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Open Edit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-11-05 08:11 AM
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Intelligent Design and its lack of intelligence
Edited on Mon Dec-05-05 10:54 PM by WakingLife
Talk Origins: A site about Evolution and its opponents. Offers both positive evidence for Evolution and critiques of counter arguments.
Talk Design: Sub-site of Talk Origins that focuses on examining the claims of Intelligent Design.

What is Intelligent Design?:
Intelligent Design is a political and pop-culture movement that asserts that life is too complex to have arisen due to natural causes and therefore must have arisen through the actions of an intelligent being, and that there is sufficient evidence to support this claim.

Specifically, the natural causes and natural laws they are arguing against are the theory of Evolution and the mechanism of natural selection as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

Does "intelligent being" mean God?:
The proponents claim that the intelligent agent would not necessarily have to be God. For example, they claim that perhaps the intelligent agent could be an alien race. In practice however it almost always does mean exactly that. All of the primary proponents have made statements at one point or another professing their own personal religious belief and its relationship to their interest in Intelligent Design.

(todo: put links here to quotes from Behe , Dembski, and The Discovery Institute with their "Wedge Strategy")

What are the main ideas promoted by its proponents?:

Irreducible Complexity: This idea was proposed (or reintroduced some would say) by a man named Michael Behe in his book Darwin's Black Box. The idea is that systems and organs exist in living beings that require all of their parts to be present in order for them to work at all. Further, that none of the constituent parts could have been both present and useful to the organism before the other parts were present.

If this could be proved to be true it would indeed be a serious problem for evolution. The reason is that an organism doesn't evolve useless parts because it somehow "knows" that they will come in useful later. Each step, each change must be beneficial by itself. While small changes in the DNA of an organism are relatively common and not improbable, massive changes all at once to develop several new parts or proteins would be extremely unlikely.

Fortunately for the theory of evolution the examples of irreducible complexity given so far have only proved the short sightedness or lack of imagination of their authors.

Specified Complexity: This idea was proposed by William Dembski. Essentially he is arguing that we can tell if something is designed just by looking at it. He draws his ideas from modern information theory. There is a major problem for his ideas though. That is in order to apply his mathematics one has to first be able to show that the system could not have occurred by natural means. How does one do that? What if you think there is no way (you can't see one yourself) but there really is? Well then all his math that "proves" design goes right out the window. It is at its core simply a reformulation of the Argument from Ignorance or a "God of the Gaps" theory.

The excellent article The Flagellum Unspun, The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity" explores and thoroughly dismantles both of these ideas by its examination of the bacterial flagellum, which has been used extensively by ID proponents as examples of what they are talking about. Unfortunately for them science has progressed and we now understand the flagellum much better and their arguments using the flagellum now appear quite silly.

I added the above summary info, but it could still use a lot more.
Like some discussion of how and where its proponents are trying to introduce their ideas in to schools.
Why it is absurd to do so given that even if one accepts the validity of their hypotheses there is not enough evidence to teach it as equal to evolution.
In what ways is it and is it not a valid scientific hypothesis (i.e. is it testable? is it falsifiable?).
Examples of the political nature of the movement using quotes from places like the Discovery Institute which is a primary mover of the idea.

Being from Pennsylvania, I'm forced to deal with the Trojan Horse creationism that has been making the rounds. As a scientist myself and someone who has issues with organized religion (but not all religion), Iíve been tasked to speak a few times at local school board meetings and focus groups. The first thing I get is the classic I.D. argument of ďX is so unique and so complex that random evolution could not have lead to it, therefore there is a higher power behind the designĒ. X has been, at least in my experience, things like the human eye, written and verbal communication, and the brain. In this thread, I want to talk about how stop this from getting into our science programs as an easy ďit was magicĒ answer to complex questions. While I donít mind creationism in history, philosophy, or human studies classes, I have many concerns about it in science classes. For one, I.D. does not follow the basic concept of science, the Scientific Method. There is a hypothesis, but no test or way to prove or disprove the statement. Itís a classic ďIím right because you canít prove me wrongĒ statement, which answers nothing. Magic will never solve a scientific problem, because in science there is always an answer to why or how, even if you can not understand it or test for it. That is the basic concept.

My favorite argument against ID is simple. Attack the basis of the argument. That humanity as we know it is so complex there has to be a higher power that designed it. I say this is inherently wrong. To say that complexity or order can not be achieved in chaos has been a flawed statement since the 1960ís. Thanks to an MIT meteorologist named Edward Lorenz, science took a great leap forward in thinking. Lorenz determined that even in complex chaotic systems, such as the weather, there are ideal sets of starting conditions that lead to very orderly and predictable outcomes. Still, even with minor changes in these starting conditions, in his case using and then not using the sixth decimal point of the numbers in his data set, he showed that the final results can be altered greatly. His example of a weather pattern opened the door to the Butterfly Effect stating that even small events can have significant effects in the larger system. One simple cell becoming light sensitive for any reason could have, over a great amount of time, evolved into the complex human eye. This Chaos Theory, which has been greatly added upon since then, has proven to be successful in finding kernels of order in random or chaotic systems. The earth is such a system, a soup of chemicals and random variables all set in a cosmos based on physics. The only problem with Chaos Theory is that this particular science is still fairly new, and most people donít know anything about it. Even as a chemist, my experience with it is limited to talks with colleagues who have physics background and some books Iíve read on the subject.

While most people donít like physics, it truly is a fascinating way to look at our world. I urge anybody who is dealing with Creationism light in their schools to pick up a book on Chaos Theory. I think this truly is the answer to I.D. and shows the inherent flaw in the theory. If one can find order in chaos, then the human eye could evolve in our chaotic system here on earth. It doesnít prove or disprove God, but it does throw a wrench in Intelligent Design as the only explanation.

Intelligent Design in One Lesson


# ID is whatever we say it is, and we don't agree.

# Greater and greater numbers of scientists are joining the ID movement, which is why we keep referring to the same three year after year.

# ID is not creationism, and can be perfectly compatible with evolution. This is why we're asking schools to teach the "evidence against evolution".

# We're not creationists, except for those of us who are, but the rest of us won't confirm that we're not. But if you call us creationists, we'll complain to no end.

The entire document is worth reading. It's amusing, yes, but also very insightful into the inner workings of ID creationists. Also, nearly every entry on the list is sourced.

The main problem with this entire ID argument is this: ID and evolution are addressing two totally different things. We don't have to talk about one to talk about the other, so this "culture-war" topic is SO a false dilemma.

In this, both creationists and scientists err: The creationists are always trying to prove to the world that God exists (how can anyone prove that, and isn't it a matter of faith anyway?); and the scientists are always trying to prove that it all could have happened without a god's involvement (how in the world can anyone prove there's NO god?)

It doesn't matter what the primum mobile was. Creation beliefs are attempts to address WHY it all "began" (if there was even a beginning), while science looks at the mechanisms of change over long periods of time. Since it's impossible to prove that god doesn't exist, I'd love it if scientists would stop issuing statements that say this (whatever new discovery) "proves" that all this could have appeared in a world with no god.

It doesn't matter to science and to the study of beginnings if god does or does not exist! All we are doing is examining what has happened since then. And to the creationists: Why are you ALWAYS trying to prove something about god? Don't your scriptures tell you over and over and over that you must BELIEVE (not PROVE)? Leave it alone. It doesn't hurt your god (or you) if scientists investigate what has happened to matter and living things over time. Can't your god's creation stand up to this kind of study?
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