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The chemical (engineering) community and ID

July 24, 2009

“Gage” over at Uncommon Descent (who I’m guessing is Logan Gage, the DI’s mouthpiece in DC) coughs this up:

Virtually no scientist takes “intelligent design” seriously? There appear to be more than a few in the chemistry/chemical engineering community that do.

This is as ridiculous at the DI’s list of dissenters from “Darwinism”. As I’ve said before, the plain fact is that these individuals – being chemists, engineers and suchlike – have no obvious expertise in evolutionary biology. What they do have, however, is an opinion. As the adage goes, everyone has an opinion.

If I wrote a letter (as a biologist) “questioning major aspects” of quantum theory and “encouraging open discussion of unsupported aspects”, should the community of chemists and/or engineers take me seriously? Of course not! I have little training in chemistry (beyond two years in college – which is more than the vast majority of chemists and chemical engineers have in biology) and what I have to say on the issue is meaningless. Being a scientist does not mean you can intelligently comment on scientific fields outside your own. Sheer humility tells us so. Yet still we here this dumb argument from arrogant ID proponents.

  1. July 24, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    As my mum used to say: “opinions are like arseholes; everybody has one”.

    At least she’s not a creationist.

  2. Brad
    July 25, 2009 at 8:33 am

    The vast majority of chemical engineering programs require NO biology classes. I took the first two quarters of freshman biology in my undergrad time, but only because those were required by my original forensic chemistry major, not the chemical engineering program I eventually switched to.

  3. July 25, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Richard Feynman once said “I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.” I think you can substitute “problems outside of his field” for “nonscientific problems” and be spot on.

  4. Logan Gage
    July 26, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Dear John,

    This “Gage” is not “Logan Gage, the DI’s mouthpiece in DC.” I don’t know who it is.

    Best,

    Logan

  5. Blaggarde
    July 26, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t understand why you guys have to be so “precious” about your own versions of your own orthodoxies. There’s a spite to it that borders on hatred. Meanwhile, the globe keeps turning and we are no nearer to resolving great questions.

    Shame.

  6. July 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I see no spite in commenting that what chemical engineers have to say about evolution is uninteresting. I’m going to assume that you wouldn’t go to a chemical engineer for advice if you were suffering from chest pains or migraines. Or to one if you wanted a house designed. If not, then why should you go to one to comment on evolution?

    “Great questions”? Like the origin of organismal diversity?

    Shame on you for trolling.

  7. July 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    “I don’t understand why you guys have to be so “precious” about your own versions of your own orthodoxies”

    That is very peculiar language to use.

    On one hand we have people who study, think and challenge orthodoxy in the name of logic, reason and science. On the other hand, we have people who have no idea about the topics they talk about and cling to age old superstition and literal interpretation of ancient texts.

    You are a very silly person.

  8. DLC
    July 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Well no, I wouldn’t go to a biologist or a chemist for a new wing design. I would hope that people who studied science would at least know enough of the topics outside their given field to realize that evolution works, has mountains of evidence for it and has not yet been refuted or falsified.

  9. Blaggarde
    July 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Because, John, I do not see that “scientists” of any persuasion, (or for that matter anyone in any discipline) own an absolute monopoly on discovery, or the final word in authoritative definition.

    Meantime, you all seem to spend – from what i can see – enormous amounts of time & energy fighting each other about it and THAT is what persuaded me to comment. As an outsider, I was pointing to the waste of energy & talent and the pity of that. It was a genuine observation and I am certainly not a troll.

    Monkeyman; logic, reason and science are all very well & good and I favour the notion of challenging orthodoxy – I do it quite a bit myself; I was doing it in my previous post, but it appears you did not notice. How scientific were you being when you jumped to the conclusion that i am a “very silly person”?

    On the issue of pigeon-holing disciplines, John, Alexander Borodin (1833-1877) was a Russian chemist/medic – apparently a very good one. But I would certainly have liked to have consulted him on how to write orchestral music because, in that field, his talent was second to none. I recommend his Symphony No. 2 in B Minor; volume up, glass of something nice.

    In any event, both of your shoot-a-messenger responses seem to confirm my point and there’s a QED there somewhere.

    Slán

  10. July 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    The example of Borodin proves nothing and you know it. But let’s move this along, shall we? You mention “our orthodoxies” – what are these “orthodoxies”? What is the scientific evidence against them?

    And by the way, the messenger wasn’t being shot … the messenger was accused of using the word “spite” for what was a valid objection to chemical engineers expounding outside their field of expertise. Would you go to an unqualified person for knowledge in a specific domain? Are you really that much of a orthodoxy-challenging relativist? How do you gain knowledge of the natural world around you?

    As an outsider, I was pointing to the waste of energy & talent and the pity of that.

    Your concern is noted, but how do you know “energy & talent” is being wasted? How do you know that I – for example – not only am being productive elsewhere but also have good reason to be working against creationist incursions into public science education? Is that not a cause worth fighting for? It all seems so worthless in Ireland I’m sure – and it was for me when I lived and went to college there – but the stakes are a little different here in the US. So, if you’re disinterested, fair enough, but your concern would probably best be sent elsewhere.

  11. Blaggarde
    July 26, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    The example of Borodin was not meant to “prove” anything but, rather, to convey the idea that “expertise” is not necessarily defined by a singular qualification, nor is it confined by it. The argument that only biologists can have expertise in biology is, frankly, a bit naive and in reality is a non-argument which in all probability will isolate otherwise useful colleagues.

    Yes, I would go to an “unqualified” person for advice in a specific domain, I do it all the time and so do you.

    Yes I was shot by both yourself and Monkeyman – NOT for use of the word “spite”, but for “trolling” and being a “very silly person”.

    Energy & talent is being wasted because you are constructing your arguments in a way which invites opposition rather than cooperation and perforce you corner yourself battling the opposition – notwithstanding any other good work you might do.

    As it happens I know quite a lot about educational conditions in some of the States; but i can recognise an eff-off when i read one – in your last line, so that’s what i’ll do.

    All the best.

  12. July 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    The example of Borodin was not meant to “prove” anything but, rather, to convey the idea that “expertise” is not necessarily defined by a singular qualification, nor is it confined by it.

    Borodin had a degree in medicine and then moved into chemistry (at a time when specialization in the sciences was nowhere as near as acute as it is today – most MD’s today would not necessarily be even able to do what he did). He began taking lessons in composition at the age of thirty but his main career remained as a chemist and physician. The fact that he produced memorable music is irrelevant to the issue at hand as the issue of “expertise” within the performing arts and sciences appears, to me at least, to be somewhat different.

    So let’s review:

    I asked what the “great questions” were that we would be more profitable in spending our time on. I got no answer.

    I asked what are these “orthodoxies” that you claim I hold. Again, no answer. If these “orthodoxies” involve the words “Darwinism” or “atheism” then you don’t know anything about what I’ve been writing online for all these years.

    I asked for the scientific evidence against those “orthodoxies”. No answer.

    Instead I’m told (in a Nisbetesque manner) that “I’m doing it wrong.” So tell me this, how much “cooperation” can one get from a YEC? An ID proponent? What could it possibly lead to? Teaching the “controversy”? I think you are either missing the realities of the situation here in the US or exhibiting the classical characteristics of a concern troll.

    And if I wanted you to feck off, I’d have told you so.

  13. July 26, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    The argument that only biologists can have expertise in biology is, frankly, a bit naive and in reality is a non-argument which in all probability will isolate otherwise useful colleagues.

    Of course non-biologists can have some form of expertise in biology. But they have to demonstrate such before their views can be given any weight. How many of the (700) signatories of the DI’s list of dissenters do you think actually have any demonstrated expertise in evolutionary biology?

    I would go to an “unqualified” person for advice in a specific domain, I do it all the time and so do you.

    No I don’t, especially when the domain involves technical knowledge. It’s the reason why I don’t ask my doctor to read my papers.

    I’m beginning to think TheMonkeyMan is right … you are a very silly person.

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