Intelligent Design

Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools /
@ K. 2006 01 19

Wow. Reuters

The Roman Catholic Church has restated its support for evolution with an article praising a U.S. court decision that rejects the “intelligent design” theory as non-scientific.

Time for pk to repeat points about science, evolution, and intelligent design!

I’m all for science: in case you haven’t noticed. I’m very much against the Church, in case you haven’t noticed that either. I’m all for evolution. Don’t it show? One could accuse me of having evolution for my religion and not find me disagreeing too vehemently. And I’m all for the idea of intelligent design: as I understand it from Michael J. Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,
NY, 1996.

If you haven’t read that book, don’t assume that you can understand what I’m talking about. You need to go through the microbiological examples, detail by detail: with Behe holding your hand. Reading Denis Wood, Five Billion Years of Global Change: A History of the Land [NY 2004] wouldn’t hurt either, especially where he argues that a cubic yard of soil is every bit as complex as for example the human brain.

I don’t trust the Church to know what science is. I don’t trust your average MIT graduate to know what science is. I find the glibness with we we talk about “scientists,” humans garbed in a white version of the sorcerer’s robe, ludicrous. Science is an ideal that can only be partly realized by any human being, and never 27/7. Science is a goal we never quite get to. Ted Williams was a great hitter, but he was a fraction short of a perfect hitter. Science is a set of cautions and processes that your average educated human being is not capable of understanding the soul of.

(If education doesn’t automatically qualify one, neither does lack of education disqualify one. Learning, intelligence, … are not limited to or by education. Education can foster learning, education can stunt learning.) (Education is a commodity: a commodity largely monopolized by the largely incompetent state.) I don’t say I do perfectly, but I’ve got it better than most: than most professional scientists, I believe. I believe it: and I could argue it: if anyone would listen.

In 1859 Darwin kicked human knowledge in the teeth. That’s science. A century and a half later some scientists, and some amateurs understand evolution better than Darwin or Wallace possibly could. They remain the towering geniuses of the inquiry though.
Institutions and public instantly, as always, did their best to misunderstand. But the ideas continue to be winning. (Success, “victory,” is not guaranteed. We don’t know what the future will be. We don’t know that “we” will be part of it.)

Darwin didn’t want to publish his ideas in his life time. He knew what would happen. Hell, he’d been shoved toward the clergy through his life time. But what he found in his travels, at a time when geologists had been peeling the glib cover off of what was (ahem) known about the earth, was utterly incompatible with any idea of any all-at-once, magical, finished-complete-and-perfect Creation.

Darwin offered an explanation for how species can adapt to changing environments. Old species die, new species are born: analogous with individual creatures. Stress, death … drive change. Hurray for stress, for death. For change.

Not too much. Too much stress, too much death, is incompatible with life. We can’t live at the center of a star: too much happening there. Neither can we live in the center of a diamond: too little is happening there. We live around the edges of the borders between the two. Not total chaos, not total stasis; complexity. (I paraphrase Murray Gell-Mann.) (Now there’s a scientist!) (But not 24/7. I doubt that he’d claim that.)

Meantime, how did blood learn to clot? If you don’t know how blood clots, something some of us have learned only very recently — Darwin may not have been able to follow it! not first glance — then you can’t follow this intelligent design argument! Read Behe, let him show you.
How did irreducibly complex things first come about? Mutation is triggered by chance, by accident. Selection occurs in time, by circumstance. Design isn’t needed: though design seems to emerge from the process, once we can think backwards.

But the irreducibly complex patterns, relationships, we depend on CANNOT have evolved by any mechanism currently in evolutionary theory. THEREFORE, evolution is incomplete.

What better theory do we have? We don’t. Simple as that. Some things are still in the black box. Somethings may always be in the black box.

Do I KNOW that that’s true? about future understanding? No, of course not. I believe it.

Now, here’s the problem. The second you admit that you don’t know everything whole tribes of morons will step forward and shove their beliefs about their ignorance into your black box. If the scientist yields some part of totality to a god, for lack of a better word, then the superstitious will overwrite his “god” with their “God”: with their superstition. And suddenly your unknown will be their certainty. Ugh.

No. That’s dirty.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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