(By the way, I’m only focusing on the ID – Darwinist issue as it’s my current diversion; it’s not an issue of faith or focus for me. I do have other issues in mind to write about very, very soon…)
As I said in my last post, rational minds differ. It’s often frustrating, but it’s true. Two very intelligent, rational, clear-thinking people can look at the same set of facts, but because of their different grids / worldviews / lenses, they form different opinions. I’d like to think that if they sat down and reviewed the same set of facts and drank enough beer, they’d eventually agree; but, I’m not sure that is the case.
Take Francis Collins for example: head of the famous Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God, Collins is a Christian who believes not only in evolution, but also in common ancestry. He makes some good points in support of Darwinism, and against ID. Kenneth Miller, the Roman Catholic biology prof and author of Finding Darwin’s God, is also a totally committed Darwinist. Now, multitudes of scientists (and not just Theists) don’t buy macroevolution, claiming that the facts don’t support it at all; and, they also make very good arguments why scientists, including Miller and Collins, are wrong. Who’s right? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so the debate goes on.
The problem of getting to a common understanding – and even of getting to a common agreement as to the issue – is made more difficult when people on either side side of an issue won’t look at the issues raised by the other side, choosing instead to throw out red herrings or resort to ad hominem or other obviously fallacious arguments. It doesn’t help resolve the issues, or even help those of us who rely on the expert assessments of others, if no one actually talks about the issues. As someone who has observed a number of civil trials on a number of issues, I can tell you that you can never make a conclusion by listening only to one side’s spin of the issues. By the time the Plaintiff is done presenting their case, you are sure there’s no hope at all for the defendant (even with cross-examination of witnesses). However, when the defense presents their case, you see how the defense has to be correct. It’s only in the reconciliation of both sides that you can even make anywhere near a good decision on what might be “truth.”
In a move of complete and utter silliness, a group of Darwinism supporters have started a smear campaign on an M.D. (Dr. Michael Egnor, who has expressed support of Intelligent Design) which includes creating hundreds, if not thousands, of links to articles discrediting him, so that by googling Egnor, that’s all you see. Obviously, there’s no attempt to even address the issues, which I would think would be simple enough to do, if he’s that out to lunch. It’s ridiculous, it’s reactionary, and it’s certainly not science. Egnor might have completely irrational arguments (I haven’t examined them, myself) but we’ll never know if this is the only treatment he gets. We need a rational discussion of the issues.
An example of how tricky parsing the arguments can be can be found on the Uncommon Descent blog (admittedly a blatant pro-ID site). Here, William Dembski points out the bad logic that Kenneth Miller (mentioned above) used to discredit an argument of Dembski’s. It’s more subtle, but it’s no less helpful. Dembski outlines Miller’s logic as follows:
- Design theorist argues for X.
- Design theorist takes pains to make clear that X is not Y.
- Darwinist nonetheless attributes Y to design theorist.
- Darwinist shows that Y is ridiculous.
- Darwinist concludes ID is a failed intellectual project.
I haven’t examined Miller’s logic myself, so I won’t say for sure Dembski is right; however, this is often the logic I see used by some Darwinists in response to various ID arguments. And, I don’t doubt that anti-Darwinist folks use similar bad logic as well; however, much of the ID arguments are not anti-someone as much as putting forth their own arguments.
The point is not to say one side is better than the other; just to complain that the continued bickering and game-playing – no matter who is playing them – does not help to advance the cause of science or of religion.
Science may not be about niceness, but a lot of bluster is usually a cover-up, and is certainly not science. ID may not be a fully-formed scientific theory in the textbook sense, but it shouldn’t necessarily be written off as not being “scientific.” Granted, ID theories (there are differing positions within the larger ID crowd, as there are with evolutionists) are heavily based on logical deduction, using the same information that “science” has produced. Coincidentally, the same is true for the evolutionary theories…
It is kind of tough getting a blog header to look “just right.” But it is fun experimenting.
And speaking of experimenting, here is what is happening with Egnor. He opened himself up by using his status as a respect (and deservedly so based on the stories of people’s lives he saved through some innovative neurosurgery techniques) to claim authority in a field in which he refuses to actually educate himself. If he wants to be a recognized spokesperson on evolution he needs to study it scientifically rather than through a prism of intelligent design fallacies.
ID is not scientific. It has no means or methods of demonstrating its hypotheses. All of the points that Egnor has used to try to refute natural selection have been themselves repeatedly explained to him as being false and he still stubbornly follows with the same arguments. This is why he deserves scorn.
Science is not about niceness, and so you can’t afford to judge veracity by the timbre of the back and forth between “Darwinists” and “Creationists.” It is best to go to sources. Natural selection has been demonstrated to be the main factor responsible for the diversity of life from a common ancestor and the question was settled scientifically in the 1920’s, mainly by Fischer’s “New Synthesis” of genetics from Mendel with Darwin’s natural selection. Gould and Lewontin expanded on the synthesis in the 1970’s with the concepts of “spandrels” while Dawkins holds fast to reductionism and the Selfish Gene.
Alden, the tragedy of the back and forth over ID/Darwinism is that in biology there are fascinating discussions and arguments over evolution’s processes that go far beyond the issue of whether or not a creator can be demonstrated scientifically. To get a good idea of where the actual scientific controversies lay, Richard Morris has written a good book for laypeople The Evolutionists which I think you would enjoy.
When I started my blog, I had not intended to spend so much time on this issue, but it has raised my passions.
I’m not really happy with it, so it will no doubt change at least once more in the near future.
WOW! A BRAND NEW HEADER FOR THE BLOG FORMERLY KNOWN AS ALDEN’S BLURT! SHOCKING. REFRESHING. BOLD. I’M NEARLY SPEECHLESS. YOU LOOK MARVELOUS.