Science, Just Science

5 April 2007

Why No One Listens To The Discovery Institute

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 11:21 am

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

ID supporters like to claim that ‘Darwinists’ problems with ID usually stem from misunderstanding what the ID arguments are. Two problems with this are obvious:

  • Depending on which ID supporter you ask, ID arguments are different and often contradictory.
  • Most ID arguments are based on misunderstandings/misrepresentations of evolutionary theory in the first place.

Another problem is that if the criticisms are in a non-scientific publication it’s quite easy to nitpick and claim that the author is misrepresenting ID when in fact they are being entirely reasonable. The discovery institute is complaining about a newspaper report regarding one of their upcoming ‘debates’, which says:

Those who favour intelligent design seek to prove that evolution is impossible because the complexity of human systems is beyond the capacity of the Darwinian process to accomplish. Hence, humankind must have been created by a supreme designer.

The DI nitpick that:

Contrary to Ms. Cullum, ID proponents do not claim that ID proves that “evolution is impossible.” In fact, ID is perfectly compatible with many types of evolution, as ID proponents have pointed out repeatedly.

This attempts to make ID sound less non-scientific, when in fact ID says that one of the main claims of the theory of evolution, that mutation and natural selection (among other things) can lead to rises in complexity, is impossible.

ID is not based simply on “complexity,” but on what mathematician William Dembski has called “specified complexity,” complexity that is highly-functional and highly-ordered for a certain purpose. And, yes, there is a lot of empirical evidence that the unguided Darwinian process of natural selection and random mutations cannot generate this kind of highly-functional complexity.

Except that ‘specified complexity’ when applied to nature is so ill defined as to be useless, and if the DI has any proof that (a non strawman version of) evolution can’t produce it they haven’t said what it is.

ID does not claim that the biological evidence for design proves that “humankind must have been created by a supreme designer,” only that it provides strong empirical evidence that the development of life was the product of an intelligent process rather than an undirected process of chance and necessity like natural selection and random mutations.

You can argue over whether ‘supreme’ was the correct word to use but we are certainly talking about something with abilities way beyond our current understanding.

Ms. Cullum attempts to justify excluding ID proponents from SMU’s campus by comparing ID supporters to faith-healers and Holocaust deniers. You know that someone has run out of rational arguments when the person has to resort to such smears. Last time I checked, faith-healers weren’t on the faculty of major medical schools, nor were Holocaust deniers on the faculty of history departments at reputable universities. Yet scientists and philosophers who support intelligent design are on the faculties of many American universities, and they hold Ph.D.s from mainstream graduate programs in such disciplines as biology, biochemistry, physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Moreover, the arguments for ID are being made in books, monographs, and technical articles published by mainstream academic presses and peer-reviewed journals.

Intelligent design supporters ignore any data or evidence that doesn’t support their cause, seem to be unconcerned with their own ignorance and invoke a conspiracy to explain the scientific consensus. In this way it is very similar to holocaust denial an pseudo-medicine. While the arguments for ID may have been made in journals, there has certainly been no positive evidence put forward, or research to test IDs claims.

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