Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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"And again, Amba, you've sidestepped my question on motive. You presumably don't go around adopting every unprovable notion, why the God idea in particular?"

Michael, where does it say I've "adopted" "the God idea"? I seem to have become your straw woman.

Well, since I have the name, I might as well have the game -- I'll pray for you and your goddamned cold, OK?! (Seriously, 3 weeks is too long -- what gives??)

Tom: "The original meaning of "reality" is "the king's land." He who determines reality is sovereign." WOW.

michael reynolds

Amba: Cold meets the worst allergy season in NC history. I've been unable to smoke cigars, I can't drink because of all the medication, and when I yell at the kids I sound like Harvey Fierstein, so it's a wonder I'm still clinging to life.

But thanks for the prayers, straw woman.


Michael, Sleipner, et. al.: Here's a quote from Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, that comes close to speaking for me (emphasis added):

I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.
Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them.

I should add that all generalizations are false, including this one: I would never claim that all God's followers promote cruelty and ignorance in his name. It's perfectly possible to explain how cruelty and ignorance came about without bringing God into it, too.


I have believed for years that religion is behind most cruelty, ignorance, bigotry, war, and a host of other evils, both historically and today. If not directly, then as a tool by which unscrupulous greedy people bludgeon their brainwashed followers into doing what they want.


Wow. After 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of grad school, 4 years of another grad school, and taking part in all manners of heated debate - I don't think I've EVER had my comments so viciously and personally attacked....nor do I believe they have ever been so mis-construed. Sounds like someone *really* needs to get laid. A piece of advice: I wouldn't rely on your winning personality'd better hire a professional.

What I was really hoping to find when I chanced upon this site, was an open-minded, provacative discussion about the theory of Intelligent Design, a topic I am very interested in. I am not an expert in the field of evolution nor the ID school...I did not see that listed as a pre-requisite for making a comment on the site.

Let me state my points more clearly, since apparently some people need a little hand-holding.

1.) I feel that it is detrimental to any field to polarize view-points into camps and demonize the other side. When I was a grad student in sociology, the field was fractured between two camps which argued endlessly about research methods (qualitative vs. quantitative). The field was so divided that it seemed to me like no study existed except to prove the other side wrong. There was no room for any new research, any new ideas, any new a grad student you were expected to choose camps and don your battle gear.
In order to discuss something so abstract and theoretical as Intelligent Design, it seems to me, that if there IS a prerequisite, it SHOULD be having an open-mind.

2) Regarding my point about the leeches, eletroshock therapy, etc....I simply meant that you can't assume that "modern science" has all the answers. I AM NOT SAYING THAT EVOLUTIONARY THEORIES ARE INCORRECT! That is not my point! Stop frothing at the mouth for a minute and hear me out!

As we all know, science is a progressing field....we don't have all the answers. We are constantly having to revise and append our knowledge. There are all sorts of wacky things that people used to believe as "fact" (and all those things I mentioned were at one time presented in student text books as "scientific fact"). And now we know better....we have more complete facts in, there has been more research, etc. Blah blah blah. However, in a 100-200 years, society will laugh at the wacky things people believed in 2005.

Take for example, the field of quantum physics. It was initially met with hostile reaction by contemporary physicists, including Einstein. Now that quantum physics is a well-established field, does that mean that Newton was WRONG?? No, of couse not. But now we have a more complete picture.

Therefore, to make a statement like "there is no evidence for intelligent design, *therefore* it doesn't exist" seems a little .....ummmm.....overly conclusive and premature. What I would find less objectionable is a statement more like "I have never seen any evidence of intelligent design that I find personally complelling, therefore, in my opinion, it has no current scientific validity". (SAMPLE STATEMENT made freely available to anti-IDers!)

When I abadoned the lost field of sociology for another graduate program, sociologists were still clenching their teeth with each other and at war over how to measure abstract concepts, such as "love", "happiness", "sucess", and yes, "intelligence". It is difficult enough to agree on a common definition of such concepts...much less incorporate them into any tool which would somehow "measure" them....and to what end?

