I’m straying only a bit off topic, and only by certain legalistic interpretations. History folks, bear with me.
My complaint about what is called “intelligent design” in biology is the same complaint I have against people who wish to crown Millard Fillmore as a great light for bringing plumbing to the White House over the complaints of health officials — that is, my complaint against those who push H. L. Mencken’s hoax over the facts.
Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost listed at great lengths his list of reasons that arguing for science actually promotes intelligent design instead (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). This blog’s response was in two parts, one and two. Other people offered other rebuttals, including notably, P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, a very good blog that features the hard science of biology and especially evolution.
Joe provided a first affirmative rebuttal here. This post is my reply, on the single point of whether it’s fair to say creationists, IDists, or others who twist the facts and research, are “dishonest.”
The text is below the fold; I left it in remarks at Evangelical Outpost. I have one other observation I’ll make quickly in the next post.
Enjoy, and chime in with your own remarks (I’m headed back to the grindstone).
What set of creationism arguments does not quickly stray into disinformation? It seems harsh to say all forms of creationism lead to dishonesty — but I can’t think of one that does not.
And each of the IDists mentioned — Johnson, Wells, Behe and Dembski — have rather famously been caught in what might most politely be called self-delusion, if one really struggles to avoid calling a shovel a shovel.
You offer an interesting definition of what intelligent design is, but it is not a consensus definition that would be agreed to by Johnson, and Wells, and Behe, and Dembski, and it is not a definition that has been put forward anywhere in any scientific literature as a hypothesis backed by any sort of data.
So, in calling it “theory,” you’ve committed a bit of scientific dissembling right there.
You might argue that these are small, petty crossings with the truth. Without such false claims, no brand of creationism stands logically, let alone scientifically. We don’t have to look to the fruits of that tree to see the roots are rotten.
And then there’s the definition you offer, that suggests we have some method of detecting design that defies natural processes. That’s simply not so. Consequently, to offer ID as a hypothesis that posits some intelligent behind design that is detected in the universe requires that real observations of nature be ignored, which is itself a form of dishonesty. Science looks for proximate causes, not ultimate causes. There is no occasion yet known where there is any compelling evidence or reason to claim intelligent ultimate causes over natural proximate causes.
The facts are that there are only two possible scientific assertions out of ID: Dembski’s explanatory filter, which has been shown not to work, and which assumes that certain forms of mutation cannot occur, which forms have been demonstrated to occur; and Behe’s “irreducible complexity” test, which has been absolutely and totally unsuccessful in practice and has been abandoned by its author, Behe, by all appearances (he’s doing no research on it).
Were someone to argue that cold fusion is amply demonstrated and that, therefore, national governments should invest billions in developing it to commercial application, they would be relegated to the fringe of crank science. Alas for intelligent design, cold fusion offers much more supporting data published in scientific journals than does intelligent design. Until ID can produce at least the quantity and quality of research that cold fusion has already produced, ID doesn’t deserve to be given the credence in biology that cold fusion is given in physics.
And, under such circumstances, one has to wonder about the ethics of anyone who would advise their grandmother or anyone else to invest in cold fusion stock. Absent a certificate of insanity, ethical lapse appears the best alternative.
Joe, evolution is key to crop research, livestock research, and medicine. These are not debates with no stakes. It’s not just philosophy. It’s cancer cures, diabetes treatment and cures, boll weevil eradication, grapefruit farming, wheat breeding, rice enrichment. Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance.
Under the circumstances, an ethical person of any religious persuasion is being kind in calling ID merely “misguided.” Claiming that ID has the imprimatur of Christianity behind it raises it to the level of abomination. Christianity has no book calling for a triumph of dogma over truth in any enterprise.
You can dismiss Dr. Myers well-formed and accurate criticisms for no legitimate reason. Yes, he’s atheist. It’s a sad day for the church when atheists are leading the way to ethical behavior, and Christians resist. We have a duty to other people to stick to the truth. We have a duty to the integrity of the church not to advocate untruth in the church’s name. We have a duty to God to get the facts right. Pay attention when Myers’ calls the pursuit dishonest — he’s right, and we need to fix it.