Thursday, May 08, 2008

I had to weigh in on Expelled! and the whole ID nonsense

In case you haven't heard, Ben Stein has a new movie about Intelligent Design called Expelled! Dafydd ab Hugh on Big Lizards takes down Expelled! here and here. You should also read John Derbyshire's takedown.

In response to the second post on Big Lizards, I had to comment in response to the Intelligent Design nutjob commenters. I also have been unsatisfied with anyone's attempted refutations of the whole ID nonsense. They come close, but don't get to the essense of it. So I did. I can't figure out how to link directly to my comment, so I repeat it in its entirety below (without the formatting):

I didn’t see anyone respond to two points Baggi made in much earlier posts, to which I think responses are illuminating, so let me give it a whack.

From a Baggi comment on April 26:

“This is why only the critics of ID say that ID somehow is looking for God. As a matter of fact, the arguments are somewhat silly as the critic proclaims, "You can't prove God with science!" and the ID Proponent responds, "You're right, therefore we're not trying to do that." and then the critic responds, "Then who is the designer?" and the ID Proponent responds, "We don't know, nor are we looking." and the critic responds, "AHA!!"

Very strange, I know, but this conversation takes place over and over again.

Like I said before and i'll repeat here, ID is not looking to prove the existence of anything supernatural (IE: Not natural) as Dafydd's strawman insists. Instead, ID is out to demonstrate that in nature we can find evidence for Intelligent Design.”

The critical point here is that ID’ers openly claim not to be looking for the “designer” nor even the physical processes by which the “design” was accomplished. Why not?!?! If ID was a serious scientific inquiry, they should be enormously curious about precisely how their theoretical designer designed the different species. After all, all the species on earth are made out of the same sub-atomic particles, which obey the same laws of physics. How did the “designer” manipulate these building blocks into the different species? ID’ers respond: we don’t care. Why not?!?!

The real reason they don’t care is that they believe the “designer” is a supernatural God. Actually discovering a natural process and mechanism by which a “designer” could have created different species would be just as much of an affront to their religion as evolution itself. So they merely present other possibilities – like space aliens – to try to get their theory accepted as “science” and not “religion,” and thus able to be taught in public schools, but do absolutely nothing to pursue that otherwise enormously fascinating – and scientific – area of inquiry. It goes without saying that they have no evidence of the process or mechanics by which the “designer” went about his/her/its work.

And from another comment from Baggi later on:

“Darwin set out an example of how his theories could be scientifically falsified. His failure to falsify his own theories does not in anyway negate future scientists falsifying his theories.
* * *
Instead, I used Darwin's own words to demonstrate that if his theory is indeed falsifiable by the method he proposed, then Behe is using that method and ID is science.”

ID is not science. If ID attempted to assert a theory or hypothesis as to how the “designer” designed the different species then it would be science. However, ID’ers, as noted above, openly distain from investigating that question. To those of us with a brain, the reason why is patently obvious – they are religious Creationists seeking to get Creationism taught in public schools through the ruse of ID. Their goal is merely to sow distrust in evolution so they may more easily convince other people to believe Creationism instead. The argument is a simple one: See, look how evolution doesn’t work. Since it’s the only explanation that “science” has given us as to how we humans were created, the only explanation left is Creationism as described in the Bible. This argument works on people who do not have the inclination or ability to actually dig into and understand the science, or people who want to believe in Creationism anyway.

Merely criticizing evolutionary theory is not science. To be science, ID’ers must come up with an alternative explanation for the physical processes leading to observed phenomena (the existence of different species) that is testable and falsifiable, and describe how their theory would be falsified by later experiments and observations, just like Darwin did.

Nowhere that I know of has any ID’er ever presented a hypothesis for how a designer actually designed the different species (i.e., put forth a hypothesis of the specific physical, testable processes by which the “designing” occurred) and then set forth examples of experiments or observations the results of which might falsify the hypothesis. If any ID’er has, please show me where. Did Marvin the Martian modify his Illudium-36 Explosive Space Modulator so it could reorient the molecules of huge piles of pure organic elements to create all the different species on earth? How long would this take? Interesting that ID’ers are the first to argue that math models disprove evolution but are totally silent on how any “intelligent design” could take place on natural time tables. How long would it take scientists today to create a single strand of DNA out of the raw elements?

ID’ers think what they are doing is science. That is, they clearly have come up with an alternative explanation of how the observed phenomena of different species came into existence (via the efforts of some “intelligent designer”). Fine in so far as that goes. However, their alternate explanation – ID – is not a scientific one because it’s not really an explanation. ID does nothing to explain how there came to be different species because it does nothing to explain how the designer pulled it off. ID as an explanation is no more legitimate than if I said that my cat - a hyper-intelligent being from a parallel dimension – did it. How, you ask? ID’ers don’t care. They say “intelligent design” because it sounds good to their target audience – people who want to believe in Creationism.

Without providing a testable hypothesis, all ID’ers are doing is criticizing evolutionary theory. Whoop dee do. Scientists know that general relativity and quantum mechanics are incompatible. So I guess neither theory is correct in any sense at all. We should just throw them both out and acknowledge that God really moves everything in the universe according to his whims.

ID’ers are anti-science. They are anti-knowledge. They are anti-truth.

Wir mussen wissen. Wir werden wissen.