Friday 2 August 2013

Signs of desperation at C4ID

I can't remember exactly how I got on the mailing list of the Centre for Intelligent Design, but the result is I get the occasional peevish missive from its director Alastair Noble:
Dear Paul,

Teach science, not secular dogma

You may have noticed that the Education Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, announced recently that the revision of the National Curriculum will include teaching evolution in primary schools.

Now you may wonder what is wrong with that, given that the scientific establishment regards evolution as a 'fact'.  Well, there are two problems.  Firstly, every scientific theory is tentative and subject to revision as fresh evidence is uncovered.  You can be sure that the growing body of evidence against the all-pervasive theory of evolution will not be considered.
Sounds like Noble is against teaching of the theory of gravity as "fact" because it is "tentative and subject to revision as fresh evidence is uncovered."
And here's what children won't be told about evolution:
Evolution has no explanation for the origin of life in the first place.  By saying evolution doesn't deal with that, while implying it does, just highlights its deficiency.
But neither does the theory of gravity explain the origin of life. Is this a reason for not teaching children about gravity? Gravity doesn't deal with the origin of life — and as far as I'm aware no-one claims (or implies) that it does. Neither does anyone (apart from creationists) imply that evolution deals with the origin of life.
Random mutation and natural selection cannot explain the synthesis of the hundreds of complex bio-molecules, like proteins, which are necessary for life.
The mechanism of evolution - natural selection acting on random mutation - has been shown to be unequal to the task of creating new organisms[1].
May I suggest Alastair Noble peruses the Talk Origins archive? There's really no excuse for this kind of wilful ignorance.
The 'junk DNA' hypothesis, an integral part of the teaching of evolution, has now been abandoned in light of recent work on the human genome[2].
The fact that science changes its theories in the light of new evidence is one of the reasons it actually works and is a path to new knowledge.
The much-vaunted 'tree of life' is being increasingly shown to be highly speculative and at odds with the evidence[3]. The fossil record is not consistent with the numerous slight successive changes required by evolution, as Charles Darwin himself recognised[4].
I note that this reference to Darwin is footnoted not to Darwin's text but to a book by an ID proponent (as are all the references, which doesn't inspire confidence in the impartiality of Noble's sources).
Evolution is completely unable to explain the existence of the complex genetic information carried by every living cell in its DNA[5].
It's true that there are gaps in the theory, but "completely unable" is over-egging the argument, especially as ID has no alternative explanation.
Evolution has no explanation for mind and consciousness, other than that it is an accidental by-product of chemistry and physics[6].
"[A]ccidental by-product" or "emergent property" — take your pick. The alternative offered by ID proponents isn't an explanation, so I don't understand what their problem is.
Any other scientific hypothesis with such glaring deficiencies would certainly not be taught as 'fact' in schools.
Noble is spinning these imponderables as "glaring deficiencies" when they are merely the fuzzy edges of a science that is on a constant quest to elucidate and illuminate the world we live in, bringing amazing new discoveries every week. To suggest that it should not be taught in schools is tantamount to criminal intellectual negligence.
But the second problem is that, behind all this, there are now, as Prof Phillip Johnson has pointed out, two definitions of science[7].  The first is the popular definition which insists science can only deal with natural processes and, for example, cannot contemplate any explanation about origins which suggests a non-material explanation such as 'mind before matter'.  The older and more honest definition is that science goes where the evidence leads and does not rule out any possible explanation before it is given due consideration.
Science must be confined to methodological naturalism if it is to make any progress. The alternative — the invocation of some undefined, unknown, untestable causal agent — has zero explanatory power. Worse, it has nowhere else to go. It you decide to "explain" some phenomenon by saying NotGoddidit, what's the next step? What are you supposed to do in order to expand your knowledge of this "causal agent"? Pray?
It is clear then that evolution is based on the first definition.  It is essentially materialistic dogma, not science.  It persists for ideological reasons, despite the evidence.
It is clear Alastair Noble doesn't understand what science is. We should be grateful he is no longer inspecting schools.
So what is going to be taught in primary schools is the secular, humanistic, naturalistic worldview which rules out any possibility of design in nature, even before the evidence is considered.  It is, in fact, a form of secular indoctrination.
Perhaps Noble would like to state what evidence there is for "design in nature" — other than "it looks terribly complicated, and I can't imagine how it could come about by natural processes."
The scientific study of origins is unlike any other because it has to consider the possibility of deliberate design in nature.  That's why we argue that Intelligent Design should also be considered in any scientific study of origins.
Intelligent Design is not science. By all means discuss it (and its implications) in a philosophy class, but it has no place in science classes.
Interestingly, in Radio 4's Today programme on March 6th, 2004, Sir David Attenborough said, 'The problem Darwin never solved was how one inorganic molecule became a living one.  We're still struggling with that one.'  That's the kind of honesty science needs, even though it is less apparent in some of his nature programmes.  And in the film 'Expelled'[8] Richard Dawkins, in an interview with Ben Stein, validates intelligent design by admitting that the intricacies of cellular biology could lead to us to detect the existence of a 'higher intelligence' or 'designer' (his words).  So why wouldn't we explore that with students?
The reason why we shouldn't explore that with students (at least in a science class) is because science education should be about teaching established science. David Attenborough was talking about abiogensis, which is not what evolution is about, and as for Expelled — the less said about that despicable piece of trash (more or less outright lies from start to finish), the better.
It is high time we stopped indoctrinating pupils with the philosophy of naturalism dressed up as the scientific consensus.  We should do what all honest scientists do, which is to go where the evidence leads.  As has been observed, it takes years of indoctrination to miss the obvious signs of design in nature.
It's interesting that ID proponents are unable to tell us how they can tell that something is designed — other than "it looks like it" — despite their insistent claims.
If schools are not going to be allowed to explore all the dimensions of origins, then perhaps it's time parents and churches did so!  Or maybe even Free Schools! 
Churches? What happened to "we're not saying anything about the designer, nudge nudge, wink wink"?

The rest of the email is taken up with a call to arms — encouraging parents and others to write to Michael Gove and to sign up for the C4ID email newsletter. There are also the footnotes: references to pro-ID books and Noble's "32-page booklet 'An Introduction to Intelligent Design'" available for £2 (plus pp!). Is cash-flow at C4ID so strapped that Noble has to shill for a 32-page document that could easily be linked as a PDF? Perhaps we should take that as a good sign.