Monday, January 23, 2006

ID Card

Orson Scott Card, whose Ender series books were reviewed in this blog (positively, the only negative review so far has been a dictionary, and it was reviewed as a dictionary), wrote a column on Intelligent Design.

He wanders around alot in this article, so much so that it is difficult to come away with the feeling that he has said anything in a definitive way. And yet, there is this air that he thinks that there should be a competitive theory to the Theory of Evolution, and the Intelligent Design is such an idea. Yet no evidence is presented that Intelligent Design presents any evidence for itself. The only arguments appear to be against Evolution, or against the way that science has defended Evolution. In fact, he seems to argue that Evolution should not defend itself. However, Card knows that all ideas in science must be defended. That much comes from his fiction.

He presents seven points. They're numbered. Here are some rebuttals.

1. Intelligent Design is just Creation Science in a new suit (name-calling).

A mathematician will say that if you know how to get from point A to point B, and you know how to get from point B to point C, then it follows that you know how to get from point A to point C. The easiest way for scientists to attack Intelligent Design is to show that it is in fact exactly Creation Science, with some minor differences. That way, one can refer to how Creation Science is not science, and then the new details can be refuted on their own. This isn't name calling, just efficient.

2. Don't listen to these guys, they're not real scientists (credentialism).

No one says that Michael Behe doesn't have a doctorate. What they say is that his ideas aren't new, and have been successfully refuted in the literature. Further, they don't, in general, say that ID'ers aren't scientists, it is more that what ID'ers are saying isn't science, for one reason or another which is also generally stated. When there has been a debate, it has been generally the scientists who ignore name calling and stick to the most real issues.

3. If you actually understood science as we do, you'd realize that these guys are wrong and we're right; but you don't, so you have to trust us (expertism).

There is a problem with modern science. Though the evidence is collected and analyzed, it takes some real effort to get through it. That's one reason that scientists like to have independent confirmation, that more than one person or group takes data and performs analysis, despite the obvious counter incentive of allowing competition. It's also one of the reasons that peer review is encouraged. That way, when all is said and done, that when desktop fusion is announced to the public, there is some reason to believe in it without having to perform the experiments yourself. But it is hardly a single expert or group of experts that is to be trusted. How many Intelligent Design groups are there performing experiments, collecting data, performing analysis?

4. They got some details of those complex systems wrong, so they must be wrong about everything (sniping).

When scientists evaluate Intelligent Design, they have come up with evidence or analysis flaws fatal to the concept every time. The arguments are generally comprehensive. By comparison, the ID arguments about Evolution often concern themselves with details. Much of the time, these details are discovered from the literature where scientists talk about what is not yet known. Most of this is knowable, and often is soon known.

5. The first amendment requires the separation of church and state (politics).

Card asserts that ID isn't Creationism, and is therefore not religion. That's not what came out at the Dover trial. But if ID isn't religion (and I agree with this much), it also isn't science, as there is no evidence and analysis that stands up to scrutiny. As it isn't science, it shouldn't be taught in science class. As it isn't religion, it shouldn't be taught in philosophy or comparative religions. Moreover, as it seems to be bereft of anything interesting, it can only be taught as a set of bad examples in thinking. The clear conclusion is that it shouldn't be taught.

6. We can't possibly find a fossil record of every step along the way in evolution, but evolution has already been so well-demonstrated it is absurd to challenge it in the details (prestidigitation).

There is representative fossil evidence of every step along the way in Evolution. Further, there are independent, complimentary lines of evidence, such as the genetic record. The results are compelling. Scientists don't say that it is absurd to challenge, they say that challenging it will require serious evidence and analysis. Evolution has been ordinary for hundreds of years. A successful challenge will require extraordinary evidence. It was five years before Einstein's Relativity was taken seriously as a replacement to the Newtonian system. The evidence and analysis were extraordinary.

7. Even if there are problems with the Darwinian model, there's no justification for postulating an "intelligent designer" (true).

But Card doesn't seem to believe this:

So when the answer to the question "why does this natural phenomenon occur?" is "because God wants it that way," then science simply has nothing to add to the conversation.

Since scientists don't insert God into the question or answer, they have always been free to add to the conversation. Just because some IDer talks about God doesn't mean that science has nothing to say.

Like Card, I feel free to teach my children whatever i want. And, like Card, I will expect them learn how to look things up, and question those things. Just because someone wrote it, doesn't make it true. The Internet is the prime example here. It is very easy to look up the mass of Pluto on the Internet, and if one walks away with the first answer found, it is very likely wrong. It isn't because someone has an agenda about the mass of Pluto, it is just that modern measurements are so much better than those of only thirty years ago that this older data can be safely ignored. Any value for the mass of Pluto that predates the discovery of the moon Charon will be based on inferior evidence. The new evidence is extraordinary. There can be many reasons for something being erroneous.

If my son grows up believing that Santa Clause doesn't exist, there is room for him to believe that Christmas is a magical time of the year.

I don't believe in Evolution. The evidence strongly suggests that it is correct. I'd bet my life on it. In fact, I have. Modern medicine is based partly on Evolution. So when my gall bladder died and was removed, I trusted the hospital staff to treat the infection properly. This treatment can fail if Evolution is not taken into account, since the infecting microbes can evolve immunity to an antibiotic in about the time frame of the infection.


FreeThinker said...
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FreeThinker said...

Well said. Yours is a very "freethinking" approach to the ID issue!