Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creationism and Intelligent Design: Which is more Scientific?


UK journo Melanie Phillips has made a fool of herself with this article, in which she whines that intelligent design is different to creationism. It is different, actually, but she gets the reason why completely ass-backwards. Here's what she says:

[Ken Miller said] that Intelligent Design was nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable. But this is totally untrue. Miller referred to a landmark US court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, which did indeed uphold the argument that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism in its ruling that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional ban against teaching religion in public schools. But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller.

The court heard from a wide variety of experts on both sides of the controversy, including Professor Miller, an evolutionary biologist and Christian who has written several books on the subject. During the court case it was established that the main intelligent design textbook was a carbon copy of an older book on creationism, with the word "creationists" sloppily replaced with "design proponents" throughout. But according to Melanie, intelligent design is real science, and has nothing to do with religion:

The fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science. Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

Actually, Melanie, biblical creationism is far more scientific than intelligent design. Let me explain why.

Like real science, biblical creationism is based on evidence*. Intelligent design is based purely on the gaps in our knowledge, gaps that are constantly shrinking. Thus the amount of information "supporting" intelligent design is actually decreasing with time.

Like real science, biblical creationism makes very specific predictions**. Intelligent design does postulate the existence of objects that couldn't have evolved by natural means, but it offers no theoretical framework that could be used to predict what these might be, or where they might be found.

Like real science, biblical creationism is falsifiable***. Since intelligent design makes no positive assertions, no piece of evidence can be envisaged that could refute it.

None of this means that creationism is good science, of course. The failing of creationism as a science is ultimately the same failing of intelligent design; that is they are both founded on immovable religious ideas which themselves have no scientific basis.

And it takes some gall to deny that intelligent design is religion in disguise. Please. Intelligent design advocates may go to great pains to assert that the designer could be an alien, but when they wrap up their case they'll almost always finish by saying something like "...and we believe that this intelligent designer is the Christian God. Praise Jesus!".

At least biblical creationists have the self-confidence to stick to their founding beliefs (no matter how crazy those beliefs are) instead of cowardly dressing them up as something else entirely.

*The evidence being the Bible. I didn't say it was reliable evidence.
**Predictions like "the Earth is six thousand years old". I didn't say the predictions had to turn out to be true.
***And indeed it has been falsified countless times.


Anonymous said...

we want new posts!
I don't think there are no more IDiots out there

Creationist Idiocy said...

I just got back from a two week vacation. Expect regular posting to recommence very soon.

Anonymous said...

yehaaaa, I see now! :)

Anonymous said...

Melanie Philips makes a fool of herself with every article. It's what she does.

Anonymous said...

Intelligent design destroyed with two words: vagus nerve.

Want more information IDiots? Well here it is:

Some of the most striking evidence for evolution comes from structures that cannot be explained in any other way, what Coyne calls “bad design”. For example, humans speak using their larynx, which is controlled by the left recurrent laryngeal nerve. The distance from the bit of the brain involved in speech and the larynx is about 20 cm, and yet the left recurrent laryngeal nerve is over 1 metre long – it goes down from the brain towards your heart, loops around your aorta and then travels up your windpipe to the larynx! There is no conceivable advantage in doing things this way – indeed, it means that a blow to your chest can damage your nerve and prevent you from speaking.
The explanation lies deep in our evolutionary past: the larynx evolved from a gill arch in our fishy ancestors, which received blood from an artery and was innervated by a branch of the vagus nerve which went around it. Over hundreds of millions of years, as the gill arch was transformed into a larynx, the artery moved down into the heart and was turned into a ligament, taking the nerve branch with it, and producing the “bad design” we see today. The “intelligent design” creationists can have no explanation for this, except to say that it is a whim of the Creator.


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