01/24/2005: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Intelligent Design
Via Bryan at Why Now?, we're grateful be told about Adam Felder's Intelligence for Dummies, aka "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Intelligent Design". While light and satirical, Felder nails down exactly why ID isn't science, it's just a camouflaged form of religious teaching:
Q: Okay, I am by definition a complete idiot, right?Felder, unlike the ID theorists themselves, and most assuredly unlike the religious rightists who want to use ID in an attempt to indoctrinate children in their version of theism, understand what science is all about. Science isn't just about explanation. If explanation were the key, we'd still be thinking that the sun rises and sets because Apollo drives the solar chariot across the sky, or that thunder is the rumbling of the wheels of Thor's chariot. The hallmark of a good theory isn't just that it explains, it further allows us to make predictions, which can then be tested, and in the predictions and testing we refine that theory further.
Q: But still... how does such a pursuit constitute a "science?" It seems to me that ID offers no direct evidence nor does it present a path for continued inquiry. It seems that the discipline exists only to shore up a single unprovable theory rather than to refine or further it. Is that actually science, or is that a meticulous manipulation of data for nonscientific ends?
Q: Furthermore, is this not an idea that exists to negate, forcing evolutionary theorists to prove that each and every natural phenomenon was NOT created by an intelligence?
Q: Whereas a real science would not just employ scientific methods to shore up a foregone conclusion, but rather use scientific methods to determine precisely how something operates, right?
A: It's science, all right? It's science.
Q: So what is ID doing to research the identity and characteristics of this "intelligence" that it posits?
A: Well, nothing that I've found yet... [emphasis added --LRC]
Les Lane, of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, discussing H. Allen Orr's review of William Dembski's No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased Without Design, puts the criticism quite succicintly:
Dembski is actually engaging in two dishonest strategies that Orr does not really address because they go beyond the biology. Orr identifies several points where Dembski's arguments fall apart - in one instance so badly that Orr describes it as "the height of hypocrisy." But there are two other flaws in Dembski's book that are just as damning.Faith is faith. Science is science. Faith may be justified (I don't think so, but I could be wrong--I've got two ex-wives and a slew of ex-girlfriends who'll be happy to tell you about all the times I have been), but it needs to be kept separate from science.
Orr's review utterly demolishes Dembski's argument that biological organisms are too complex to be explained by Darwinism. But let's suppose that Dembski is right. Let's suppose that there are biological systems that are too complex. This is a hypothetical, understand. Dembski is wrong. But let's pretend that he is right. The problem here is that even if Darwinism cannot account for biological complexity, Dembski has offered no evidence that Intelligent Design is the only plausible alternative. Like all the ID theorists, he assumes that what cannot be explained by Darwinism must be God's work. This is the old God of the Gaps argument. But science doesn't work this way. Proving the Scottsboro Boys innocent doesn't mean that Elvis raped the women.
Scientific theories are judged on two key criteria: (i) that they explain the known facts, and (ii) that they lead to testable predictions. Intelligent Design certainly can explain the known facts, but that's because anyfacts can be put down to Intelligent Design. Something doesn't make sense? Well that's not a flaw in the theory, that just means God made it that way. And that's the problem. It makes no testable predictions. Any scientific observation can be explained away as God's direct intervention. There is no such thing as contrary evidence to an ID theorist. This is not science. It is rationalisation of faith.
The other deep flaw in Dembski's argument that Orr only addresses tangentially is that it boils down to an attempt to cheat the reader. He fills his book with complex mathematics and rigorous-looking theses - and then reveals at the very end that these arguments don't really address the core of Darwinism. It is a shell game. Watch the maths go round and round. Where it stops, no-one knows.
Len on 01.24.05 @ 07:59 AM CST