Science, Just Science

15 April 2007

ID In A Nutshell

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 11:38 am

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

A press release for a new ID video on the cambrian explosion contains the paragraph:

Today, after more than 150 years of digging, fossil evidence of slow, incremental biological change does not exist. Instead, we find a pattern pf rapid, dramatic appearances of fully developed, complex organisms in the ancient rock strata of the world. A pattern that is best explained by the work of a transcendent intelligence.

This is the main ID argument: ‘We don’t think evolution can explain X, therefore X is the work of a ‘transcendent intelligence’. This is often restated as something like: ‘Everytime we see complext machines/information processing systems they are the result of intelligence, therefore life is the result of intelligence’.

There are several problems with this argument:

  • One of the most important concepts in science is the parsimony principle, commonly known as Occam’s Razor, which states ‘”Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”, or “when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest hypothetical entities.” This means that you need an awful lot of positive evidence before you can invoke a ‘transcendent intelligence’.
  • You cant just say a hypothetical intelligence is capable of creating life, you actually have to prove that it did in this case. Scientists do not simply rest on the fact that evolution is capable of te diversification of life, there is much research finding the signatures of processes such as natural selection, genetic drift, gene duplication etc. in genomes.
  • Just saying ‘intelligence’ did something is not an explanation, as it can be used to explain everything. The fact that virtually all organisms share a genetic code is explained by saying that the designer reuses certain components much like the way an engineer might reuse certain components in different machines. However if the genetic codes of all species were different then this could be explained by simply saying that the designer chose to use differenct codes to create different creatures.
  • Even if evolution is disproved ID does not become the defualt theory. For example there are several hypotheses that claim organisms evolved naturally even in the absence of common descent. Although these theories are not accepted by the scientific community if common descent were disproven this means that any form of creationism or ID would not automatically be right.

These are the reasons why ID is not accepted by the scientific community. Assuming ID can be proved it should be fairly easy to do the research to confirm it, especially as they claim they have hundreds of scientists who support them (who have signed their names so can’t claim fear of retribution), and millions of dollars in funds. Currently noone can say what an ID research program would look like, so scientists are not holding their breath.

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