Saturday, April 28, 2007


Shooting Blanks

I noted a while back that there was yet another rather prominent medical doctor pushing Intelligent Design Creationism. Joining Michael Egnor was John Marshall, professor of internal medicine and associate director of education at the Missouri University School of Medicine. Dr. Marshall has taken his rightful lumps as detailed at Red State Rabble, Afarensis and The Design Interference.

Now Logan Gage, at the Discovery Institute's Ministry of Misinformation, Whine and Jeez Division, has tried the "whistling past the graveyard" ploy. Not even attempting to address the real basis for the reaction Marshall got from an academic audience, Gage simply declares that Marshall's view that Intelligent Design Creationism should be "part of the scientific discussion," instead of being viewed as a religious position, is "reasonable."

Though he was mostly calling for civil dialogue and open discussion, Dr. Marshall said that "as a theory, I believe that intelligent design fits the evidence of biology better than Darwinian evolution." As his example shows, this is a tough claim to make in today's univeristy (sic) environment.
Yup. About as tough as the claim that "as a theory, I believe that geocentrism fits the evidence of astronomy better than Copernican heliocentrism" would be to make in today's university environment ... and for precisely the same reason.

Note that there was no attempt to ban ID from college campuses or to deny anyone the opportunity to examine it with critical thinking, contrary to Lee Bowman's claims over at Uncommon Descent:

[Missouri University] has a program entitled, "Difficult Dialogues", which is dedicated to promoting "Pluralism and Academic Freedom on Campus". Taken directly from their site, "The MU Difficult Dialogues program is designed to stimulate rigorous intellectual inquiry, and to empower students to express opposing views respectfully and in the spirit of open-mindedness."

Would not that entail acceptance of ID as a viable theory of origins, and certainly one ‘suitable for intellectual inquiry‘? Interesting that staunch ID critic Professor Schmidt is a sitting member of that group. Go figure …
If ID is a "theory of origins," it is not a scientific one under the meaning of "science" as it has existed for at least the last 150 years. It can and should be considered in the appropriate classes, in religion or philosophy or history of science, where it can stimulate rigorous intellectual inquiry to the heart's content of anyone interested. It is, however, no more appropriate in biology classes than the rules of French grammar are in English writing classes.

The ironic part is the IDer's implicit admission that there is no worthwhile intellectual inquiry to be had in their theology. Unless they can somehow muscle their way into science classes, their religion is too sterile to be worth thinking about.

Thanks to Tantalus Prime for a number of the links.

The illustration is one of the very interesting stone sculptures of Roger Hopkins.

The meaning of "science" is not set in stone.

Hell, we have string theory and "multiverses" being called science.

Our own 21st century creaton myths about the mindless origin of existence, life, mind, and reason istself could well be overturned in the next century.

One mans philosophical ramblings can one day me another man's science.

Who ya kiddin?

Besides yourself?
Hell, we have string theory and "multiverses" being called science.

Actually, they are generally considered hypotheses that are interesting because of their mathematical "elegance." Until there is some way to test them empirically, most physicists consider them nothing more than interesting ideas.

Our own 21st century creaton myths about the mindless origin of existence, life, mind, and reason istself could well be overturned in the next century.

Sure. But how are we supposed to teach this "maybe" science now? Get back to us about teaching that stuff when it happens. In the meantime, the scientifically literate world will continue to teach the science that we have now. The scientifically illiterate world will be (figuratively speaking) cleaning everyone else's toilets for a living.

For the rest, you are confusing the philosophy of science with the present state of scientific knowledge. The philosophy has stayed relatively stable over that last 150 years (though it is a complicated subject that your mischaracterizations show you are unfamiliar with). For example, no change in the philosophy of science would be needed to accept string theory and the multiverse, should empiric evidence for them be found. The criteria for their acceptance as well-founded (as evolution is considered to be) is exactly the same: empiric evidence.
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