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August 28, 2005

Intelligence At Work?

An Article That Understands The Issue

The amazing thing about the current furore over Intelligent Design is how colossally so much of what's being written and repeated misses the whole point. It would appear that the most scathing critics either haven't read what the ID people are saying, didn't understand it, or if they did, they aren't being straight.

A frequent assertion is that ID "isn't scientific" because it "isn't testable." But this is precisely what the whole issue is about. In particular, the work of William Dembski (see earlier post) proposes that the property we latch onto when we see a line of Scrabble tiles spelling out a sentence from Shakespeare, or a heap of sand on a beach in the form of a castle, and know the arrangement was not the result of unguided natural forces, can be rigorously defined, quantified mathematically, and applied as a criterion to judge systems found in nature. Such a proposition is sound and scientific, and deserves to be examined and debated as such, not dismissed on principle on the grounds of an ideology that has decided in advance that it can't be true -- which is the antithesis of science.

The subject is a "big tent" with room for many acts. Naturally, it will attract those with religious persuasions. But all Dembski's test claims to do is establish that some kind of intelligence must have been behind an observed phenomenon. It doesn't have anything to say about the nature of the intelligence, its purpose, the extent of its power, whether it's "good," "bad," sane, or anything else about it. It doesn't rule out any of the religious gods, but doesn't require one either. The fact that some religious fanatics might support a theory doesn't invalidate it, anymore than the concurrence of UFO abduction cults invalidates the notion of extra-terrestrial life.

An informative article by a writer who did read and does understand the subject appeared as the cover story for the June issue of American Spectator, entitled "The Little Engine That Could . . . Undo Darwinism," by Dan Peterson. Besides giving a good introduction to the basics, the piece also answers such questions as:

  • The credentials and backgrounds of the people involved
  • The kind of information that chance and necessity cannot produce
  • The faith-based aspect of Darwinism
  • Why ID is not "creationism in disguise."
Available online at www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=8543.

Also some insightful comments at www.davidlimbaugh.com/mt/archives/2005/08/new_column_the_5.html.

A physicist that I know commented that many other scientific disciplines, such as geology, anthropology, astronomy, are also challenged by biblical fundamentalism, but their people seem to be able to get on with their work without worrying unduly. Only Darwinians seem thrown into a frenzy that sends them running to litigation and demanding censorship. His explanation was that it's a rival religion.

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