Wednesday, February 21, 2007


A Tale of Two Mouths

Well, the Discovery Institute has joined the Wild Bill sycophants at Uncommon Descent in, as Shalini put it, "wetting their pants in excitement" over Phil Johnson's article, "Intelligent Design in Biology: the Current Situation and Future Prospects." Larry Moran gives it his commonly pithy treatment. Joe Meert, on the other hand takes a scorched wedge approach, effectively leaving nothing but the ashes appropriate for the day after Fat Tuesday. There's only a couple of things left to mention.

Strangely, the DI somehow quoted from Johnson without including even one of his sixteen references to God. But what is interesting is that, as has already been pointed out, there was no evidence presented in support of design. Johnson, as is ultimately the case with all the defenders of ID, is reduced to trying to make an argumentum ad ignorantiam based on the supposed inability of evolutionary theory to explain the complexity of life. The featured ignorance Johnson touts is the alleged failure, "after nearly a century" to observe natural selection crossing some undefined line between "minor" and "major" changes in life:

There is an immense gap between the creative feats that Darwin’s mechanism is supposed to have accomplished in taking life from a unicellular starting point up to the highly complex plants and animals of today, including humans, and the modest temporary variations that it has actually been observed to produce in nature.
Of course, no thought is given to the immense difference between a "nearly a century" and almost 4 billion years. In fact, we have incredible mounds of evidence from diverse fields of investigation, genetics, fossil studies, developmental biology and many others sources, that demonstrate common descent as well or better than anything we know in science. Natural selection is a logical proposal for one source (out of a number of possibilities) of complexity and adaptation in life that has considerable evidence showing that it works as expected.

The important thing to remember here is that Johnson offers not an iota of evidence to believe that selection cannot, operating over billions of years, create all the complexity we see in life today. The only reason he even questions that conclusion is that he would really prefer to believe that God took the trouble to create his ancestors directly, instead of through natural processes. It is naked egotism.

Johnson also cozies up to an argumentum ad populum:

Although naturalistic dogma has dominated public education for a half century, its mandarins have failed to convince the American public to embrace the dogma, and I see many signs that dissatisfaction with evolutionary naturalism is spreading throughout the world.
But given that less than 30 percent of the people of the U.S. are scientifically literate enough to understand the New York Times Science section or the Public Broadcast System's NOVA series, that is hardly surprising. That ID is taking advantage of the ignorant is hardly a recommendation.

One final point is Johnson's giving away the game on the identity of the "Designer."

For now, the influential scientific organizations are passionately committed to explanations that consider only material causes, so they reject out of hand any suggestion that intelligent cause may also have played some role. It seems that supporting materialism, rather than following the evidence to whatever conclusion it leads is their prime commitment.
But aliens or visitors from the future would be material beings and material causes. Now, what non-material intelligence is ID talking about?

Anybody in the market for a used cat bag?
Update: Jason Rosenhouse at Evolutionblog has also weighed in.


Jason Rosenhouse has joined in, too.
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