Wednesday, December 21, 2005

On Intelligent Design

The story.

I have a particularly simple take on this: ID is not Science. In order to be Science, it has to be verifiable, subject to testing etc. Its adherents must publish in peer-reviewed journals. When those conditions are met, it will be a Science. Until then it is simply Argument by Design.

Now, I believe that ...

Now, I believe that the Universe exists because God Wills it. But I am also wary of anthropomorphising the Sublime by saying he had to do X and Y in very mechanical terms. The Universe exists, operating under and because of the rules in place for it, and that is fine.

I also believe that someday we will be able to test for that. We lack, I believe, the tools to test, measure etc the existence of God. But if God does (and I believe he does) exist, then it is only a matter of time before we obtain the tools to verify or falsify his existence (and both possibilities must be open to us, sayeth the Philosophy of Science). I predict that when we do carry out those experiments we'll be very surprised indeed.

In the meantime, ID is not close to being what its proponents want it to be. Argument by Design is a flawed argument. Consider David Attenborough's point about it:

My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy'

Source.

That's not to say I don't have a response to Sir David, but in the context of evaluating Argument by Design on its own terms, he's spot on.

More on the Philosophy of it all later.

But now onto the decision itself. I believe it to be the right one, on the simple grounds that we do not have a Science yet. It's perfectly acceptable to talk about the holes in any Scientific concept, even Darwinian Gradualism. But when Scientists talk about holes, they proposes and test alternate hypotheses, like Punctuated Equilibrium, for example. Until ID does that, it is just philosophy, and therefore belongs in such a class.

There's one other thing I want to talk about. Science uses terminology that may be sowing the seeds of confusion. When Scientists talk about Theory, they don't mean it's an vaguely held, almost untenable position that simply exists for debating purposes. Instead, it is a framework, as Wikpedia explains:
In various sciences, a theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon, thus either originating from or supported by experimental evidence (see scientific method). In this sense, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified.

I think this misunderstanding of terminology partly explains why laymen believe theories have "holes." It also has to do with something we were likely taught in school: science is composed of hypotheses, theories and laws. So, if you have laws which are solid and settled, then theories must be less so. But law are going the way of the Dodo, it seems to me. Due in part to their very nature, as settled "fact" they are no longer subject to questioning. Think of it this way, we have "Cell Theory" and "Atomic Theory." I doubt anyone seriously holds "Cell Theory" is full of holes; we can see cells any time we like under the microscope. Similarly, with "Atomic Theory;" how would we have Nuclear Weapons or Nuclear Power without it?

Now that you're done reading this, see Asher's blog for a similar view.

5 comments:

Asher Hunter said...

Wow, very intelligent stuff here! I also today posted a take on Intelligent design on your blog, but you were much more erudite than I was!

Oggie said...

Thanks, Asher! Comments much appreciated.(Now, let me check out your offering.)

Asher Hunter said...

I've also added a link to your post. Keep up the great stuff!

Oggie said...

Thanks, mate.

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