Same old message at the new Centre for intelligent Design
It had to happen.
It seems that there is no correlation between intelligence and having pot loads of money to throw at the propagation of bad ideas. I was most disturbed to be sent a link to a recent news article detailing the opening of a new Centre for intelligent Design in the UK (that disparaging uncapitalised “i” in intelligent is there on purpose). It appears that the discredited and thoroughly debunked ideas presented at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial have been successfully exported to the UK, and have been funded under a cloud of secrecy. Like a nasty virus, the spread of this anti-intellectual, anti-science pile of Brachiosaurus droppings must be stopped.
I smell the Discovery Institute behind this (but I have no evidential basis to claim that, other than they link to the Discovery Institutes’ list of “peer reviewed” papers, so I’ll let it hang out there as a base speculation for now).
But there is nothing new about these guys, they are punting the same tired old creationist bullshit that life is too complicated to have come about by chance, there must be a designer, and guess what, as part of our larger Xtian agenda, we have a designer in mind. All that is required is for you to turn off your brain, ignore actual evidence based science (evolution by natural selection) and get involved in an organisation dedicated to one god, one book, and taking as much out of your wallet as they can every Sunday.
These arguments have long been refuted. But let’s look at some of their claims.
Listening to the introductory video by Dr. Alastair Noble you can substitute “theological” for “scientific” in any of his sentences about the theory of intelligent Design to get the real message of this Centre for the Closing of minds…
He calls Darwinism 19th Century science – well yes, like the 17th Century ideas of Newton about this little thing we call gravity. Perhaps he proposes that the designer provides a little shoulder push to keep us on the planet as it spins around, that way we can dispense with unconvincing explanations like gravity and evolution. Just because an idea is old, does not mean that it is not correct. If it explains observed phenomena, then we hold it to be a good explanation of reality. It’s accuracy, not age that gives an idea credence and legitimacy.
He says that he has never been convinced that Darwinism is a comprehensive explanation for how we got here. Well yes, just like it would be hard to convince someone that theories of sexual reproduction are a good explanation for how rocket ships get to space. The theory does not purport to explain what you criticise it does not explain – a classic straw man argument favoured by creationists. Evolution by natural selection only explains the diversity of the world around us. It is not intended, nor does it attempt, to explain the origin of life. That is another theory called Abiogenesis, which is informed by progress in the science of Evolution, two separate yet linked fields of inquiry. And just on this point you can see that Dr Alastair Noble does not know the first thing about the theory he finds so unconvincing, I would even hazard a guess that he has not read a single good book on evolution – here’s me looking surprised! The key question here is, why? Why is he not convinced; he doesn’t think that creatures change via DNA mutation and environmental or sexual pressures to diversify into all the creatures and plants we see today? Clearly he has not seen the evidence, nor does he want to – it just doesn’t gel with his theological straight jacket.
He states that “ID is consistently misrepresented as a religious position. The debate about ID is quite difficult to elevate to a civilised conversation. It’s not about religion, it’s about evidence.”
This was clearly addressed by the Judge in the Dover trial:
For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child.
The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.
Testemony [by ID supporters] was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath.
ID is not science. It fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:
(1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
(2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and
(3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.
ID’s backers sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.
It was ironic that several of the individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
The breathtaking inanity of the [School] Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.
In light of this it can only be concluded that this is the same failed ID theology masquerading as best it can as science.
In the video, Dr Noble even admits that the “theory” of intelligent Design gives support to theistic belief, but even that point is debatable. It is a classic case of non sequitur – an invalid argument in which the conclusion cannot be logically deduced from the premises. Even if intelligent design were proved (and that in itself seems very unlikely at best) it does not follow that that would necessarily imply support for any theistic belief system, no matter how hard Dr. Noble prays for that to be the case. Intelligent designers could be a race of super smart ancient aliens, but who designed them, and who designed that designer?
And then, like a computer program which has not been coded properly, their argument (or lack of) spirals into infinite regress – designers designing designers all the way down.
At most you could take a deistic view – something super powerful, let’s call it god, sets the Universe in motion, and then has nothing else to do with it. Fine, no problem, but it does not offer any explanatory power beyond the statement “god started it, but is gone now”. The unmet burden of this approach is to provide explanations for what we see in the World – Evolution does this, theology does not.
Or you take a position, that there should be nothing in your philosophy except the real world, philosophical materialism. Three guesses as to which one I am a proponent of.
