Sorry, this is rather a long post, but I feel very strongly about the subject matter. I have tried to be succinct and digressions have been kept to a minimum.
Ahhhhh, to hear the term: ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) is enough to send me into a mouth frothing, eye-popping, rage with a penchant for laying waste to vast swathes of good arable land with copious amounts of DDT and napalm.
The voices in my head state thusly: “But surely Flaxen, ID is nothing more than a last-ditch attempt by religious fundamentalists to introduce religious doctrine into the science curricula. There to stand erect and proud, and as equal status as a scientifically respectable alternative to evolutionary theory. Arse bucket”.
Now, I’m a reasonable man. Some folk would describe me as ‘respectable’ (they don’t really know me) and I’m always ready to listen to rational, internally consistent arguments on an array of topics, various. I will, and have, changed my intellectual stance on a topic if persuaded by logical discourse or evidential data. Normally, ridiculous grandiose religious assertions, doctrine and dogma merely raise a lip-curling sneer of disdain from the flaxen-haired one. So why the extreme reaction to ID? What is it about this particular religious attestation that evokes such ardour/ordure? Surely, ID deserves a mere cursory and dismissive glance? Read on gentle reader and I’ll explain why I’m moved/motivated to display uncharacteristic emotion, in this instance.
ID would be of no consequence, as a doctrine, if it remained in the rarefied world of religious dogma. However, religion in the West has lost so much intellectual respectability and is viewed as irrelevant to an increasingly secular public that religious fundamentalists are becoming increasingly desperate to force a toehold in the real world of education. And herein lies the problem. Advocates of ID promulgate their ideas as ‘scientific’ to be on par with other scientific discoveries. And let me be frank, this is mainly an issue in the USA. Europe and Australasia are not afflicted with this issue, period.
Over the years, Religious fundamentalists have become more devious and adept at insinuating their irrational views on the American public. To a certain extent, they have been successful. Only 49% of Americans believe in natural selection as an evolutionary process in spite of the overwhelming evidence, from multiple sources, of evolution as a natural force inducing biological change over aeons. I find this statistic shocking for a modern, civilised, Western country. What is particularly disturbing and repellent is that the Vice President of the USA, Mike Pence, is a prime mover for the inclusion of ID in the American State Education System. Let us hope, for the American public’s sake that the present president, elect, Donald Trump is not impeached or dies in office. For the saving grace of the American people, we can take heart in the ‘First Amendment’ which guarantees the separation of the Church and State. In response, the ID advocates have tried to inculcate the notion that intelligent design is ‘Real Science’. But this is a gross misinterpretation of what Science actually is and particularly the scientific method. I’ve stated this before in my blog, but this so important that it is worthy of reiteration, unto a thousand times, if necessary. So here into the breach, I venture, once again.
Science starts with an empirical observation of a natural phenomenon. A hypothesis is made as a way of explanation of said phenomenon. This is where science exhibits its rational strength. A series of challenges are formulated (experiments) to test the veracity of the original postulation. If the data is not in accord with the hypothesis, the hypothesis undergoes modification or is discarded. Importantly, the hypothesis and subsequent test data are published for independent review. Even if the original researchers are adamant as to their original proposal but independent evidence, from multiple sources, is not forthcoming, then the hypothesis is not worthy of incorporation into the canon of ‘knowledge’. If the hypothesis is found scientifically worthy it will merit the accolade of a ‘theory’. This is not the end of the scientific process. New and ingenious challenges will emerge to challenge the theory…. And so, the process continues anew. According to the esteemed philosopher of science, Karl Popper, all good science should be falsifiable. Here is my response to Popper in a previous post.
Let us now examine the proposal set forth by the proponents of ID. They start off by stating that the world/universe/life is incredibly, mind bogglingly, complex. I have no problem with this assertion. The next bit is crucial: err, God did it. This is not SCIENCE. No hypothesis, no experimentation and no way of peer review and independent affirmation. No mechanism is forthcoming apart from accepting that an invisible, unknowable supernatural entity caused it to happen by means unknown. This is tantamount to magic and should be dismissed accordingly. Perhaps it has a place in religious classes but it has no right of inclusion in biology curricula as a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. When asked to supply a ‘mechanism’ for ID, its adherents undertake an indirect tack/attack and try to undermine the mechanistic nature of the scientific system as a mean for formulating knowledge. Considering the success (a veritable understatement) of Science with regard to our understanding of the ‘real world’ and the development of technology, ID’s stance is clearly ridiculous. The hypocrisy is there for everyone to see: Proponents of ID try to undermine the scientific method while advocating ID as a form of ‘science’. O da irony!
Because the ‘ID lobby’ is aggressively pursuing their agenda in an increasingly hysterical manner warrants enough cause for rational folk to view ID as a threat to American Public Education System, especially as ID supporters have allies in high administrative places. Luckily, prominent luminary scientists are well aware of the impending danger and are throwing their substantial influence and intellectual weight into thwarting ID’s nefarious and lubricious tactics.
I’m optimistic as to the ultimate outcome. Science will triumph again as it always has, eventually, against primitive and soundly illogical concepts. And yea, for this we should be eminently thankful and grateful to the majestic power of Science.