Thursday, November 30, 2006

(un)Intelligent Discussion

I caught the tail end of a segment in BBC Two's News Night wherein the host Jeremy Paxman was moderating a discussion between Intelligent Design proponent Professor Andy Mcintosh and Darwinist Professor Lewis Wolpert. And as usual, I think the media has no clue what ID is all about. Neither, I suspect, do Darwinists based on that discussion. Professor Wolpert spent the interview (the part I caught) chanting the Darwinist mantra "ID is just religion" while moderator Jeremy Paxman kept asking Professor Mcintosh, "But who is the designer?"

On the News Night website, they called Truth in Science, the organization that Prof. Mcintosh represents, a Creationist group. I don't know how accurate that is. From what I caught of the interview, TIS isnt a Creationist group but an ID group. The two are different, and this is what the media doesnt seem to get. Creationism is based on a literal interpretation of Genesis (which means Creationists believe all this is created by God--a religious belief). ID is based on a scientific hypothesis based on what these scientists have observed in nature, that the complexity of life on earth could not have come from random events, that the pattern of life on earth seems to be following instructions, and where there are instructions, then there must be some intelligence behind it. That's all. Who is the designer? is not a question an ID proponent could answer scientifically since there is no evidence of the identity of this entity. It could be anybody: God, Nature, little green men, they dont know and dont profess to know. What there is evidence for is that someone did it. Just like CSI. Those forensic scientists in the TV show could look at the evidence and conclude that a death isnt random or accidental based on the evidence: someone did it. The difference of course is that in CSI, the evidence for the identity of the killer can be found. In the case of ID theory, the scientists havent found evidence of who did it. When an ID proponent says, "I believe the designer is God (or Nature, or Steve from next door)," he is making a philosophical or theological statement, not a scientific one. But anti ID people seize upon this and conflate the faith with the science. "See? He believes in God (or Steve)! Therefore ID is a religion." This is illogical and just plain stupid.

I think both sides of the debate have good arguments, but what do I know? But the fact is that when a scientific theory becomes the mainstream, it becomes intolerant of competing theories. Competing theories have to constantly prove themselves against the mainstream. I think that's a good thing. We can't blindly follow every new thing that comes along just because they sound nice or they agree with our own personal belief system. Fledgeling theories have to prove their mettle to gain acceptance. The ID people, knowing that the mainstream view controls the publications where they can gain legitimacy, have taken their case to the public, who can then decide. But they can only decide wisely if the facts are accurately reported by the media but media hasnt done its homework. Or worse, they have already taken a side in this debate.


grifter said...

but who is the Architect?

Jego said...

The Wachowskis stole him from an episode of Sliders.

scripto said...

Pretty lame analogy. CSI at least has a time of death. Where or when are these supposed "design events"?

Jego said...

Hi cripto.

Where or when are these supposed design events?

Who knows? Youre asking when this intelligence designed things? Let me give you another analogy (theyre all I have). Suppose you have a computer that runs on an operating system designed by some unknown programmer. Can you tell by examining the computer when the programmer wrote the program? (We're assuming the programmer didnt annotate the code.) Further, if you couldnt tell when this programmer wrote the program, would you conclude that since you can't tell when the programmer did it, then there really is no programmer?

scripto said...

Well, you could say the same thing about any complex organized system, say a hurricane. No one seriously believes they are the result of some designer. I'm not sure the analogy of DNA to computer code holds. Life is far more complex (adapting existing forms to new uses) than it needs to be, suggesting self organization rather than a somewhat incompetent designer. You may not be able to identify the programmer by the code but you certainly can puzzle out process. Where are the testible predictions for ID?

Jego said...

No one seriously believes [hurricanes] are the result of some designer.
I don't have enough information to conclude anything about a designer of hurricanes. Although a designer of hurricanes remains a hypothesis, Im not aware of an intelligent design theory of weather. All I see from the papers and on TV are intelligent design theory of living things.

Where are the testible predictions for ID?
And here we go into the rarefied air of philosophy of science. You mean testible for falsification? Can't think of anything specific off the top of my head, but this isnt my area of expertise. I just want bias-free information as my post says. Anyway, correct me if Im wrong but I think Darwinists are testing ID theories all the time to falsify them. So the criticism that ID isnt testable is bunk. Darwinists test ID all the time.

Or did you mean testable for proof? How about this one: Given a biological system, you would find irreducible complexity, which would preclude randomness.

What do you mean by 'incompetent designer'? Again we go back to the programmer. If a program is badly implemented, does this mean that the programmer doesnt exist? Or if you buy a new car, turn the ignition, and it doesnt start, do you conclude that it wasnt designed because it doesnt work as you expect it to?