Thursday, May 11, 2006

The intelligent design 'debate'

This story on intelligent design was grabbed by one of my news filters:

A Christian author and TV host whose latest book, "Intelligent Design Versus Evolution: Letters to an Atheist," debunks Darwinism has challenged fellow television personality Bill Maher to a public debate on the origins of the Earth.

Says Ray Comfort: "Mr. Maher, like all believers in the theory of evolution, simply has a blind faith in a theory-tale that can't be substantiated. It's just another opiate of the masses – a religion called 'Darwinism' that piously robes itself in what it thinks is 'science.' It is true science fiction."

Comfort hosts "The Way of the Master" with actor Kirk Cameron.

"I am beginning to suspect that some men may have evolved from chickens, or at least that's the impression I get when it comes to evolutionists standing up for their convictions," notes Comfort. []
I wonder then how these chicken evolutionists keep winning their court cases, if they are so afraid to pony up against the creationists. It’s also amusing that Comfort seems to think Bill Maher is the ultimate defender of science and rationality; after all, if one seeks to debate the philosophy of science, it follows that one would seek out a comedian as an opponent.

I also love the irony in Comfort’s statement that evolution (and by definition, the scientific method that identified it) is the “opiate of the masses.” I guess that’s technically true—I, for one, consider myself to be quite high for science. Science is the process of observation put to the task of explaining the facts of nature. I wrote this back in January.

To explain facts, scientific theories rely on observation for support. For example, to explain the origin of species, evolutionary biology draws upon field data from the ongoing changes that occur among populations of organisms, fossil data from plants and animals that no longer exist, data regarding the temporal and geographic distribution of genetic markers, and experiments that attempt to replicate the conditions of species-change in the laboratory. Some facts have yet to be explained fully. For example, we are not yet sure how some of the simplest parts of living things originated nor precisely how spoken language evolved.

Admitting the unknown facts regarding human origins, however, doesn’t mean that the explanations aren’t out there, waiting to be identified. The unknown is the unfinished business of evolutionary biology, a business in which today’s most promising grade school students might one day play a part in completing. Properly speaking, evolution is a “theory,” but it is entirely based on evidence, and an important part of scientists’ jobs is to identify how what is known can be used to discover what is not yet known.

Contrast the theory of evolution with the theory of intelligent design. The proponents of intelligent design argue that the world is simply too complex (or too “perfect,” implying that there could be an imperfect reality) to explain the origins of life and human intelligence. These proponents argue that ultimately only the intervention of a creator can explain man’s existence. Thereafter, there is no unfinished business for the researcher because an intelligent designer is not subject to further observation and experiment.

To evaluate this idea, it is useful to draw a parallel: imagine a scientist trying to find a cure for cancer through such reasoning. Like the origins of life and language, cancer is complex; it behaves strangely, and its nature is hard to pin down. Should the scientist then conclude that only God’s intervention causes cancer? Obviously, no real scientist would draw that conclusion, and it would be absurd to teach an intelligent design theory of cancer. Instead, researchers assume that the cause of cancer is ultimately caused by the interaction of the materials that make up our observable physical world, and they are working to discover what those interactions are so that they can control them and thereby discover a cure for the disease.
It’s amazing that the proponents of intelligent design don’t see this, but then again, blind faith does require its users to put on the blinders.

No comments: