2007/12/18

A Concise Annihilation of Intelligent Design

Let me explain to those who aren't quite solid on this topic. It's very simple. Evolution is science and Intelligent Design is not. I think it is really important for everyone to understand this, because there are a lot of very powerful and rich people making a lot of noise in the name of ID and Creationism right now. In fact, an ID propaganda film starring Ben Stein is coming out early next year. Click here for a rather scathing pre-screening review. Anyway, on with the annihilation.

1. Intelligent Design is Creationism. You know: Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, man and dinosaur living together. That's all there is to it. It isn't some new theory spawned by scientists with some top secret evidence proving wrong evolution. It is Creationism re-branded. The Dover trial, in December 2005, included some remarkable revelations about the book intended for use in the teaching of ID. Upon investigation of the previous versions of the manuscripts for this book, the prosecution discovered that the earliest versions, until 1987, looked a lot like creationist books. So they wrote a script counting the number of times the words "creation" "creationist" etc appeared vs the number of times words like "designer" or "intelligent design" appeared. The results were a remarkable 1:1 trade off in 1987 switching from all creationist to all ID. Why 1987? Because that is exactly when the Edwards vs Aguillard trial resulted in making it illegal to teach Creationism in schools. For a much better retelling of the story of this trial and how badly the Dover school board lost, click here.

2. Evolution is not random. The most common arguments against evolution by ID proponents go along these lines: "xyz is so complicated, it couldn't have evolved by random chance." And that's true! Evolution is not random! It is the process of natural selection. Whether that is through sexual selection, a slight advantage over a predator, a slight advantage over prey, better resistance to disease, or just genetic drift caused by any number of things, it is not random. Now lets take an example of a made up creature, the burbox. If a burbox has a child who is slightly more attractive than other burboxes, lets say through a brighter purple horn, it may get the chance to mate more than the competition. Over time (many generations) it's possible that almost all burboxes will have developed a brighter purple horn. Now many may say, "but that is random! What are the chances that a burbox would evolve the more attractive purple horn!?" But this is the wrong question! Think of it this way. If you have 100 random letters, the chances that a given letter is 'A' is 1 in 26. Okay, so what are the chances that in that sequence, you'll spell the word 'CAT'. Pretty low, right? Actually extremely low. What about the word "ELEPHANT"? Impossibly low. But again, this is the wrong question. Instead we should be asking, what are the chances that in those 100 letters, a word will be spelled? While the particular observed mutation has a low probability, a mutation actually has quite a high probability. If this is interesting to you, read some Richard Dawkins.

3. Stop saying things are irreducibly complex! This is the central argument of ID and it is related to the previous one claiming things are too complicated to happen randomly. This argument says that certain things that have evolved, like the human eyeball, are so complex that they could not have evolved. There are a few major problems with this. First of all, if you think this is true, you probably haven't done any research, and you probably have no imagination. Just because it seems impossible to you, does not mean it is impossible. The eye, in particular, has a well documented evolutionary path. And science doesn't pretend to have all the answers. Things are constantly being discovered and theories reworked. The most unbelievable thing about this argument is not just that they think these things are too complex to have evolved, but that they then jump to the conclusion that they must have been designed by someone! Now if that doesn't strike you as a logical fallacy, just ask yourself, "who designed the designer?" If you say, "no one, he is God!" then well, I think you just proved me right that ID is not science. This argument can be summed up like this (ill use the Eye example. Notice the logical fallacy even if their assumption was true.):

Given:
X is true [the eye exists]
(bad) Assumption:
Y does not imply X [evolution did not bring about the eye]
Conclusion
Z implies X [a designer must have done it!]

Whaa?! Where did Z come from?! I guess one of their assumptions must have been that Z is true [there is a God .. oops, i mean designer], but even with that as GIVEN, it does not logically lead to their conclusion. Can we finally move on here people? It is so ridiculous that this stuff is still a topic of conversation and people are trying to get it into the schools.

Please educate your friends and family. If you sit quietly while your friends believe this bullshit, you are part of the problem.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thjis post is a kind of mental masturbation. No ID proponent will read this and change his/her mind. Sorry! But gambatte!

Michael said...

Thanks for the comment. I wrote this for two reasons. First, to help organize the arguments in my head, and second, for those who aren't so familiar with the topic. I don't imagine many ID proponents are reading my blog in the first place.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

But....but shouldn't we be fair and present two sides of a controversy??

Erik said...

The problem is that there isn't really anything to present on the ID side. Among scientists there is no controversy since ID is not science. You can't get an ID degree and run experiments in the field of ID. If you want to study ID at a university you need to take religious studies. Here's a comment I saw today on another site that seems relevant: "If we teach intelligent design alongside evolution, we should also teach the stork theory alongside biological reproduction."

Erik said...

I love evolutionary programming. I've been doing it since college (~1993). Along those lines here's a link you might enjoy: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/07/target_target_w_1.html

Erik said...

hmm, how about this

ThePeat said...

I think people mistake free speech and democracy when they suppose that in a free society we are obligated to argue both sides of anything. We *are*, of course, compelled to promote speech from under-represented or dis-empowered groups (which is theoretically why we have a supreme court), but the religious right certainly doesn't qualify for that; their speech is difficult to avoid.

And what's the deal posting as "anonymous" when there's already one in the thread? Are you the same person? :) Also, what's wrong with masturbation, mental or otherwise?

And I think we might even say that if we're going to teach intelligent design in science class, we might as well teach pottery there as well. I wouldn't be surprised or dismayed if there were an accredited uni that could grant a degree in ID. But it wouldn't be a BS (punning aside).

Joe said...

It is entirely sad that the fanatical people who propose teaching ID in the PUBLIC classroom give everyone else a bad name. There are plenty of rational people who believe in ID to some degree or another but choose not to shove it down the throats of children in public schools.

Faith is an important part of many peoples lives and I wouldn't try to 'annihilate ID', but if you want ID taught to your child, send him to a friggin private school.

In summary my problem is not with believing in ID or not, but with those who are trying to present this religious/faith based idea to children in the public school system.