Tuesday, August 02, 2005

In the News Again: Intelligent Design

Oh dear, here we go again, the battle of the fundamentalists.

The President said yesterday he supported the teaching of intelligent design in schools.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

This from a guy who surrounds himself with asskissers, which is how you say "sycophants" in Texan. His idea of being exposed to "different ideas" is to ask Laura.

Irony aside, this statement is not only admirable, it's downright liberal.

Now, do I think intelligent design should be taught in schools? No. If it seems more logical to you that this vast, complex, interconnected universe in which we live is the result of a series of random, causeless, purposeless, directionless coincidences, then I don't see how an education is going to be of much help to you anyway.

But I digress.

Let's get some things clear from the start. Intelligent Design and Creationism are NOT the same thing. Creationism is anti-science, it rejects hard facts in the name of scriptural inerrancy, even though the Bible contradicts its own account of the creation timeline by the second chapter of Genesis.

Creation-theory is Judeo-Christian; Intelligent Design accommodates all belief systems, atheism notably excepted.

Intelligent Design is not a "rival theory" to evolution. Intelligent Design accepts evolution.

Intelligent Design rejects the unscientific premise that evolution is unguided. Those who adhere to the theory of natural selection believe -- and I use that word intentionally -- that evolution is essentially directionless and random. Intelligent Design would accept, for example, that a certain change in genetics might give one population an advantage over another, to the extent that the newer version becomes dominant.

Where it diverges is at the pure conjecture that our universe is not developing according to divine plan. Secularists like to charge that there is no scientific proof for intelligent design, but as you likewise cannot ever prove that evolution is unguided, then they are both belief systems. As such, it would be wrong to teach one belief system to the exclusion of the other.

This doesn't require a massive reworking of biology curricula. Teach the research on evolution and then say, "Some people think God's doing it, and some don't." Ta-da. That's really all that needs to be said.

15 comments:

JP said...
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Andy said...

Oh, I'm sorry, were your feelings hurt because someone suggested that your belief system was indicative of a lack of intelligence?

Welcome to being a Christian in America.

JP said...
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jwc said...

only an incredibly midguided person would say "Those who adhere to the theory of natural selection believe -- and I use that word intentionally -- that evolution is essentially directionless and random."

This is because no scientist thinks the process of evolution (evolution is a process, not some physical thing) is random. The process is (generally) quite clear: change occurs in our cells daily, weekly, yearly, generationally, millenially, etc. The changes that kill us directly or indirectly don't get passed to future generations. The changes that help us live or live longer increase the likelihood of those genes spreading. Over time, change happens. The general direction of these changes is that over time the species that made it become more adapted to their environment. This process isn't random at all. To call it such is to blatantly misunderstand evolution.

Now if you want to say the actual mutation (but not it's measurable effect) itself is guided by some intelligence, well, I don't think the evidence supports that, but I can't disprove it because such things are not disprovable. That's basic logic.

I simply adore being inflammatory and offending all of my friends on a regular basis, so I understand where you're coming from. But do try to temper your pronouncements with a few dollops of knowledge of that which you are skewering. It makes twisting the knife that much more pleasurable.

Tin Man said...

If God wanted there to be humans, why wouldn't he just create them instead of going through the trouble of making them evolve?

Matthew said...

jwc,

From the information I am aware of, there is quite a bit of science backing up Andy's assertion on the role of random effects in the evolutionary process. A cursory review of the definition of evolution in Wikipedia relates:

"Two separate populations that begin with the same allele frequency might, therefore, "drift" by random fluctuation into two divergent populations with different allele sets (for example, alleles that are present in one have been lost in the other)."

Further, in elaboration of Andy's restatement of Intelligent Design theory, we have the following snippet from the Catholics:

"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection -- is not."

jwc said...

matthew,

let's not play semantic games. andy is attempting to say that scientists believe that evolution itself is random. That there's no reason that humans have legs that allow us to walk well rather than legs that don't allow us to walk well. That assertion is not only inflammatory, it's also ignorant of how science actually works.

