Friday, October 28, 2005

Unintelligent Design

William Saletan has an excellent column in Slate on the absurdity of so-called "Intelligent Design" (ID) as an explanation of the origin of life. Here is a choice excerpt (Rothschild refers to Eric Rothschild, the lawyer opposing the school board in the Pennsylvania case, while Behe refers to Michael Behe, a proponent of ID):

Can ID make testable predictions? Not really. If we posit that a given biological system was designed, Rothschild asks, what can we infer about the designer's abilities? Just "that the designer had the ability to make the design that is under consideration," says Behe. "Beyond that, we would be extrapolating beyond the evidence." Does Behe not understand that extrapolating beyond initial evidence is exactly the job of a hypothesis? Does he not grasp the meaninglessness of saying a designer designed things that were designed?

Evidently not. "That is exactly the basis for how we detect designÂ?when we perceive the purposeful arrangement of parts," Behe declares. The essence of scienceÂ?that detection means going beyond perceptionÂ?escapes his comprehension. It also escapes his interest. He says his belief that the bacterial flagellum was intelligently designed could be tested, but he's never run the test. Why not? "I'm persuaded by the evidence that I cite in my book that this is a good explanation and that spending a lot of effort in trying to show how random mutation and natural selection could produce complex systems Â? is not real likely to be fruitful," he says. Who needs science when you've got faith?

Here's a relevant paragraph from Keith Lockitch, a Ph.D. in physics and junior fellow with the Ayn Rand Institute:
The insistence of "intelligent design" advocates that they are "agnostic regarding the source of design" is a bait-and-switch. They dangle out the groundless possibility of a "designer" who is susceptible of scientific study--in order to hide their real agenda of promoting faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible "designer" is nothing more than a gateway god--metaphysical marijuana intended to draw students away from natural, scientific explanations and get them hooked on the supernatural.
The statistics regarding the U.S. public's belief in God vs. evolution betray a rather depressing ignorance of science, which was no doubt assisted by the new left's decades old assault on the foundations of scientific knowledge. Therefore it is in many ways no surprise that the public turns to religion for answers to the deepest question. They certainly won't find them from academics who claim there are no answers. But while religion may satisfy some, to anyone committed to reason and reality, religion's answers are always superficial and unsatisfying (and, needless to say, often carry with them consequences at times as oppressive on both a personal and societal level as those of the secular left). Hopefully the more rational individuals will become aware of the one alternative to both the skepticism and nihilism of the left and as well as the traditional religions: Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

No comments: