Morons Unite!

What bugs me the most about this whole new creationism debate is the insistence that “intelligent design” is a theory.

It’s not. Not even close. Calling it a theory is a flagrant attempt to appeal to the stupidity of the American people.

A theory — by definition — must be based in observable evidence and subject to scientific testing. I’m not saying there isn’t a “creator” behind things; there very well could be. But there’s no way to prove the assertion, one way or another. It cannot be considered a “theory.” It would be more accurate to call it a “wild guess.”

But I suppose that doesn’t sound as weighty as “theory.”

I can understand the proponents using the word. After all, they’s deliberately trying to deceive people. But when newspapers, magazines, and other media start throwing it around, I lose whatever faith I had left in the fourth estate.

Update: On WTOP this morning, the “CBS News Roundup” at least got it right — refusing to dignify this crusade with the word “theory,” instead calling it what it is: a “notion.” So all is not lost.


At 12:04 PM, Kori said...

Mike and I had a huge discussion last night about this, because he had just returned from his mandatory scientific ethics class, where a few students had prepared a presentation on this whole "intelligent design" idea.

It's a shame you and my husband couldn't chat, because he was just going out of his mind about the whole "there were no dinosaurs" thing.

At 12:24 PM, Tom Bridge said...

Okay, Intelligent Design doesn't mean "there are no dinosaurs", it means "dinosaurs evolved, but as part of a divinely created system."

Which is pretty much what I've believed for a long time.

What you're referring to (there were no dinosaurs) is creationism, which is a wholly different beast.

At 1:33 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

True. At least technically.

The proponents of teaching so-called "intelligent design" are, in fact, creationists, cynically latching onto this new notion because they think it'll give them a wedge into the schools. This is exactly the same as the Scopes "monkey trial," just with different terminology.

But Intelligent Design, as a concept, does not necessarily mean that the observed reality of evolution is wholly false, even though its supporters may believe that personally. All the idea means is that patterns of evolution follow an intelligent course. I've said before (right here, in fact) that intelligent design does not in and of itself necessitate an anthropomorphic "creator," but that's not to say that there must not be one.

But it's not science. Intelligent Design is not based in scientifically observable phenomena, nor is it subject to scientific testing. It is, by its very nature, philosophy (or theology, depending on how you want to look at it), and has absolutely no place in a scientific classroom. "Theory" is a very specifically defined word in science, and attaching it to a philosophy is utter imbecility.

As for scientists preparing actual experiements to test the notion of Intelligent Design, hey, if they can come up with some, I'll listen. But until they get beyond the rants of moronic creationists (and sorry, but I won't back down from calling strict, anti-scientific creationists morons), they've got a long way to go before I'll believing they're even close to entering the realm of science.

Key to this is recognizing that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a "god" or "gods" -- it's an article of faith. If there were any actual, observable evidence, religion wouldn't be the bitterly divisive nightmare that extremists (on all sides) can make it into.

I tend to hold with the Occam's razor criterion -- if we observe dinosaur fossils (and the other accompanying scientific observations), I'll tend to believe the fossils are real, as opposed to "tricks" played on us by some invisible, unobservable deity.

Doesn't mean there is no deity. Just that you'll have a long way to go to make me doubt reality on its behalf.

At 3:52 PM, Kori said...

Sorry, I should clarify. That's what happens when you enter a comment too fast.

The whole idea of "intelligent design" sparked a group of U of C grad students to do a presentation on the various theories of creationism as well as evolutionary theory. That's where the whole "there were no dinosaurs" came from. I wasn't clear.

That said, there is an emphasis in the "intelligent design" theory that favors microevolution particularly, if I understand it correctly. I am actually a big champion of stating the facts as we have them on evolution---the fossil record clearly supports microevolution, but it has to work a little harder to show that macroevolution has been "proven."

Bill, your point about "intelligent design" not being a SCIENCE is really what was making Mike nuts last night. As you know, we are both believers in God and have always thought that the world was created with a purpose and a design, but Mike is also a scientist and hates it when scientific theory is confused with philosophy.

On the deity point, yes, it takes faith to believe that what you observe as divine order in the universe is, in fact, divine order in the universe. The more you study evolution, though, the more you realize that the theory that people seem to remember from high school (Darwinism, in general), takes a lot of faith to believe in, too. Evolution is an idea that also needs a lot more study, a lot more discovery, a lot more time to figure out. You see a fossil, it existed, I'll never question you on that. But gaps in the fossil record still exist, and we need to recognize those leaps of faith, too.

Most of the great paleontologists do, thankfully. They are scientists.

At 4:18 PM, Tom Bridge said...

But can you separate science and philosophy? I'm not so sure. Go back and see what Hooke and Newton and Huygens were doing when they were basically creating science from the ether for the first time in 1000 years or so, they were combining science with philosophy to create the trend of "Natural Philosophy," and Stephenson wrote a whole set of books that deal with these exact subjects.

I'm not real sure you can separate the how and the why from each other. It's just that sometimes you have to say, when it comes to the why, "Some people believe this, some believe this other thing, and still other believe yet this third thing." and I definitely support the migration from Creationism toward Intelligent Design, because it moves the science part of evolution into an acceptable sphere for many people that wouldn't see it otherwise.

At 5:42 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

I have no problem with people believing in a deity that guides the creation of the world. And there are definitely gaps in the fossil record. Darwin's theory of evolution was a starting point, not the be-all and end-all of evolutionary science (why I chuckle when I see "Darwin fishes" on cars -- um, Darwin's specific theories have long been modified).

And frankly, taken in a vacuum, I have no problem with the notion of "intelligent design." As a philosophy, I think it may have merit. Just as complex structures can "evolve" without necessitating a single, guiding hand (witness the Internet), it doesn't prove the existence of a creator by any stretch of the imagination. But I don't find anything wrong with believing that. I certainly can't disprove it.

In reality, of course, I have problems with the promoters of it, but that's more an issue with their willful (and flagrantly obvious) deception as to their agenda.

Still, I don't really see the argument that we cannot separate science and philosophy. True, science -- hell, the very notion of rational thought -- "evolved" from more nuanced studies. But it doesn't necessarily follow that such is still the case. But even so, Tom's idea of merely acknowledging "some believe this, some believe that" is certainly unobjectionable -- but that's not what these folks are proposing. They're proposing elevating an unobservable and untestable "why" to the same level of significance as the observable and testable "how."

Not science.

At 6:02 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

An interesting discussion on the topic over at the Post.

Just adding fuel to the fire.


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