Sunday, September 13, 2009


To Everything There Is a Season

Randal Rauser, and his Food for the Soul blog at The Christian Post, is back at the ol' ID stand peddling nonsense, as he has done before. The interesting part is that, much as he did in criticizing Expelled, he is doing it under cover of reasonableness:

What I find most interesting, and disturbing, about the current health care debate is the way that advocates of a public option in health care are marginalized with the accusation that they harbor a "socialist" or even "communist" agenda. ...

This is deceptive in two ways. First, the vast majority of those advocating health care reform do not subscribe to a sweeping socialist agenda. ...

Second, the critics of the public option also accept a mixed economy. They may not be "socialists" with respect to health care, but the vast majority are "socialists" with respect to the fire and police service as well as national defense.

In sum, sweeping warnings against socialism are a mere canard, a red herring, and the fact that they are tolerated as much as they are suggests to me a depressing denigration in the quality of debate in the public square.

I'm sure that anyone who follows the ID "debate" (read: "dishonest PR campaign") knows where this is going: the poor IDeologists are being "marginalized" from science. Here is the gist of it:

First, the advocate of ID does not infer God in debate, they infer intelligence (even if they believe the intelligence may be God -- that is simply irrelevant). Second, the advocate of ID does not accept intelligence based on what we don't know but rather on what we do know. (See Meyer on the DNA digital code.)

The problem with the first is that, if this "Designer" is not God, why do ID advocates insist the "Designer" can't be identified by science and that its identity is a strictly theological question? If a natural being was the "Designer" there would be no reason to rule out a priori exploring its identity and the means it used to effectuate its design and when it did its designing. Refusing to consider those questions not only demonstrates that they are not taking the non-theistic possibilities seriously, but that they are refusing to do science itself.

As to the second, simply throwing in some fact revealed by science does not make a proposition scientific. If someone argued that the fact that the Earth takes approximately 365 days to orbit the Earth (which, in turn, determines the length of the seasons that happen to be well suited to living things), was grounds to "infer" a designer, need we take that as a scientific argument? William Whewell, an advocate of "Natural Theology," in The Bridgewater Treatises on the Power Wisdom and Goodness of God as manifested in the Creation, did exactly that and Darwin himself pointed out that that life adapting to the length of the seasons was just as valid an explanation (and scientific to boot, in that it could be tested). Whewell's argument was an appeal to a "scientific" fact without being a scientific (rather than theological) argument. Whewell was at least smart enough to know what he was doing and had the intellectual integrity to state so clearly.

The fact that DNA is complex is not, itself, evidence of design. Many things that we consider to be "natural" exhibit complex patterns: weather systems, climate systems, snowflakes, crystal structures, etc. Of course, you can claim that each individual snowflake is "designed" but how would we test it, anymore than we could test design in DNA? What is missing from ID is empiric evidence (the sina qua non of science) for a designer, the way we have evidence for evolution.

All of ID comes down to two arguments: 1) evolution can't work -- all of which claims have been shown to be either outright untrue or not valid objections because they rely on a misstatement of what evolutionary theory holds -- and 2) "boy, that sure looks complex, so it must have been designed!" -- which is not a theory at all, much less a testable one, and, therefore, cannot be scientific.

Scientists are not marginalizing IDers from science ... they have marginalized themselves by doing theology instead of science.

"But the parallels go further: just as the critics of the public option in health care actually support state control elsewhere (police, fire, national defense) so the critics of ID actually support intelligent design elsewhere (as Dembski has shown at length and ad nauseum)."

Except that in the cases where we reasonably infer the operations of intelligent beings, we can often test those inferences. Not so in the application of design theory to biology, let alone cosmology. I like how they always manage to neglect to mention that.

Fun fact: Whewell coined the term 'scientist.'
Fun fact: Whewell coined the term 'scientist.'

True. He was, in fact, a very important figure in the philosophy of science in the 19th Century who helped to popularize and explain Lyell's geology, even though he disagreed with Lyell's uniformitarianism.
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