Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rethinking Darwin

If you haven't been following the ID story because you haven't wanted to do the digging to get the straight scoop on intelligent design, this introductory article seems very even-handed. (Score one for the paper-and-ink media.)

Finding even-handedness really seems to be the problem in this whole controversy. Everyone you read seems to be partisan. (I have my suspicions as to who is right, but there's a big empty area of my mental desk marked "put new data here as it comes in".)

(No cracks about other big empty areas of my mental desk.)


Equus Albus said...

Its an icky subject, and bound to get someone angry, somewhere, no matter what side of the debate you are on.

Intelligent Design sounds about as good as any theory and its nice to see those of faith are finally trying to keep up with the Jones's. Considering that evolution is also only a theory, I fail to see the anger in teaching opposing theories as well. Unless of course someone behind this is pushing that evolution is fact.

If I were the teacher being forced to abandon teaching theories of how we all got here and into teaching only evolution, I would simply spend 90% of the time talking about the wholes in this theory and giving no alternative what so ever. It would still be teaching accurately and all about evolution right?

mythago said...

No, "even-handedness" is not the problem. The problem is that a particular group of people are trying to teach their interpretation of the early parts of Genesis in public schools.

McDuff said...

Equus Albus:

See, it's this kind of fuzzy lay-interpretation of things "sounding as good" as other things that gets scientists upset and cranky.

"Gravity" is "just a theory" as well, and you've probably heard of a guy called Einstein and his "theory of relativity." In lay terms, "theory" means "some unfounded hypothesis that I can't prove," but an actual Scientific Theory has to be much more rigorously tested. ID is not a theory, it's an idea about potential causes of unexplained phenomena within another theory. It fails as science because it's untestable and unfalsifiable.

Also, if you were a biology teacher and spent your time on the "holes" in evolutionary theory, you'd want to check that what you were teaching was accurate and not just dredged from creationist websites. Much of what people think are "holes" in modern evolutionary theory end up being a misunderstanding of the theory. It's true that all scientific theories have aspects of the universe that they don't explain. Gravity and relativity have plenty of "holes" in them, but that is no reason to throw them out of the window because they provide useful and usable results. Same with evolution -- medicine is grounded in biology, and modern understanding of human biology is inextricably caught up with the understanding of our evolutionary ancestry. Even things like "why does the Atkins diet work?" rely on an evolutionary understanding of our digestive system.

The ID debate is disappointing, to me, because it's so petty and nihilistic. At least 7DC has a reasonable philosophic basis: that religion trumps empirical observation. But ID tries to be "scientific" while still pushing an agenda that has no place in science, and thus makes itself look destitute. The idea that you can't just look at a flower and have "evidence of design", or even evidence of artistry, is troubling. ID doesn't support Genesis, it focuses on tiny aspects of cell biology and molecular genetics. It doesn't discount, and in fact supports, the idea that "man came from monkeys" (or, as is more accurate, that man and monkeys both came from a common primate ancestor (and the evidence for this is, among other things, the fact that your spine is among the most unintelligently designed structures on the planet). And where will it go if science does come up with plausible evolutionary mechanisms for the tiny gaps, as it has historically done for other, more major gaps? Will it eventually have to say that there is no scientific proof of God?

And what would be the problem with that, anyway? The HEAVENS declare the Glory of God. I understand the need to believe that God had a hand in every cell formation, although I don't think it's remotely plausible, but I don't understand the need to believe that God let evolution do *most* of the work, and just "cheated" a couple of times right at the bottom, at the pre-jellyfish stage. I also don't see why it's less glory to God's creative power if, as seems to be the current understanding, the universe in fact first existed as a concept -- some might say a word -- and that this concept was so powerful that it contained within itself the ability to create time and space and matter and energy and rocks and trees and birds and fish and religions and science. It's to your credit that you can build a car, but I don't see why it's less to your credit if you can make a car build itself.

I just don't see the point to ID, from either a philosophic or a scientific basis. It's a Dead End, with nowhere left to go, destined for extinction because it lacks the capacity to adapt.