This is what I see as the problem here. We are trying to fit a concept that is so abstract, so subjective, so very difficult to define, and measure it using the scientific method. Nothing against the scientific method....but it is clearly not the correct tool for the task. However, don't fault the concept because you are using the wrong tool! And worse yet, don't make a quantum logical leap and say the concept doesn't exist because your research methods (NOT for studying evolution, but for studying abstract concepts) are erred from the get-go.

The thing that really irks me out of this whole conversation is the sneering attitude that investigations into a concept like Intelligent Design is synonymous with investigations of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy...and that anyone who finds this a compelling topic has been hanging out too long at the gas pump inhaling fumes.

What I would be profoundly interested in is a non-polarized conversation about how one WOULD study Intelligent Design (using a different paradigm of methodology).


My statement at least is not, "No evidence means it does not exist" My statement is "No evidence means it cannot be presented as scientific, and does not belong in science class" No scientific theory is ever accepted into the common body of knowledge until and unless a certain minimum level of evidence is amassed. ID has none.

If at some point in the future, a "Godometer" is invented that provides concrete evidence of the presence of god in natural forces, then and only then should ID be added to the science curriculum.

Until then it only belongs in religious philosophy courses and sunday school.

If some researcher is actually attempting to find actual scientific evidence of ID in the lab, he or she is most welcome to do so - I personally can see no way by which one could ever dissociate external influence from the natural workings of the genome, so I think it would be a waste of time and money. I would also strongly object to the use of any federal funds for such an obviously religiously-oriented research program (but I'm positive Bush would jump all over it)

You say that the scientific method is not the correct tool for ID - I agree completely. That is because ID is NOT scientific, which is the point we have been trying to make all along. And to claim because ID is not capable of being examined scientifically that "our research methods are erred from the get-go" is ludicrous.

Though some of the comments here have been harsh, I think it is because most non-fundamentalists with more than a rudimentary science education are astounded and infuriated to hear that the whole creationism/ID issue is still even being debated. Of course the only reason is due to the influence of churches, which HAVE to make a stand on this issue or they lose one of their primary selling points - the omnipotence and power of God. I've always thought it was a neat trick to manage to create an omnipotent being that is undetectable by any known means...even the Force can be detected scientifically (at least in the new series).

And also - it seems that whenever anyone wants to "discuss ID in a non-polarized conversation" they usually only object to the other side's polarization, not their own. And if I recall there was some sneering occurring from you in the direction of science and the scientific method.


Lynn, you say:

"What I would be profoundly interested in is a non-polarized conversation about how one WOULD study Intelligent Design (using a different paradigm of methodology)."

I might also be interested, although I generally find abstract philosophy discussions to be circular and non-productive. But here's the point--IDers (maybe not you, I don't know) advance their god (oops, designer) of the gaps argument, sit back and insist that scientists disprove them. I watched ID's best and brightest come to Kansas and insist that ID be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution, and never advance a single proof, experiment, test, workable hypothesis, or any other useful idea. Why should any opponent of teaching ID as science, or any non-believer in ID or any other religious/philosphical belief, be expected to provide a means of testing that belief? If the believers think it can be proved, let them do it--and scientists will consider it. If you expect reasonable and rational responses to the proposition that "I'm right and you can't prove I'm wrong", scientists are the wrong place to go.


Lynn said: "What I would be profoundly interested in is a non-polarized conversation about how one WOULD study Intelligent Design (using a different paradigm of methodology)."

That would interest me too. Or even using the SAME paradigm of methodology. IDers and evolutionists alike, please weigh in: how would you design an experiment (as opposed to an inference from "irreducible complexity") to detect the workings of intelligent intent in evolutionary change? What would be "evidence"?


I've already said I thought the place to start (if at all possible) would be to find out whether mutations are totally random or whether they arise (not just "are selected") in response to changing conditions.

