Thursday, May 12, 2005

Creationism and ID

Two posts have scientific blogdom in an uproar. The first by Daniel Engber is called Creationism vs Intelligent Design: Is there a difference? . The short piece argues that there is a difference, mainly because ID only posits that the world is so complicated that it must have been designed. Also, because creationists have "... criticized the Intelligent Design movement for encouraging a loose reading of the Bible. The design theorists respond that ID represents at least the "partial truth" and that it is, at the very least, the best available tool for dislodging what they see as evolutionist dogma." I don't intend to critique the article point by point, I would like to point out the following:

Explainer thanks Tom Willis of The Creation Science Association for Mid-America, William Dembski of the Discovery Institute, and Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education.

Clearly we are dealing with someone who knows very little about evolutionary science and should not have been given this question to explain. Since it is rather obvious that he bought the Discovery Institute's party line.

The second What Matters in Kansas: The Evolution of Creationism by William Saletan argues that creationism has evolved since 1925 and makes some seriously stupid analogies to human evolution (That was the early, authoritarian stage of creationism—the equivalent of Australopithecus, the earliest hominid. Umm, no Australopithecus is a genus not a species nor was it the earliest hominid Ardipithecus ramidus, Orronin tugenensis and the 7 million year old Sahelanthropus tchadensis). And Argues that ID is a response, by creationism, to evolution.

The new challenger, ID, differs fundamentally from fundamentalism. Like its creationist forebears, ID is theistic. But unlike them, it abandons Biblical literalism, embraces open-minded inquiry, and accepts falsification, not authority, as the ultimate test.These concessions, sincere or not, define a new species of creationism—Homo sapiens—that fatally undermines its ancestors. Creationists aren't threatening us. They're becoming us.

Saletan is clearly trying to be a clever journalist by trying to point out the irony of creationist evolving. He then compare Kansas 1999 to Kansas 2005. Then comes this:

Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate this collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should.

I have highlighted the most misleading portion. Apparently Saletan didn't read the standards either or he would have noticed all those sections bashing methodological naturalism. Those sections where the Kansas board redefines science in such away as to allow supernaturalism in science. He then buys into the ID party line about the evil Darwinian Orthodoxy suppressing science in the name of correct bellief.

It's too bad they go around sneering, as censors of science often have, that the new theory is too radical, offensive, or embarrassing to be taken seriously. It's too bad they think good science consists of believing the right things. In the long view—the evolutionary view—good science consists of using evidence and experiment to find out whether what we thought was right is wrong. If they do that in Kansas, by whatever name, that's all that matters.

ID is neither radical (since it goes back several hundred years in time), offensive (except to the intellect - downright insulting to the pursuit of knowledge) or emabarassing. I'm not sure what there is in ID that would cause any embarassment to evolutionary biology - especially when you consider the total lack of research and experimentation brought to the table by ID.

For my money the post that should concern us is Lisa Peters is a Hero posted on Pharyngula. The principal of Pinewood Elementary in Minnesota cancelled the appearance of Lisa Peters - the author of a childrens book on evolution. Scary stuff. I am tempted to write the principal - even though I don't live in Minnesota. Tom the Dancing Bug sums it up best:

Posted by Hello

So go and read the other articles - especially the Pharyngula post and the cartoon.