Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is Intelligent Design Science? (cont.)

My latest post over at Right Reason in response to Ed Darrell, a science teacher, on whether Intelligent Design is science:


You ask me, “Can you propose a test of science that you think ID can pass?” My answer to that question is, I don’t need to, because I have not made the claim that ID is science. I don’t know whether it is or not, and am not sure it matters a great deal, except to people who think science is the only legitimate form of inquiry. But I am curious, as a cultural observer, about the enthusiasm with which the scientific establishment has attacked ID, an enthusiasm that results in reckless assertions about what science is and isn’t that bring even theories well within its own domain into question.

You, on the other hand, have made the dogmatic claim ID is not science. Yet you have yet to produce a definition of science that excludes ID that does not at the same time exclude positions such as string theory which—whatever their actual scientific merit—are quite clearly scientific theories. In past posts you have produced several, none of which you wish to stick to when push comes to shove. As soon as it is pointed out that one criterion would exclude some commonly acknowledge scientific theory, you move on to another, and the cycle repeats itself, World Without End, Amen.

You also, I think, drastically overstate your case when you make assertions about ID such as that “there is no theory”, that “no one works in the field”, and that “there is no scientific insight.” The second one is demonstrably false, the other two are highly suspect subjective judgments.

This is coupled with an overstatement of the merits of string theory. You claim that it is “based in real observations”, yet the debate within the scientific community over string theory is centered on the very fact that it is NOT based on real observations, and because of this there are no “experimental paths” (your words)—not even any conceivable “experimental paths” that are not fairly ludicrous (see Perseus’ last post).

I’m not saying ID is science. I’m saying that, based on what scientist themselves say about string theory, that IF string theory is science, THEN ID is science—by the same criteria. I am not making a categorical assertion; I am making a condition hypothetical assertion. You keep disputing this assertion, but you cannot produce any one criterion by which ID is excluded and string theory is not. You have not produced any criterion (any one you will stick to anyway) that would result in the consequent of my conditional assertion false when the antecedent is true.

And until you can, my assertion stands.

You also ask, “Other than string theory, is there any science that comes close to being as completely vaporous as ID?” I addressed this in an earlier post when I cited Martin Gardner’s observation that atomic and molecular theory were once in the same position as string theory is now. I suppose it was fair then (as it is fair now in the case of string theory) to criticize these theories as being bad science. And, apparently, that is exactly what happened. But I have never heard that anyone said that it wasn’t science at all. My understanding (limited as it is) is that quantum mechanics was also in such a state in its early development.

These theories have since panned out—to a greater or lesser extent. But that doesn’t mean their early status excluded them from being science altogether, which is what you are saying about ID.

Finally, you have criticized ID for the lack of papers published in scientific journals. I always find this criticism highly amusing. On the one hand, say its critics, ID isn’t science. And one of the reasons it isn’t science is that it has published so little in scientific journals. But when an editor does allow the publication of an ID article in a scientific journal, he is professionally and personally vilified because he published an article on ID, when (as everyone knows) ID is not science. I’m referring to the Richard Sternburg case, of course—after which, no editor who values his professional reputation is going touch a pro-ID article with a ten-foot pole.

ID is not science because its papers don’t get published in scientific journals; and its papers don't get published in scientific journals because it isn’t science. They’ve got ID coming and they’ve got it going.

How convenient.


Ed Darrell said...

I've pointed out the problems with ID in some detail here: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2006/10/09/intelligent-design-a-pig-that-doesnt-fly/.

But I'd like to address the charge that there is bias against ID in science journals.

First, every article ever written on ID and submitted to a science journal has been published. Both of them. To claim there is some bias is wholly without evidence.

Richard Sternberg was criticized for publishing an article that was beyond the scope of the journal in which he published it, and for bending the rules to allow in an article that probably could not have survived serious peer review.

For stabbing his benefactors in the back, what was the penalty Sternberg paid? Nothing. His job is intact, he still works at NIH, and his boss stood up for him. He still has his research privileges at the Smithsonian Institution, though many scientists there are wary of working with him (with good reason, it appears).

What else? Well, he's being wined, dined and flown around the world by the Discovery Institute to tout intelligent design.

And that's your only example?

The canard that there is bias against creationism, including ID, has been litigated in federal courts at least twice. In the first big case, in the Arkansas trial in 1981, creationists charged that they had no peer-reviewed publications because all the science journals refused to publish their research write-ups. Because the case rather hinged on this issue, Judge William Overton invited the creationists to insert into the trial record several of the best articles they had written on their research, but which had been rejected by the journals. They could find no such articles -- none, zero, zip, nada. Instead, it was discovered, there was no research being done, hence, no articles written and submitted.

The issue arose briefly in the Dover case, with the same result.

The laziness, or lack of intellectual rigor, of ID advocates, should not be mistaken as bias against ID by science. All ID advocates have to do is get off their butts and do the work.

It appears that ID advocates are allergic to such work, at least in support of ID.

ID isn't science as admitted by the actions of ID supporters. When ID quits shooting its feet off like some cheesy-but-stupid draft dodger, come back and let us know.

Ed Darrell said...

By the way, while I did assist in teaching biology briefly as an undergraduate, I don't teach science now. I teach law, history and economics.