Give me an alternate theory which supplants Evolution and as a person of intellectual integrity I’ll give it a great deal of attention. If your evidence convinces me, I’ll change my position and become a proponent. The caveat here, is that I have already been through this once. I used to be a creationist (granted, I was young and stupid) and based on the overwhelming evidence I am utterly convinced that Evolution by Natural Selection, as demonstrated in the fossil record, biomolecular evidence, and the elegance and fit of the structure of the theory, is the best current explanation for the natural world.
Well, what would I be happy with?
I would be happy with any other competing theory, making empirically testable claims and predictions, which provided a more succinct or accurate explanation for the diversity of life on this planet than Evolution by Natural Selection. Unfortunately Intelligent Design do not propose any alternate theory other than, god did it. It is so intellectually bereft as to be quite insulting.
I would be happy to see multiple lines of evidence clearly pointing to the conclusion that there must be a designer. If I pick up a Cambrian rock, turn it over and a hologram pops out and says “designed by the christian god, writer of the Bible, monitor of gay sexual activities, smiter of olde – kneel and worship” – well that would be a compelling start of the process, but I would require much more evidence than that. Why much more than that, you ask; well because as Carl Sagan said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. If you claim that you know who the designer of the World / Universe / all life is, that constitutes an extraordinary claim in my book, and by Darwin’s beard you better have some quite compelling evidence. Unfortunately, proponents of intelligent Design have no evidence. They have a theologically based attack on the evidence of evolution, but provide no competing pieces of evidence, nor any alternate, testable theories to explain existing evidence.
Their counter argument is usually that there is a movement to stifle debate between competing theories – and that the theory of Evolution is guarded by a vocal and “”strident” bunch of scientists who actively quash alternate theories. I for one, have a higher regard for the capacity of scientists, the world over, to be rather interested in any new explanation that more adequately explains the natural world, and I do not believe for one minute that if you discover some new demonstrably true process behind gravity, the diversity of life, what female therapods want, how to make a better mousetrap, etc that the scientific world would not welcome you with open arms. Your new “truth” would be out, and would be clear for all to see.
Arguably, it is possible that one or two scientists with a vested interest in their theory remaining as the accepted model could provide a barrier to some newly discovered truth. Sure, possible, but not probable and in any case that is one or two scientists out of a large pool of similar people trying to discover the hidden truths underlying the operation of the Universe – and very shortly after any other, more reasonable and more intellectually honest scientist heard of your discovery, the world would know.
Claims of conspiracy are not a viable substitute for an empirically based argument. In fact they are a tell-tale sign that there is no argument worth presenting.
So let’s look at this:
A. Evolution via Natural Selection
Makes testable predictions and claims – e.g. “Based solely on the theory of common descent and the genetics of known organisms, we strongly predict that we will never find any modern species from known phyla on this Earth with a foreign, non-nucleic acid genetic material.” See the results.
Provides reasonable explanations to fit the observed world – e.g. evolution is change in allele frequency over time. This can be shown in the lab with fruit flies, and in populations in the wild.
Provides reasonable conclusions from multiple lines of evidence – there is fossil evidence, biomolecular evidence, and the evidence of cladistics. For a big list of some of the evidence see link.
Has no theological agenda – the science of evolution does not care if you believe that there is a god or not, the science is still valid. One of the brightest proponents of Evolution is Ken Miller who is religious. Just like, it does not matter whether you are a Xtian, Hindu or Muslim, water still boils at a certain temperature for a given atmospheric pressure, and the explanation that applying heat excites the molecules to boiling point is accepted regardless of your religious affiliation. Evolution says that gene change and environmental pressures produce diversity – you don’t have to let go of your faith to understand and accept Evolution. As an Atheist, I don’t see any exclusive benefit in religion but that’s just me, and I know of many religious defenders of Evolution.
B. Intelligent Design
Makes no testable predictions and claims – e.g. there was a designer – how do they propose we test that theory?
Provides no reasonable explanations to fit the observed world – there is a designer, well, where is any evidence?
Provides no reasonable conclusions from multiple lines of evidence – they have one idea, there was a designer – the designer is indistinguishable from a figment of their minds, but they insist there must be a designer.
Has a clear theological agenda – this designer happens to be the Xtian god.
We need to ask ourselves: What kind of a theology is so weak that it needs to attack science in order to shore up it’s continued existence?
Perhaps more interestingly, why is the funding for this attempt to mislead and sow confusion in the public’s mind, performed under such sly and secretive circumstances? – follow the money.
The contribution of ID to any “debate” is precisely zero, and this is why it is so annoyingly stupid. It offers no explanations, no competing theory, nothing of substance except a thinly veiled attempt to shore up a dying religious meme under the banner of legitimate science. It is an inane attempt to couch theology in the demonstrably legitimate language and principles of science.
Nothing new, same old message.