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« Frivolous Intelligent Design lawsuits | Main | Another Creationism Speciation Event »


Ed Darrell

Really brilliant piece, Joe. Thank you.

Glenn Branch

I agree with Ed! One nit to pick: you mean Fritz Schaefer, i.e. Henry F. "Fritz" Schaefer III of the University of Georgia, not to be confused with Gerald Schroeder, author of The Hidden Face of God, etc.

Johnny C.


Have you heard Wagner's "Parsifal"?

It's about as good as Merle's "Mama Tried" LP.

Check it out.


Its called appeal to authority. That it was origionally called appeal to inappropriate authority or whatever is rather irrelevant.

You are trying to use appeal to "inappropriate" authority in order to justify why your own personal "expert" opinion on what appeal to authority is should in some way trump the understanding of all ( or almost all ) who commonly use the term and have found it to be a useful detector of BS. And you are using appeal to authority while you do it which causes me to call BS.

For example, a common appeal to "authority " for the evolution zealot is that evolution has been proven or in some way shown to be consistent or possible or likely etc by a "computer simulation". All these "expert" programs are actually examples of intelligent design and achieve nothing more than to strain random numbers (or functions which can be represented by a number) inefficiently for a desired number or numbers. It is left as common "expert knowledge" that nature must strain in the same way.

The actual part where an "expert" might actually be useful is left unaddressed. That being does nature reward partial success more often than it penalizes it (within geological viable timeframes)? This is a very simple concept to claim and would seem very logical. But to prove it....ah that might just take an "expert"

Simple example using my "expert opinion" so that you will be able to follow what I am talking about. Meet og a caveman chief, and ugg his wimpy but smarter brother. It is quite easy to imagine that og gets the first pick of the women and the food in fact he gets two women and ugg gets none. Ugg has a superior memory and is able to locate plants and small animals but only enough to keep the tribe from starving if everyone followed his lead, or with ogs help he can find and kill big game and they all eat well but they will reward only og for this as he kills the meat. Og can kill any animal that he comes across due to his amazing skills throwing stones but when there is no food he gets thinner than ugg (due to higher matabilism from hunting) and women don't want to mate with him and would choose ugg instead. Will uggs intelligence benifit or hinder his mating prospects?

On the one hand more food would indicate more oppertunities to mate but in a food rich enviornment Ugg is not desirable and Og gets all the women. In a food poor enviornment Ugg has a better chance to mate but a smaller chance to survive. Given that Ug is not smart enough to understand this delima due to his belief in fate will intelligence be selected for or against?

I could write an "expert" computer simulation if you wanted and run it on a big fancy machine but I am sure those among you who would appriciate it realize what the answer would be....So are these "expert" computers on your side or mine???


First you say that "there are people with a doctoral degree in the field or in an apparently related field" on both sides of the argument. Then you justify appealing to an authority. However, how you pick *which* authority to appeal to is beyond me.


Appeal to authority is meaningful in settling a point of dispute only when both sides agree to the authority. (Otherwise, e.g., the world would be Christian, via appeal to the Bible. Obviously, an enormous number of people don't admit to the authority of the Bible.)

The purpose of a scientific citation in a scientific paper is not appeal to authority. It is to acknowledge previous work, not to falsely claim originality, and to not have to repeat previously experimental and theoretical arguments. In principle, the academic pedigree, etc., of the author of the cited paper is irrelevant, all that matters is the quality of the exposition.


``All these `expert' programs are actually examples of intelligent design and achieve nothing more than to strain random numbers (or functions which can be represented by a number) inefficiently for a desired number or numbers."

What do you mean? [and may I suggest that when talking about these programs, you talk about them on the conceptual scale on which they are meant to be interpreted (on which they were programmed), and not reducing them to algorithms involving numbers]


What's great about your list of "authorities" in evolutionary biology is that most aren't even the leaders in evolutionary biology research. I'm not trying to undermine the list or the people on it -- they have all made great contributions to the fight against anti-intellectualism. I'm just pointing out that the IDist you list are the so-called leaders of the ID movement, whereas many biologists carry more authority even though they are merely members of the research community. If I have a question about some aspect of evolutionary theory, I would rather ask a post-doc studying evolution than a tenured faculty member studying structural biochemistry.


My opinion is that science represents a special case in which appeals to authority are never valid. Scientific arguments appeal to the data, which are found in the primary scientific literature.

You can throw ID and the misinformation of the animal-rights movement out on this basis even more easily; they both quote mine (appeal to authority) and nearly always cite papers and books with no data.

You also can offer less highly charged cases: Linus Pauling, a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, touted vitamin C. The data didn't support his claims. As a graduate student in virology in the '80s, I saw that everyone thought Prusiner's prion hypothesis was hooey. What did Prusiner do? Did he write books and theoretical papers, lobby school boards, or did he do experiments?

neurology emr

Well, Chiropractors always seem to require months of adjustments for an indefinite length of time, while the orthopedic surgeons can solve the same problem on the same person with a few swipes of a surgical knife in one afternoon.


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