Thursday, July 21, 2005

Debating Intelligent Design

Debating Intelligent Design
(Mail To The New Yorker 7/25/05)

While modern proponents of intelligent design tout it as a new scientific theory, it is in fact a very old idea, dating back at least to William Paley, who argued, in 1802, that complex biological structures such as the vertebrate eye are no more likely to have originated in the absence of a designer than a pocket watch is likely to originate in the absence of a watchmaker ("Devolution," by H. Allen Orr, May 30th). Yet, throughout its long history, I.D. has failed to be adopted by the vast majority of working scientists because it does nothing to advance scientific understanding. To hypothesize that some biochemical pathway is "irreducibly complex," and thus intelligently designed, as the biochemist Michael Behe does, adds nothing to our understanding of that pathway. The revolution in molecular biology, for example, would not have occurred if scientists, beginning in the nineteen-fifties, had simply hypothesized that cells or genes were irreducibly complex. Despite protests to the contrary, modern I.D. theory is not a scientific movement but a front for a religion-political movement whose primary goal is the replacement of science as currently practiced with a research program based on Judeo-Christian values. Proponents of this movement know that they cannot achieve this revolution from within the scientific community. Instead, their aim is to manipulate public opinion and exploit the political process, with potentially devastating consequences for how science is practiced, taught, and funded in this country.

Donald H. Freener, Jr.
Salt Lake City, Utah

Hitting The Nail On The Head

The above letter to The New Yorker can be properly characterized as "Hitting The Nail On The Head". In this BLOG I have talked about things that could be characterized as "irreducibly complex" but they do NOT encompass anything to do with biology. Instead they encompass limitations of logical systems that are invented by the human mind. When I was a sophomore in college Mr. Thomas McCall taught me that the Christian concept of "Original Sin" could be related to the Greek idea of "Hubris" which was "The Sin of Pride". To the extent that humans think that they somehow enjoy a more privileged place in the universe than, say for example, a tree, or a dog, or a bacterium or alga then we suffer from Hubris. Because we do NOT enjoy a more privileged place in the universe than these things is why parts of the universe appear "irreducibly complex" to us. And such complexity does in fact even include things like Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and emergent properties of complex systems since these are things that the human mind has
perceived and or invented about the universe. We are part of the system we are not some how disjoint or distinct from it.