Sunday, September 6, 2009

Misconceptions of Intelligent Design

Over the past ten or so years I’ve debated a number of proponents of Intelligent Design or ID, in various venues. One thing they all have in common is the acceptance of certain serious misconceptions which are casually invoked as a basis for argument. Let’s take a look at 3 of the major ones:

1) ID is a bona fide scientific theory.

Not even close. First, a proper theory must at least identify the claimed “designer”, to formulate a positive hypothesis. But ID’ers haven’t done that. Is it some kind of deity? (If so, they are definitely in the realm of religious dogma). Is it a highly advanced species of space alien from Tau Ceti, or Zeta Reticuli? Is it an invisible, inter-dimensional “essence”? They won’t say!

Second, a genuine theory must set up its own positive formulations of the natural world based on its own observations. It can’t just dwell on the deficiencies of evolution and call itself an independent theory. It would be analogous to me picking supposed holes in Einstein’s General Relativity – then asserting I’ve formed my own theory of space-time. No, I haven’t, I just have a collection of issues with Einstein’s theory!

Third, a valid theory makes its own predictions, as evolution has – just click on the link below for ‘29+ Evidences of Macro-evolution’:

A valid theory also applies tests for its own falsification. But so far as I know, ID proponents have never attempted tests of falsification. Again, how can they, when they are not even sure what it is they are falsifying? A God? An Alien? An Inter-dimensional Being? Also, in their own yen to be absolutely right, the very concept of falsifying what they have proposed would be totally alien to them.

2) Evolution cannot be valid since it is based on random chance

This, unfortunately, is a bugbear that bedevils almost every debate between ID’ers ad evolutionists. Often too, the latter group falls into the trap laid by the former – by speciously conceding evolution is indeed predicated on chance. But in fact not! Biologist and author Richard Dawkins once referred to this as “the single most unfortunate misunderstanding of Darwinism – that it’s a theory of chance”. I suspect the misconception arises because one input for natural selection is mutation, and it is largely governed by random chance. (I.e. Up to 60% or more of mutations may be caused by external factors such as cosmic rays interacting with DNA. But who can say when or at what frequency these interactions occur?) However, natural selection itself is anything but random.

We can see this simply by doing simple experiments, as with fruit flies, and examining the emergence of specific traits over generations – governed by gene frequency. It can be seen that over time there is a genetic "favoritism", as it were, for certain traits or characteristics to be passed on or selected out of a group of competing traits in the gene pool. Thus, what natural selection does is to consolidate particular random mutations into a more stable, adaptive adjustment – governed by deterministic factors and inputs.

3) No evolutionist has ever created life in a lab

This is totally irrelevant and a non-sequitur because the demand imposed is excessive, beyond the bounds of acceptable testability. It would be analogous to demanding a cosmologist create a mini-explosion to mimic the Big Bang in a physics lab, and suck the whole physics lab up in it! In addition, it conflates the theory of the genesis of life, with evolution by natural selection.

What it shows more than anything, is the gross lack of understanding of the principles of evolution. Because no one who understands natural selection or mutation would confuse either with creation of life!

The key fact is that only natural selection explains in a unitary manner the emergence of so many disparate species and variable speciation in widely separated geographical areas. Creation would have to rely on millions of separate special creative events which introduces many levels of complexity.

As is well known from the Ockham's Razor principle: "That hypothesis which makes the fewest ad hoc assumptions is most likely the correct one".

ID'ers and their creationist brethren make far too many!

No comments: