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God and Science; Potshot or Put-on? You Decide.; Dancing Around the Issue

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God and Science

Looking for the wrong miracle: "Intelligent design" is silly nonsense ("Looking for God at Berkeley," June 20). If we can't understand how some feature of life on Earth came about naturally, then we claim it's "irreducibly complex" and thrill to have found the handiwork of God. This is not science; it's not even close. Science is the idea that we should not throw up our hands, but keep working on the things we don't understand, and try to construct a theory -- an explanation. "Intelligent design" doesn't explain anything.

Those poor people at UC Berkeley, trying so hard to find the miracle that marks God, have totally missed the real, awesome miracle of life itself. Life, by its very nature, can make changes to itself. That's why there are so many different forms of life, adapted to so many different niches.

Surely, being Bible Christians trained as scientists, these folks must believe their God created our system of nature, which all works together and follows rules we can understand. But paradoxically, their religious beliefs blind them to this obvious evidence of an awesome creator. They won't see the hand of God unless God does a trick -- something that disrupts the system of nature and makes it not work. Nature that does work does not impress them.

Steve Geller
Berkeley

Darwin's new clothes: It's a delight to find out that someone in Berkeley besides Phillip Johnson recognizes that the emperor (Darwinism) is naked. Jed Macosko is a scientist, but his science is leading him to the "wrong" conclusions, at least as far as the Darwinian establishment is concerned. Unfortunately, Mark Athitakis' article is typical of what we see when intelligent design or creation science is addressed in the popular media. The issue is almost always cast as religion vs. science. There are many highly qualified scientists who are advocates of design or creation, and the number is increasing. It is not necessary to portray them as religious zealots or as having a nefarious religious agenda.

Darwinists complain that books like [biochemist Michael] Behe's Darwin's Black Box step outside the peer review process. Of course they would like to use the peer review process to keep the lid on the design movement. Submitting a scientific paper supporting a design argument to the Darwin-monopolized scientific community would be like submitting a paper on the merits of democracy and capitalism to the Chinese communist printing agency. It has about as much chance of being published as a snowball's chance in hell. As usual, advances in science are only made when the paradigm is shifted. Old ideas like Darwinism are hard to give up. In some respects, it is a religion vs. science issue, but both sides of the debate have religious and scientific axes to grind.

Chuck Nelson
Castro Valley

Leave it in the pew: A scientist is a person who conceives a hypothesis, devises an experiment to test it, then interprets the data from the experiment to confirm the hypothesis, deny it, or conclude that no conclusion is possible. Dr. Macosko is not doing this at all, therefore he is not doing science. He is posing as an authority in a field outside his specialty (theology, or possibly philosophy), and thereby helping to deceive the credulous. When he has some data regarding his hypothesis, I and many others would love to see it. Until then, he should confine his comments to the local church newspaper.

Michael Goldenberg
Duboce Triangle

Make some coffee; it could be a while: Excellent article. You presented both sides adequately, yet you (maybe unintentionally) helped to convince readers that there is a God who intelligently designed each one of us and our tiny little DNA strands. God is real. He created the world. Now we just have to wait and see how long it takes for everyone to realize that.

Laura Johnson
San Jose

We know people closer to 100 percent: Advocates of "intelligent design" hypotheses like Phillip Johnson scoff at evolution. Ironically, their scoffs are being drowned out in the flood of biological information pouring out of the many genome projects, all of which bolster the theory of evolution. We now know that in terms of gene numbers, our own genome is only twice the size of the humble fruit fly's, and 10 percent of our genes are shared with roundworms. The similarity between humans and animals, predicted by evolution, will become even more pronounced when the chimpanzee genome is completed. We already know that the overall genetic similarity between us and chimps is about 99 percent. Phillip Johnson better have a few scoffs saved up for that not-far-off day when we will know exactly the subtle genetic differences between a former Berkeley law professor and man's closest primate relative. My money's on the chimp and evolution having the last laugh.

Meanwhile, 10 years after Johnson's book Darwin on Trial, the scientific community awaits the debut of a single peer-reviewed paper on intelligent design in a recognized journal. The problem here is not one of science but philosophy; Johnson freely admits his Christian bias in Darwin on Trial. That is not to say scientists don't have biases, but the power of science is its ability to be self-correcting.

The reluctance of practically all scientists to support the intelligent design hypothesis comes not out of some desire to manipulate or conceal the truth but because all the data we have, such as the genome projects and 200 years of paleontology, geophysics, and astronomy, support evolution. For manipulation and concealment of the truth, society has ordained philosophers, theologians, politicians, and lawyers.