Are you really getting your definition of evolution from wikipedia?

If one is trying to claim that natural selection - "survival of the fittest" - isn't the best explanation of how - not why! - but how evolution works, than I think there is no hope for that person. Survival of the fittest is the most elegant process discovered by man, imho: what else would survive? And catholics believe this to be true. It's right up there with the fundamental theorem of calculus in terms of cleverness.

What Catholics don't accept is when one asks a scientist "but *why* does evolution work like this?" and the scientists responds by shrugging. If Andy wishes to supply his on "why," then that is his business. I personally don't provide a "why." I'm not intellectually curious enough to move beyond understanding a process to asking why the process is the way it is, because I don't think those questions can be answered with any sense of satisfaction.

Andy said...

JWC, I'm not sure what your sticking point is. I don't think anything you've said contradicts what I said. I wasn't "skewering" evolution. Either evolution is a guided process, or it's not. There won't be evidence for it one way or the other, but the unscientific belief that God is not involved should not be taught to the exclusion of the unscientific belief that God is.

ferebend said...

I remember my high school biology teacher stressing the point, when we arrived at the topic of evolution, that Darwinist evolution is a theory, and that some people believe in Creationism (either by a god or even by extraterrestrials... who knows).

As far as I can tell, it had little impact. The fundamentalist Christians (who composed about half the school's population in our tiny town) went on believing in Genesis, or didn't care. The rest accepted Darwinism as the most plausible explanation, or didn't care. Life went on.

Besides, neo-Darwinist theory holds that evolution is both random AND guided. New traits arise as a result of random mutation, and the survival of these traits are guided by environmental change (climatic, geological, etc.).

jwc said...

andy, your definition of science is incorrect. there is just no fudging that point. You want science to mean something that it doesn't. Science is using demonstrable things in nature to explain things in nature which aren't demonstrable through experimentation and deduction. There is no room in that for anything involving religion - that is the realm of philosophy. If you disagree with that definition of science, your teachers and school systems failed you in their mission to teach what science is. They failed miserably.

Andy said...

Where have I ever "defined" science? Specifically, where did I say it was something other than what you describe? Did you read the last line of this blog? That's my position. Teach the science, but stick to the science, which definitely leaves open the possibility of divinity.

jwc said...

andy, the last line of your blog indicates that religion should be brought into the science classroom. "Some people believe," etc. etc. That belief - which is philosophical in nature - has nothing to with science. If you allow that, then you have to say in in biology "some people believe that homosexuality isn't natural, even though it's found in nature." In fact, you have to qualify everything. You can't make an exception just for evolution. Leave all discussion of such things for where they belong: philosophy and religion classes.

Matthew said...

Gracious Jon! Aren't we gathering up a full head of steam here? I promise Andy's views on evolution aren't at the root of your G5 problems.

I'm certainly not interested in picking at words, but the relevance of randomness is an important aspect of how this thread started out. Although it is obviously ancillary to the main discussion thread here, I would like to point out the genetic mutations that evolution relies on are in fact random. The process by which the best mutations end up getting perpetuated is not. That is clearly a function of which mutations bestow a greater ability to survive. Yes, I did reference wikipedia because it was handy. In this case, it is also reliable.

Anonymous said...

Here's the reaction from the person in your life who was a high school science department chair and chemistry teacher for 30 years, and currently does research for Intel Corporation.
"I found it interesting as usual. I even discussed it with Cappy who in addition to being a 2000 graduate of MIT, taught
Life science at a Catholic Elementary School in Boston for one year. Cappy and I agree that Intelligent Design is not
part of Evolution/Natural Selection/Random Mutation curriculum. It could be part of a Comparative Religion/Philosophy discussion.

A single sentence end of unit statement would be all that would be needed in "A Science Course on Evolution."
JF

bohica said...

I hate it when I miss these little convos.