Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Steve Petermann - another Engineer for Christ (and against evolution)

Over at "Telic Thoughts," creationist engineer Steve Petermann, a contributing author at that blog, came up with a doozy.

This masterpiece of scientific ignorance is titled "More than Information" and opens with a very interesting paragraph:

How can one evaluate the claims of intelligent design? Of course, one way is through some sort of method for acquiring and interpreting empirical observations. However, there is another method that for many people is a reasonable approach and often compelling as long as the empirical approach does not dispell it.

That is by analogy.



Analogy. A classic bit of "evidence" that creationists rely on. Why? Because they cannot produce any actual evidence supportive of their claims.

Petermann focuses on DNA, and ends his simple-minded diatribe with this intellectually vacuous blurb:

It would seem that, given the force of analogical evidence, the burden of proof
should lie with those who reject this inference.


Let us think about this for a moment - is an analogy really evidence?
A common analogy used by both evolutionists and creationists is the DNA/language analogy, and since Petermann's silly essay focuses on DNA and how it is just like engineered systems, let's go with it.

The standard biologist use of this analogy goes something like this:

Nucleotides are like letters
Triplets/codons are like words
A gene is like a sentence
The genome is like a book

I use a version of this analogy when I introduce students to protein synthesis. I explain that it is just an analogy, and I use it ther appropriate way - as a tool for making the complex technical process easier to understand. I do not use it as 'evidence' for anything, nor would any sensible scientist.
This is pointed out, and Petermann asks:

Do the Darwinists or you have other evidence to overturn the evidence from
analogy?

Myrmecos, an entomologist, responds:

But for scientists, evidence from analogy simply does not count for anything
other than perhaps as a teaching tool. There is no field of science where
analogy is treated as a valid form of evidence.


Not to be outdone, the creationist engineer counters:

Really? What about experimental science? Looks like to me experimental science
uses evidence from analogy all the time.


and

Then there’s biology. Doesn’t biology use evidence from analogy all the
time? Here’s just one example from a quick Google search:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/analogy_01



Now, this is particularly funny to me - for it shows that Petermann does not understand how an evolutionary biologist uses the term "analogy":

analogy
(Science: biology) Two anatomical structures or behavioural traits within different and unrelated organisms which perform the same functions in each organism but which did not originate from an ancestral structure or trait that the organisms' ancestors had in common.
Instead, the structures or traits arose separately and then later evolved to perform the same function (or similar functions).
See: convergent evolution.

This is different from the colloquial definition/usage and, apparently, what Petermann thinks:

1.Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
2.A comparison based on such similarity. See Synonyms at likeness.

But, Petermann the creationist engineer has his mind set on his personal application of the term, and his idiosyncratic notions of what constitutes evidence in science.


Analogies are not evidence. One would think - hope - that a trained engineer would realize that.


*standard disclaimer - this is not an indictment of engineers in general, just another data point for the Salem Hypothesis.

3 comments:

Steve Petermann said...

Hi Doppleganger,

"creationist engineer Steve Petermann"

Just to set the record straight I am not a creationist. In fact, I am not even a Christian. I am a telic evolutionist.


"Now, this is particularly funny to me - for it shows that Petermann does not understand how an evolutionary biologist uses the term "analogy":"

But we are not talking about biology, per se, but philosophy of science. Are you saying that experimental scientists do not claim that their findings constitute evidence even though their experients are similar in some respects to what they study but different in others?

Steve Petermann

Doppelganger said...

Hi Steve,

"creationist engineer Steve Petermann"

Just to set the record straight I am not a creationist. In fact, I am not even a Christian. I am a telic evolutionist.


Two sides of the same coin, as best I can tell.


"Now, this is particularly funny to me - for it shows that Petermann does not understand how an evolutionary biologist uses the term "analogy":"

But we are not talking about biology, per se, but philosophy of science.




The blog you aparticipate is primarily about counbtering evolution, "Darwinism," is it not?
If you were not writing about biology, why did you mention DNA? Is not DNA a biological molecule, especially as you were writing about it? And if you were not writing about it from a biological 'standpoint', why did you challenge "Darwinists" to 'overturn' your [non]evidence via analogy?

Let's just say, for the sake of discussion, that you were actually talking about philosophy of science.

Analogies are not considered evidence THERE, either.



Are you saying that experimental scientists do not claim that their findings constitute evidence even though their experients are similar in some respects to what they study but different in others?
Steve Petermann


What ever are you talking about? An experimental biologist would not dream of tinkering with legos and declaring it 'evidence' via analogy that the plasma membrane is made up of interlocking subunits or something.

Analogies are useful in describing things, as I mentioned, but analogies are not EVIDENCE.

Let me guess - you are thinking genetic algorithms? Dawkin's program perhaps? These are not evidence via analogy that evolution [as such] works, rather they are models of a particular aspect of some process, and they demonstrate that particualr aspects of a process under certain conditions. A model is an imperfect representation, not an analogy.


And to revisit an earlier point, you SPECIFICALLY singled out biology and linked to a site discussing the biological concept of analogy, which is NOT in the least what you are writing about.

There is no point that you can salvage.

Sorry.

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