|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
An Indianapolis Star editorial by Andrea Neal shows that the Discovery Institute's "Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture"'s propaganda machine continues to bamboozle the credulous public.
Neal buys into several falsehoods told by the DI C®SC. First and foremost, Neal seems to think that there is some scientific content to "intelligent design" claims. Second, Neal asserts ID represents cutting-edge science rather than warmed-over nineteenth century apologetics. Third, Neal buys the tale that there is no religious component to the ID movement.
The question to pose to those who think that "intelligent design" is science is to ask where the science is. The only things cited by Neal add up to critiques of the sufficiency of current natural explanations. There is nothing beyond assertion that ID has any role whatever in accounting for biological complexity. I've asked some of the "scientists at top institutions" that Neal refers to for a progress report on the ID community making a positive case for ID conjectures, and in each instance have received answers that translate into an admission of "no progress" since 1997.
The assertion that there is any "cutting edge" to the ID wedge fails the most cursory examination of the evidence. Phillip Johnson's original ID tome, "Darwin On Trial", simply goes to show that there is hardly an antievolution chestnut that he doesn't like. Many of the favorites of the young-earth creationist movement are happily recycled by Johnson. The whole "irreducible complexity" edifice erected by Michael Behe is simply a more technical gloss on the ancient "what good is half a wing" canard common in YEC circles. Behe's innovation resides in locating systems in which there is both a paucity of evidence and no expectation that further evidence bearing on the origin of the structures will be forthcoming. That's a prerequisite for any argument from ignorance that is expected to hold up over time. But the central part of ID argumentation can be traced to the Reverend William Paley's arguments made in 1802. The scientific community actually did take up such arguments and examine them seriously -- and decided that they did not fit the evidence. ID is not "cutting edge". At best, it's "reheated leftovers".
Neal asserts that skeptics cannot show any religious underpinnings of ID in court because ID is "a scientific possibility". Neal is obviously ignorant of the massive paper trail left by the "scientists at top institutions" of the DI C®SC concerning the goals and motivations of the ID movement, most succinctly expressed in the famous "Wedge" document. This will be one of the easiest tasks for skeptics to accomplish in court, not one of the hardest.
Neal's innovation in the editorial is to characterize opposition to the ID movement as "anti-religious". This, of course, is bunk. Plenty of religious people are part of the community of skeptics of ID. The panelists at the recent CSICOP Fourth World Skeptics Conference session on evolution and intelligent design included two ID advocates and two ID skeptics, all Christian believers.
Neal ends with this:
|Teaching intelligent design to our children is gaining strength too, as it should. Students need to know the latest research about how it all began, even if it points to an all-knowing creator.|
It would be a sad irony to let Darwin write the final chapter because we fear where science might lead us.
Why should a set of religiously-motivated conjectures based solely upon negative argumentation and wishful thinking be taught to students as if it were "research"? Why should students be given the mistaken impression that such conjectures represent the "latest" in scientific thinking, when in fact various components of these arguments can be traced back decades or centuries?
But the capping irony is the construction of Neal's final sentence. Science should lead, all right, and it is precisely because the politics of the ID movement lead it rather than the science that we should reject these premature moves to force ID into school science curricula. Let ID prove itself in the marketplace of scientific ideas, and then it will be ready for inclusion in science education. It is not there yet, and even ID advocates say that they are just beginning now to see glimmers of the formation of an ID research program. The unseemly haste with which the ID advocates push for inclusion of their untested and unresearched claims into school curricula bespeaks an unscientific attitude, one more similar to a salesman trying to offload stock that is past its sell-by date. Something smells fishy in that.
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker