Thursday, August 04, 2005

Unintelligent Design

I posted this on David Brin's blog earlier today...but since it's been forever since I posted here, I thought I'd just paste it in...

This whole "Intelligent Design" thing is a smokescreen to get Creationism back on the table. Remember that Creationism's full name was "Scientific Creationism" when it first came out. Then it turned out that it wasn't so scientific after all, as scientific inquiry poked hole after hole in it, until finally no one outside of the radical religious community promotes it as science anymore. So Plan B is to redefine science to include being able to do thought experiments on your theory, not just being able to prove things with repeatable evidence. And really, what that means is that Philosophy is science too, so philosophers should be put on the same playing field as scientists: anything a philosopher can prove rhetorically (OK, be charitable, through logic) is just as valid as anything a scientist can prove in a lab. After all, they both get Ph.D.s, right? Heh.

String theorists should be ecstatic; if Intelligent Design is science, then there will no longer be any objections to String Theory as being empirically unprovable. But for those of us who love science, it's hard to swallow. Jacare pointed out his discomfort with the "God of the gaps" theory; well, Jacare, ID is exactly that. ID postulates that once science reaches a point of "irreducible complexity", i.e. something whose complexity cannot be explained by science, that complexity must be attributed to an Intelligent Designer. A.K.A. God, but you might have a hard time pinning ID proponents down on that (Diane Rehm had an ID panel on her show this morning, and it was a laugh riot listening to the ID guy squirm and twist trying to avoid saying that the Intelligent Designer was in fact God; Diane kept after him a couple of times but was too sweet to pin him to the wall). They know that as soon as the Intelligent Designer is named God, they're back to trying to teach God in school and that's not going to fly. So they won't call it God; I was itching to call up and ask if the ID guy felt that perhaps it was space aliens who brought single-celled life to earth. After all, if the Intelligent Designer isn't God, it has to be someone, right? (That's the logical, scientific question to ask!) Maybe Stan Lee was right, and it was the Celestials! ROFL.

No, Intelligent Design serves no purpose. It will waste a lot of time as actual scientists are forced to drop what they are doing and shoot this one down just like they did Scientific Creationism. The theory of evolution will not be enhanced by this, as no new scientific evidence will be revealed. Indeed, I think Evolution is largely complete; once the single-celled life gets there, evolution takes hold. Evolution does not try to explain what happens before then or how the single-celled life comes to be, and trying to stretch it to cover that is a mistake. ID guys seize on that as evidence: "see, evolution can't explain how single-celled life comes to be, and if a theory can be shown false in any respect the entire theory must be wrong, therefore evolution is wrong." That isn't science, it's rhetoric, and it misses the point anyway, but people have to be shown how that argument is misdirected. That takes time, time better spent doing science rather than rhetoric; but now we'll have to do it, because thanks to the Enlightenment the religious nutjobs have to have some sort of scientific basis for their faith nowadays (or something that is accepted as scientific, even if it really isn't). It's just another battle in the war between ignorance and reason.

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