Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bush and "intelligent design"

So Bush has endorsed the teaching of "intelligent design" in American schools, using the patently disingenuous justification, "so people can know what the debate is about." Look, if you want kids to know what the debate is about, then have a lesson about it in social studies, "current events," religion, or philosophy. The scientific arguments for evolution (and, implicitly, against creationism) are already well-covered in standard science textbooks. In science class, we teach science, and intelligent design is not science - it's a non-explanation explanation that relies simply on the God of the Gaps to claim that we will never know that which we do not currently know.

Actually, what's ironic is that even if "intelligent design" were true, this wouldn't technically prove Darwinism wrong. Daniel Dennett has pointed out that even if life on Earth actually does turn out to be "irreducibly complex" (a very dubious proposition), we might very well have been created by some alien life forms who themselves evolved by Darwinian natural selection. After all, "intelligent design" doesn't have the hubris to claim that it is theoretically impossible for life to evolved ever - it claims that it is impossible for life as it exists on Earth to have evolved. Who's to say the "intelligent designer" didn't itself evolve? The idea of Darwinian natural selection - blind, unintelligent, algorithmic natural selection - is not ultimately dependent on evolution-as-we-know-it-on-Earth being true (though, obviously, all available empirical evidence indicates that evolution as we know it on Earth is, in fact, true). That this conclusion is unacceptable to IDers only goes to show that "intelligent design" is merely a code word for "life was created by the eternal, omnipotent God of the Bible."

Update, 4 Aug: Post updated to get Google to link intelligent design here, as per Sean Carroll's suggestion.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog entry. I had a similar thought, but it went in a different direction. I see "intelligent design" (ID) as not at all incompatibale with some form of higher deliberative wisdom or God. For instance, a God could have decided to set in motion this balance of elements and natural laws so that some matrix of life forms could develop opportunistically. And after a few millenia, Voila! Humans. And how do we know that she gives a damn about our particular life form per se?

The assumpation that human life is so imponderably complex and inexplainable means that we were created by divine design is in my opinion a hallmark of a cosmic narcissism. For example, the ID literature speaks of "origin science" as if it's a division of science education; as if it's all about the past. Hello? History is not over! Last I heard the doctrine of natural selection and evolution is an ongoing phenomena. That's the way it's taught in Biology. The ID people presume that we are pinnacle or endpoint of creation, not part of the natural order of things.

However, they are very shrewd at cloaking their dogma in pseudo-scientific logic. Beware.

-- Brooks

8/10/2005 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I assume you meant to say that "evolution is not at all incompatible with some form of higher deliberative wisdom or God"? (insofar as ID is by definition the same as higher deliberative wisdom or God...)

And, yes, the Deist clock-winding God is one way of looking at the "design" of the universe: why is it that we live in a universe with physical laws friendly to the evolution of complex organisms? But who knows, it could be that universes "evolve" as well - at least in some current cosmological theories, universes could be born from black holes or something like that, and black holes only form from stars, i.e. from a universe with physical laws allowing stars and hence possibly planets and life to form. Thus over time universes that allow life would proliferate, so it wouldn't be a statistical surprise that we ended up in such a universe. Or something. It's all a bit mysterious, but fun to speculate about. Just wanted to point out that even the fundamental laws of nature need not be ascribed to an "intelligent design."

8/10/2005 06:08:00 AM  
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