Damian J. McColl, Ph.D.
Haight

Smelly science: The [intelligent design] argument seems to be that molecular biology is so complex that it can't have happened without help from outside; thus Darwin is wrong. That argument reminds me of the amateur Egyptologist who deemed the Pyramids much too difficult for the ancient Egyptians to build with the materials at hand, and thus determined they had assistance from extraterrestrials. The proper conclusion is that the ancient Egyptians were smarter than the amateur Egyptologist and had centuries to get [their methods] right.

In the same way, it is apparent that the workings of microbiology are smarter than our current ability to understand, and [microbiology has] had unimaginable eons to "practice." Our lack of knowledge does not imply an "intelligent designer" unless you're looking for one. Intelligent design proponents seem to have one thing in common: a burning regard to prove Darwin wrong for whatever personal reasons. Their conclusions bear the unmistakable odor of researchers who find the answer first and then present the arguments that best fit their bias. It's rotten science, and it stinks.

Erik Bell
Haight

Is evolution itself a dinosaur?: This is truly a fascinating debate, and one that won't soon be resolved. For the first time we see a real scientific argument that challenges the primacy of Darwinian evolution. We see real scientists who have studied all the complexities of evolutionary theory in intimate detail. On the other hand, Darwinists do not know the arguments of intelligent design in the same detail. They are making the same mistake Darwin's critics made when evolution was first proposed; they are rejecting the theory out of hand without knowing well enough what they are rejecting.

It seems to me that once certain movements gain political/economic power, whether they be political movements, religious movements, or scientific movements, they tend to move away from being progressive movements to ones that exist mainly to maintain their power. I think some in the scientific establishment are guilty of this. They reject intelligent design theory not because it's unprovable but simply because it will result in a total loss of political power and cultural influence.

Of the three main theories/movements that shaped the 20th century (Marxism, psychotherapy, and evolution), two have been mostly scrapped, modified, or downgraded in terms of their importance and social impact. Perhaps it's fitting that, at the dawn of the 21st century, Darwinian evolution may join them.

David Flanagan
Annapolis, Md.

Potshot or Put-on? You Decide

Muffy goes to Burning Man: What did Deena Dion (if that is her real name) expect when she attended Burning Man ("Save Yourself for a Better Man," Summer in the City guide, June 20)? An MTV spring break? Come on, get real. Burning Man was designed for people who want communal living free of commercialism and advertising. Although, if Deena's commentary stops just one sorority slut whose only concerns are "will I get laid" and "where's the nearest Starbucks," then thank you.

Name Withheld
Sunset

Here's a Kleenex, now get over it: I can't help but weep for the future. How could you, SF Weekly, print a piece of trash like this? I have never seen such a brutal attack on an event by such an unqualified critic. Did you pay for this article? If so I'd be willing to be a political commentator. I watched CNN for 12 minutes this afternoon.

Scott Andrade
Berkeley

You can't fool all the people all the time: I just read through your Burning Man piece. There were just way too many clichés in that piece for it to be even moderately believable. Nice try, though.

Paul D. Addis
Nob Hill

Dancing Around the Issue

A license to party: Dan Strachota evidently has stayed up late one night too many. His little diatribe against me was, no doubt, written jointly with Chris Daly (Pop Philosophy, June 20).

For the record, neither I nor District 6 Democrats have anything against dancing, and on occasion we stay up late and party hard. What we are concerned about is this: Daly's legislation will remove dance hall permitting from the Police Department and replace it with nothing. This becomes a problem because it removes a layer of protection that the impoverished residents of the Tenderloin and downtown need to prevent unwholesome late-night entertainment venues from disturbing the frail elderly, small infants, and disabled who live in the neighborhoods Mr. Strachota so lightly regards. Despite repeated requests from many neighborhood organizations and residents, Daly has refused to meet and discuss his legislation. It should be noted that the Tenderloin and downtown do not have the conditional-use permitting that is standard for every other neighborhood in the city. Why won't Daly carry the legislation that was developed by the community, which would establish a fair process for permitting late-night venues? Is it because this might put some controls on the very people who bankroll Daly?

In the future, it would be helpful if Strachota and Daly would stick to the facts. Residents of District 6 are beginning to look beyond Daly's artful rhetoric and self-serving propaganda. It is time to bring home the bacon, Chris.

Frederick Hobson
District 6 Democrats
Tenderloin

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