Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Daily of the University of Washington

*Special feature on ID*
A supposed closer look at ID

One of the biggest problems with journalism arguably is that there is a confusion that results in a conflation of the notion of 'objective' with that of 'balanced'. The problem is, where some ideas are obviously wrong, then a balanced approach gives a very false impression i.e. the creation of a controversy where there is none. Not unlike I would submit, anti-vaccination and HIV/AIDS link denialist.

What is even more puzzling is given the very extensive 139 page report by Judge Jones in the recent Dover, PA trial, how is it then that an article of this sort could still be written. One should keep an open mind but not to the point where your brain falls out.

Anyway, actual article in blockquotes, personal comments in normal script.

No one can say for sure where the world came from. Everyone has a different speculation for how the world began and how human beings got here.

I think this paragraph should be heavily qualified to distinguish between on the one hand, scientific explanations and on the other metaphysical ones. Science has a pretty good idea of both i.e. how the world began and how we got here. But where science has deliberately limited itself to naturalistic explanation, it is actually not incompatible to hold a scientific viewpoint while concurrently subscribing to a metaphysical one. Thus I think that in principle, science cannot discount the divine simply because by definition the divine resides outside of nature. Alternatively, the divine can make it such that it appears entirely natural.

Now, I think it's an eminently reasonable position to hold that until there is actual tangible evidence of the supernatural, I'm simply going to accept that The World Is, that nature and the material is all, no more no less.

Senior Tara Smiley thinks humans are related to monkeys, trees and all other organisms on the earth. In that case, humans have evolved to slightly more complex (and arguably attractive) beings than our ancestors, but that doesn't mean it's always been this way. Smiley, who said she grew up in the "Bible belt" of the United States, came to the UW from South Carolina. But she isn't like many of the people she grew up with who are fiercely religious and therefore defenders of creationism and the idea Earth was created by God. She's a double major in biology and earth and space sciences -- and believes in evolution.

Believes? I think it's more fair to say she accepts it on the basis of overwhelming evidence.

Ed Dunnington, campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship at the UW, has a different take. He finds Darwinism as a very depressing theory. He doesn't believe in it for many reasons, but particularly because it alludes to life being meaningless. And who wants to live a meaningless life?

Well at least he's honest I suppose. Not terribly imaginative but honest. In a manner of speaking, he would limit the abrahamic deity construct in what it can or cannot do. Odd really if one believes in an omnipotent being.

Anyway, to find the truth depressing is one thing, but to want to construct a lie and force yourself to believe in it to avoid the truth is another. I find oxidation terribly depressing (because oxidation causes the death of cells and the end of life) but I'm not about to pull an Alex Chiu and believe that putting magnetic rings on my toes will give me immortality (I kid you not, just do a quick google search on him).

"If I have morphed from the primordial slime and have evolved into this [human form], and when I die that's the end, then my question is what meaning or significance is there to life?" Dunnington asked rhetorically. "The implication [of evolution] is that life's kind of pointless."

Assume that the non-existence of 'god' is an independent reality i.e. regardless of whether you believe/accept it, it would still occur (not unlike theories like gravity) then the only question is this, would the good minister still think his life was meaningless? If so, then he might well be living a lie. If not, then it is indeed possible to lead a 'meaningful' (whatever that means) life regardless of beliefs.

I think it's rather infantile to find that Life only has meaning because there is a 'god'. I think we make what we will of life. We construct our own meaning of life.

The age old debate of Darwinism versus creationism has recently grown in complexity with the addition of the theory of intelligent design to the mix. Intelligent design has been storming the media and classrooms across the nation----including at the UW--where a class within the biology department will be taught in the spring focusing on intelligent design as a theory. While some say it is a scientific study valid for the classroom, others argue it's merely creationism dressed in sheep's clothing -- and has no place in a classroom.

ID isn't new. It's the age old philosophical argument from design. Nothing has changed, whatever gaps in our knowledge that exist is used as proof of design.

And oh someone didn't do a fact check before publication. Here's what the biology course is about. ID will not be taught as a theory. Instead the courses are to help students distinguish between science and non-science. I think it's also worth pointing out that there's no scientific debate.

"Maybe there is somebody behind it"

In the 1990s, intelligent design emerged as a national movement that lies somewhere between creationism and evolution -- and has been making a splash in politics, religion and classrooms ever since.

Intelligent design is defined as a claim that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than natural selection. The proponents of intelligent design argue that the theory stands on equal footing with, or is superior to, other scientific theories regarding the origin of life.

"Because of the irreducible complexity [of the universe], there had to be an intelligent designer of all things," Dunnington said. "You're at least saying: Maybe there is somebody behind it."

So now it's a maybe? Well I could believe in an intelligent designer insofar as it is one who set the universe in motion at the beginning and does not interfere in our lives, much less created us. Nature as Deity to put it in shorthand. No the personal god that Dunnington believes in.

Anyway what is irreducibly complex? Blood cascade? Nope. Bacteria flagellum? Nope. But wait, how does one define IC again without it being a negative argument? It's a false ditochomy really. Complexity is not incompatible with evolution. Neither is 'god' incompatible with Evolution.

Intelligent design as an idea has been around for thousands of years, but the movement that brought more visibility -- and contention -- to the topic was initiated by Phillip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the mid 1990s. Johnson evaluated the evidence and arguments for Darwinism and became convinced that the case for evolution was less tangible than scientific evidence could prove.

Today, scientists are continuing scientific research on the theory, which is becoming a strong presence in the nation's political and media forces.

What scientists? What research? What peer-reviewed publications? What citations of those apparent research have appeared? Have they actually spurred further research? All no.