Mike Broderick

It’s curious to me how difficult it is to broach this subject to people who clearly are well informed about the scientific facts underpinning this question but I would like to point out that a legitimate fascination with the “why” of evolutionary processes doesn’t imply an anti-scientific or necessarily irrational viewpoint. However I do believe that ID as currently expounded is little more than a ploy of the absolutist wing-nuts to get a foot in the door

Having said that, empirical analysis isn’t intrinsically inimical to a feeling of spiritual mysticism. Indeed, it makes savoring the mysteries of creation all the more profound

It’s it all the result of chance? On the face of it, yes, random chance, in to form of ionizing radiation, mutagenic agents, environmental stress or opportunity is the engine that drives the process forward. What I find fascinating is how order arises out of random chaos. This anti-entropic tendency is nothing short of amazing. It does not require a creator a-priori but I believe it does imply some sort of on-going creative process.

I personally feel that the concept of God is not about some pre-existing ‘creature’ or entity. That viewpoint is entirely too anthropomorphic and frankly, I have always found the idea ridiculous. Like I said in a post above, I feel that “God” is an emergent property of matter itself and the ‘purpose’ of life is nothing less than the fullest appreciation and expression of this tendency. Creator and created are one and the same. The question of what came first is simply a pathetic artifact of our limited perceptions.

Does that belief interfere with empirical analysis? Not at all. Is it a testable hypothesis? No, at least not with any means currently at hand, and I wouldn’t claim otherwise. It is just a philosophical viewpoint that I think keeps the options open.

The best we can do at this time is to exhaustively study the process and the evidence as it presents itself. It is interesting though, that the deeper we look, dogma and superstition tend to wither away but the core mystery remains. This scares the shit out of people because it turns the mirror inside out. As it has been pointed out in the posts above, many people deal with this by simply turning away, retreating to dogma and a simplistic view of reality. You have to admit, it’s a hell of a lot easier. On many levels, ignorance really is bliss.

A strictly, or perhaps I should say, dogmatically, reductionist viewpoint is certainly far more rational and helpful in understanding empirical reality but it can only answer the questions that can be asked in it’s own language. In that respect it can be just as limiting. If spiritual mysticism isn’t your cup of tea, that’s fine but please allow me the indulgence. Personally I feel that to say “that’s all there is to it”, walling off the philosophical questions and saying that they have absolutely no bearing on the questions at hand does the human intellect a dis-service.

What it really comes down to though, in terms of the current ID debate is whether or not it can legitimately be used to question the Darwinian understanding of our origins and the answer is, of course not. It’s apples and oranges and until we learn to hybridize them, the twain shall not meet. But by the same token, we shouldn’t use science to attack ID. It’s (obviously) not tractable to empirical arguments. In my opinion, it’s not about bad science, It’s about bad philosophy.


Mike, I agree with what I take to be your main point--that questioning the "why" can be fun, and/or productive, and/or meaningful; and it certainly is'nt anti-science, as evidenced by the huge numbers of scientists who hold a variety of religious and philosophical beliefs. Maybe the problem is semantic--this discussion started out to be about Inteligent Design, a specific set of ideas held out by its creators and proponents as being definitely a scientific hypothesis, or theory, or some such; and intended and claimed to be a viable scientific alternative to current bilogical theory, principally evolution (although now they seem to be going after cosmology and physics, at least). So I don't think you can possibly say, "don't use science to attack ID". We must do so, or wind up having high school science teachers pushing Intelligent Design to our (or at least my) kids, and going from there to biblical creation.

If Lynn and Amba are really saying "Let's really look at Intelligent Design as if it has some merit, and treat it scientifically", they're going to inherit (rightly or wrongly) a pretty high level of negative energy--the guns are locked and loaded. Look at Panda's Thumb, or, or Unscrewing the Inscrutable or some of the Kansas folk following the ID assault on our schools; or any number of sites where actual scientists are fighting the pseudo science and politics of the Intelligent Design religion. ID simply isn't a fun, philosophical romp to a lot of people. (Sorry for my inexpertness with links--there's an amazing amount of good information out there on this issue).

If they, and others here, are saying, hey, it might be interesting to talk about the "why" of evolution, or the existence of us, or Maxwell's demon, or whatever, then abandoning the ID baggage will probably reduce the pemperature.


Damn, I obviously have gotten way too reliant on spell check.

Tom Strong

Michael Reynolds,

I apologize for mischaracterizing your position. Obviously I did not read as carefully as I should have.

No problem. Blogs will be blogs.


One moment please....allow me to check my bearings....I guess I mistakenly thought I was on a blog site posting theoretical comments (albeit mine are poorly composed!) about the theory of Intelligent Design.

Now that I look around, I guess that this is actually a left wing vs. right wing political discussion regarding what children should be taught in schools.
Ummmmmmm, can someone clue me in? What side am I on?

Mike Broderick wrote: "What I find fascinating is how order arises out of random chaos."

In light of what we have learned from chaos theory and the study of complex systems, (and please forgive me... I only know the basics) can we really make the claim that anything is random? Or is it more accurate to claim that we are not able to fully account for the infinite (or, at least, too many for us to comprehend) variables?

Just because something cannot be studied using the conventional scientific method doesn't mean that the something is not worthy of scientific pursuit. Isn't that what science is all about? Am I just too idealistic?

And to the Sleipners of the world, please don't interpret this as sneering.... I am not the sneering type. The conventional scientific method is a perfectly wonderful tool for measuring lots of stuff.... but it should be recognized as a means to an end, not the end itself. It has limitations. There are plenty of phenomena, very worthy or scientific study, that cannot be accurately measured using the conventional scientific method. It should be the call of all scientists to be cognizant of the limitations of their research methods and to be constantly striving for new methods, new frontiers, new questions......

Do I sound like Captain Kirk?


Chaos theory, as I understand it, does not negate randomness, in fact, it revels in it. The base concept is that in certain systems, small variations in the initial conditions can explode into enormous variations in the final result.

The most extreme example of this is perhaps the Big Bang itself, in which infinitessimal variations in initial starting conditions caused tiny ripples, which grew into galatic structures billions of light years across.

I do not believe any force other than chaos and/or chance is necessary to describe such theories, especially since at least some level of computer modelling of chaos theory has occurred. One would not demean God by suggesting that he meddles in grad student research project models ;)

I would reiterate the comments above about any foray into ID causes a knee-jerk reaction from scientists and liberals, because in our opinion (arrogantly assuming the right to speak for the group) any attempt at pushing ID is an attempt at pushing creationism into schools in camouflage drag.

I apologize for the sneering comment, though I would have to say that most of the methodologies I have ever heard of that are capable of discussing ID as a viable option sound more like mysticism than science. I have always been somewhat skeptical about even the soft sciences, in that they are so inexact and incapable of specific resolution that the results are never beyond dispute. The old adage, ask 10 economists their opinion and you'll get 10 different answers holds equally true with any methodology capable of investigating ID. And thus, the results are equally inconsequential and unconvincing.

Not too bad for being 3 sheets to the wind, if I do say so myself ;)


"Just because something cannot be studied using the conventional scientific method doesn't mean that the something is not worthy of scientific pursuit. Isn't that what science is all about? Am I just too idealistic?"

No, I don't think idealistic is the word. Scientific pursuit, it turns out, is the study of the natural world using scientific method. Science is not all about studying non-natural designers inserting miracles into the world; nor is it, as Behe would have it, about deciding that organisms are so like little machines, they must be built like big human machines. Try another methodology; maybe numerology would help. But science does not pursue magic.


Wow, this went on for quite a while after I stopped checking back. Amba, I suspect our positions are not very different. That Pullman thought, and your caveat, are agreeable to me.

The principal difference between us seems to be that I do not have tolerance for the stuff being trotted out by the creationist/ID crowd, who, along with their non-existent science and utter disregard for honest ways of understanding reality, have a distinctly unsophisticated understanding of metaphysics and, dare I say it, theology.

I can sit down and have a very agreeable discussion with Simon Conway Morris, or Polkingorne, or even Alister McGrath, who are all honest people who do not find a need to bluff around with science and physical reality to buttress their faith in God, but I can't imagine five minutes with the ID phonies. They are impossible.

I dropped by just to put up a link, for the possible benefit of some future web surfer, to the recent Kansas circus hearings, most unfortunately entitled "Science Standards Expert Testimony." They've just been released.

Tragi-comedy at its finest.


AR - thanks very much for posting that link. I'm going to put it in an update.

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