Sunday 22 February 2009

The frustration of "Intelligent Design"

The reason why concerned scientists get so irate when discussing the ideas of "intelligent design creationists" is that ID proponents glibly claim they have an alternative to the Theory of Evolution, and when challenged they steadfastly refuse to produce it. Claiming that because evolution does not (yet) explain in complete detail how life came to be the way it is today, their alternative must by default be true, is not only presenting a classic false dichotomy, it is also welching on a promise: what, then, is the alternative theory - the one that does explain life in complete detail?

The ID proponents' response to this question is "God". But where's the explanation, the theory? Oh, it's not God? It's instead "an intelligent designer"? Well, whatever, but what's the theory, the explanation?

This lack of explanation is far worse than the scientists' answer, which is: we don't know. Scientists take this lack of knowledge as inspiration for further research; the ID answer stops research in its tracks. What's the point of pursuing the question if the answer is "Goddidit"?

ID, along with other spin-doctoring of the Discovery Institute and its ilk, comes down to one thing: science contradicts scripture, and therefore must be wrong. But science, as everyone knows, actually works, and people won't easily be persuaded that it's mistaken. So the Discovery Institute's job is to come up with science that supports scripture. To date they've been unsuccessful in this quest, and it seems likely that they will remain so. It's a hiding to nothing, because this isn't how science is done. Science follows the scientific method: investigation, hypothesis, attempts to falsify, followed by more investigation, hypotheses, repeat as necessary, until the revised hypothesis resists falsification, at which point you have a theory.

ID proponents, however, continue to lobby for so-called "academic freedom", attempting to challenge science with non-science. They will continue to lose this battle, but only if concerned individuals remain vigilant, and continue to point out what is and isn't science, to those responsible for making decisions in education.