Intelligent Science

The American Spectator, September 2005 | Go to article overview
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Intelligent Science

Dan Peterson's June 2005 article arguing for "Intelligent Design" ("The Little Engine That Could... Undo Darwinism") as an alternative to Darwinian evolution in our school science classes poses the usual items now expected from such aggressive advocates. May we now anticipate an equally lengthy article supporting Darwinian evolution, to be taught in Sunday school classes? Probably NO. Mayhap not even this letter.

Neither a detailed refutation of Peterson's many points nor a defense of evolution is necessary. Educated people the world over accept the concept of evolution. Only in our country has this quaint notion gained attention. The many specious arguments posed would be dismissed in any science or philosophy class. What maybe useful is an analysis of Peterson's article to examine whether it has any science in it. Six topics suffice to tell his intent.

Peterson's article uses adversarial rhetoric and several standard methods for defeating opponents. Each point is designed to overwhelm the unaware with poor or no science background with verisimilitude, complexities, nonsense, and foolishness.

1. Peterson opens his article with the knockdown blow, the very complex bacterial flagellum that does not function if only one essential part is missing. We are overwhelmed at the complexity of the argument. The same argument applies to the standard blood-clotting cascade. All too complex.

There is no point to bringing such complexity into the argument, save to overwhelm, to bamboozle the unaware. Any process that requires just two components cannot operate in the absence of one or the other, unless substitute means are present (evolution?).

Moreover, other than delivery of a knockdown blow at the very start, why begin with a complex matter? Science inquiry generally starts with simple things and builds to the complex. Spiritual or religious approaches observe the rhodora and ask whence.

2. The three "intelligent design" gurus Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Jonathan Wells all have Ph.D. degrees. Wow! Over my 60 years as boy-scientist almost everyone had a Ph.D. degree. That says nothing of their scholarship or judgment.

Scientists usually have a Curriculum Vitae that lists their published science journal articles. All we know for the three gurus is their books, books not subject to critical review by disinterested experts.

3. Another typical adversarial approach intended to overwhelm is multiple asseverations that a cadre of scientists is threatening Darwinian evolution with "Intelligent Design." They now announce that Darwinian evolution is "on the defensive!"

More unnamed scientists; no references cited to peer reviewed journal articles. There really is a threat, but not to science. It is to school science classes where the concept of evolution must not be taught, or must be taught with "Intelligent Design" equally prominent.

4. Then, God is brought into the argument, as the Intelligent Agent. By such a ploy we also must be allowed to bring Satan into the picture, as "Intelligent Design" is surely the work of the Devil.

5. Unnecessary unfathomable complex terms are used, for which no meaning is evident. Among the several enigmatic terminologies given us are "irreducibly complex," "contingency, complexity, and specification," "complex specified information," "atheistic materialism," and "universal probability bound."

Golly, how complex it all is! For even the most egregious fantasies of the last decades of the 20th century, the "polywater" episode and "cold fusion" we had science journal articles in support, sans crazy terminology.

6. The concept of life as information uses exponential arguments that it is just too improbable for life to be result of chance. If the chances are less than 1015"(!), it must be by "Intelligent Design." We are not told how to calculate chances of an event.

Another argument about DNA information can be cited as misleading.

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