"Intelligent design says the universe is far too complex to be explained by random chance -- this amount of complexity resuscitates that there was a designer," said 2003 UW graduate Mark Bergin, who works as a sports reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and an intelligent design beat writer for World Magazine, a weekly news magazine written from a Christian perspective. "We just intuitively know that when we see something, it didn't happen randomly -- it happened by design."

We just intuitively know.... Great scientific explanation. It's primarily an argument from incredulity. I wonder what he thinks that Behe accepts the entire oxy-hemoglobin exchange system as being NOT IC. Paley's 18th Century Theory was taken down even by other theologians and logicians. The neo-'theory' simply cloaks itself with semblance of science without much else.

There's also the problem of us having evolved and trained to look for and recognise patterns which we unfortunately tend to ascribe design to. Snowflakes anyone?

A religious theory?

Intelligent design as a theory is often contrasted with Darwinism, the theory of biological evolution by natural selection which states that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

"Darwinism". Right. It's really a creationist term. So are we going to start calling gravity "Newtonism" or Special Relativity "Einsteinism"? Oh and it doesn't have to increase the individual's ability to compete, survive and reproduce. It simply has to be benign. And the nice think about these benign mutations is that they sometimes end up being terribly useful down the road. Like for example, the evolution of nylon or TNT 'eating' bacteria.

"Evolution has withstood the test of the scientific community over time," Smiley said.

150 years and loads of lawsuits.

Darwinism is commonly tagged as the theory believed by atheists, while people who say they believe in a God tend to believe in creationism as the answer to how the world began. Bergin says, however, that although many Christians, Jews, Muslims and other theistic faiths tend to support the intelligent-design theory, it shouldn't be used synonymously with creationism.

And let's not forget the Theistic Evolutionist who have no difficulties reconciling an omnipotent, omniscience god with evolution (it can be reconciled with anything really).

And I suppose to tag ID with creationism is unfair to creationism. I mean at least they have testable falsifiable grounds and they actually make claims.

"Christians being drawn to intelligent design doesn't make it a Christian theory," Bergin said. "A very key distinction is that a religious view or argument must say who God is. Intelligent design doesn't do that -- it doesn't even say that there is a God necessarily."

Being more than slightly disingenuous here. Haven't people heard of the Wedge Document, what Jonathan Well's mission is and what the Discovery Institute plans to do? Babarra Forrest calls ID the Trojan horse of creationism and that was accepted by Judge Jones for a reason.

It's also highly disingenuous in that the doyens of ID have repeated said in public (often to Christian crowds) that the Intelligent Designer is the Christian God. While I suppose it is true that it does not in principle require 'god', it would ultimately require the supernatural. Or we could just accept Behe who said it could be time travellers.

Despite the fact that intelligent design supporters are hesitant to affiliate their theory with religion, opponents of intelligent design say if you're a believer in the theory, it's likely you also believe in God.

"I don't see any other way [to verify it]," Smiley said. "Intelligent design is creationism trying to hide that it's creationism - it's creationism dressed up in a fancy suit so that it can be more widely accepted."

Not just more widely accepted. But also to get pass the Supreme Court rulings that creationism is not science.

However, some are comforted finding their answers to their religions and scientific questions in the same place -- their faith in God.

"I think it's hard to believe in evolution if you are a Christian, because if you are a Christian, you're saying first that there is a God and second that he created the world," said Leah Hampson, a junior majoring in microbiology.

So we're back to God now. And God couldn't have used naturalistic mechanisms to create the world? So it's not omniscient? I have many Christian friends who accept Evolution. What makes his religious viewpoint and lack of scientific knowledge masqurading as informed opinion better than said friends?

"Everybody has a world view"

It isn't only a belief in a God that creates a chasm in the intelligent design versus Darwinism dispute. Dunnington believes that a strong reason that this topic is heavily debated is because it encompasses a person's entire world view -- a very personal realm in which one interprets and understands the world around them.

If that were the case, everyone who accepted science or lived in the world would not believe in the supernatural.

Anyway, why not read what Prof Ken Miller had to say in "Finding Darwin's God" or his testimony in the Dover Trial.

While Dunnington equates evolution to a lacking or meaningless life, Smiley views her life -- and evolution -- a little differently.

"I don't find it depressing at all that life can be so random yet work so perfectly together," said Smiley. "I don't like that mentality of there's no point through evolution. I guess that [intelligent-design proponents] would be saying that God makes them a good person -- that they wouldn't inherently be a good person without God. I find that depressing."


Smiley holds the view that evolution is most consistent with reality. However others believe in a different truth, depending on what their personal definition of "reality" is, proving "world views" differ dramatically depending on who you talk to.

Kick a stone and tell me you refute reality. Heh, the post-modern critique being used by the Right. For some fun, check out the Sokal Debacle. Very very funny.

"The way I look at it is what is most consistent with the world around us -- what is most consistent with the way in which we live. Intelligent design is most consistent, I believe," Hampson said. "It's difficult for me to honestly believe that things happen by chance. Things that happen by chance never happen that perfectly. Even if I were to reach my hand in my drawer and pull out two socks, very rarely would I pull out two matching socks."

Getting the feeling it's like, "I don't want to believe, lah lah lah, I can't hear you?"

And obviously not understanding how chemistry and biology and physics work. It's one thing to say that 1000 monkeys banging on 1000 keyboards will take X number of years to type out a Shakespearean Manuscript. But what if inbuilt in those typewriters is a refusal to acknowledge when a wrong letter is typed? That is how Evolution works. Of course, having billions of years doesn't hurt it chances.

I think Dover is highly significant because ID had its chance to portray its best case in a primarily Republican place in front of a Lutheran Conservative Republican (and Republican appointed) Judge. At the end and 139 pages later, it's very clear it is not Science.



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