Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Problem With Intelligent Design

Adam Wolfson has written an article that hits the nail on the head with regard to the problem with Intelligent Design (ID). For all of the cries that ID is not science, Wolfson tells us that it is … and it isn’t.

That is, there are two sides of ID. One side is scientific, and the other is not. Wolfson quotes two eminent scientists as praising ID promoters for aptly noting through biochemistry and mathematical physics “that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection cannot explain the existence of some complex biological systems.” They have shown scientifically that there are “various difficulties in orthodox Darwinian theory.” “They have better than most shown how natural selection comes up short as a universal meta-explanation.”

But then there’s the unscientific side of ID, which teaches that the only possible answer to the resulting paradox is a “Designer-God.” Wolfson argues that this conclusion in unscientific. It might be reasonable, but it cannot be tested scientifically.

Interestingly, there is also an unscientific side to dogmatic Darwinism, which has been misused as “a battering-ram against religion.”
“If the point of Darwinism is to refute the existence of God, as these popularizers tend to claim, then it too would have to be excluded from the science curriculum. The Supreme Court, after all, has ruled that the state must remain neutral between religion and irreligion. In their more heated polemics, Darwin's popularizers paint themselves into this intellectual corner.”
Somehow this point seems to be lost on our education and judicial systems.

Wolfson laments that the unscientific portion of ID is preventing the scientific portion from gaining any traction. The unfortunate result is that “the mistaken notion that Darwin defeated God--not only reigns culturally supreme, but also apparently increasingly has the legal backing of the state.” He concludes that the fact that orthodox Darwinism cannot be questioned in schools “marks not so much enlightenment's progress as a narrowing of our intellectual horizons.”


Travis said...

I had an interest thought on this, and considered writing about it myself, but I just don't know that I want to go there. So, I will place my interesting thought here.

There is little evidence about global warming, and it is taught in schools. There is little evidence about intellegent design, but it is not allowed in schools. Interesting hypocracy.

Reach Upward said...

Actually, in my studies I have found that there is a great deal of empirical evidence that the average global temperature is trending upward. Where the major controvery lies is in what is causing this upward trend. There have been many studies and myriads of scientific observations. Many conclusions have been prematurely jumped to, when an objective analysis makes it clear that we simply do not know for sure what is causing the warming trend.

Just as the conclusions drawn by ID have not been scientifically demonstrated to be the only possible answer to biological complexity, the conclusions drawn by various parties with regard to global warming have not been scientifically proven to be the only possible answer.

Activists commonly use bullying in their arguments to close off debate. The National Geographic, for example, paints those that refuse to believe global warming to be chiefly human caused as bullheaded idiots. The truth is that the Geographic and other activist publications exclude evidence that does not support their conclusions.

Activists argue that since some observations support a possible human causality, we must take action to curb human activity now because we cannot afford to wait for conclusive evidence. This is the basis of the Kyoto Treaty and similar efforts. It is also the basis of some of what is being taught to our schoolchildren.

I agree that a common standard should be applied to all public curriculum. There is obviously a dual standard being applied. That should be remedied.

Reach Upward said...

By the way, has anyone out there actually read Rep. Buttars bill? From all of the freaking out and nasty name-calling in the media and on blog sites, you'd think the bill called for torture experiments. I doubt most of the commentators have read the bill.

The bill is brief and simply states that when teaching matters of theory of life origins upon which there is legitimate scientific disagreement, teachers should state that not all scientists agree on the matter. It seeks to make sure that the state takes a neutral position on the various theories, and requires the Board of Education to develop curriculum aimed at that goal.

I see nowhere in the bill that requires nonscientific material to be taught in science classes. It does, however, open the door to challenging orthodox Darwinism as the only acceptable doctrine taught. After reading the bill, I have to wonder what all of the strident opposition voices out there are afraid of. They come across like the creationists at the time of the Scopes trial.

slam smith said...

After reading the bill, I have to wonder what all of the strident opposition voices out there are afraid of. They come across like the creationists at the time of the Scopes trial. In part, it's the camel's nose under the tent theory. If you allow even the slightest opening, before you know it the whole camel is in the tent. Also I believe it's an opportunity for someone to make a statement. It doesn't matter if they are purposefully misinterpreting the facts, they have the spotlight and can now make their point.

Travis said...

I read the Bill a while ago. Too tired to review it now. But I have wondered ever sinces it announcement why so many people are against it.

That said, I do have a problem with the bill. It's a dumb law mandating that teachers do what they are already supposed to be doing. Teachers should be presenting all the ideas for all topics. Not just rote memorization.

Reach Upward said...

Mark and Travis, very good points.

Reach Upward said...

Orson Scott Card has a great article here that parallels the article I cited, but his goes into much greater detail and is more enjoyable to read. Card takes apart both dogmatic sides of the debate in a wonderful manner. It is worth reading.