Although intellectually dishonest, it is a brilliant move to persuade people to a side that has no evidence of its own.



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