5.12.2005

Intelligent Design

My roommates and I had an interesting discussion yesterday about intelligent design. Ben mentioned an article he’d read in which the author argued that many scientists have failed to realize the growing distinction between ID and Creationism. Apparently ID is far more sophisticated and evidence-based than early Creationism, thus making it more plausible and more science-like.

While I agree that ID may be more plausible than Creationism, I still don’t buy the argument that the complexity of the natural world is evidence of an intelligent creator. Sure it sounds nice, but compared to what? There aren’t any other universes out there we can point to and say, “Now there’s a universe that was created by random chance. See how crude and disorganized it is. Our universe is far too elegant to have been created that way.” Complexity is relative, and with only one universe to study, there is nothing to compare that complexity (or simplicity) to. That’s where the argument falls apart for me.

I’m also interested in the dispute about whether or not ID should be considered a science. Personally I think it shouldn’t since it makes certain claims that the rules of science can’t verify. But that only speaks to where it belongs categorically, not its validity. And the fact that ID advocates push so hard to become a science suggests to me that they aren’t making that distinction and are confusing classification with rank. It’s as if being denied the title of science somehow makes it less compelling and is, in a way, saying that it is a sophomoric form of inquiry. On the contrary, I think that the incompatibility between science and ID is as much a sign of the poverty of science as it is that of ID.

I guess I just think it’s strange that ID advocates stress so much over making ID a science. I would expect them to find strength in the fact that their aim is to discover truths so ultimate that even almighty science can’t bear the whole burden.

5 comments:

Joe said...

Is evolution scientifically verifiable?

Andrew said...

Both creationism and ID are feeble minded attempts to force science to conform ideology (see environmentalism). Faith has no place in science. Fundamentalists across the country forcing schools to teach various flavors of Creationism and ID in the place of evolution is not so different from Catholic church committing Galileo to house arrest 400 years ago. Then it was also not scientifically verifiable that the earth was not the center of the universe.

Two links that soundly dispatch Creationism and ID:

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
(http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000D4FEC-7D5B-1D07-8E49809EC588EEDF&catID=2)
Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty--above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution--or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter--they are not expressing reservations about its truth.
In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as "an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true.'" The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.
All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists' conclusions less certain.

Life’s Grand Design
(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/change/grand/index.html)

Mark said...

To Joe's comment--I'm not sure. It may not be verifiable so much as testable, at least on a small scale, whereas ID isn't.

Joe said...

It seems to me that if the universe had a designer, he/she/it could have done a much better job.

Andrew said...

Whoops! I stand corrected:
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive//on-god-darwin-viagra-a_1125.html)