Friday, September 02, 2005

Intelligent Design reaches the NZ Herald

It was pretty much inevitable with all the talk about Intelligent Design in America that it would hit New Zealand press eventually. It first started with a report that a fundamentalist group, Focus on the Family sent out ID propaganda to around 500 New Zealand schools. It's then escalated into a follow up article in the NZ Herald where Graeme Finlay (A theistic evolutionist) basically takes ID to town as being both unscientific:
IDT claims that there is no evidence for large-scale evolution. This is nonsense. Genomic science has provided conclusive evidence for human evolution. We share common ancestors with chimps, all other primates and other mammals. IDT denies evidence-based science.
And that it is also poor theology:
Darwin (as a conservative English gentleman) believed in precisely this god. This god is a distant abstraction that is not personal, communicating, holy, loving, redeeming.

The deist god of 19th-century Europe is a stark alternative to the passionate God of the Bible who is revealed in Jesus. It is ironic that IDT rejects Darwin's science even as it settles for Darwin's god.
I agree with everything he says in the article really and it's a good example of the fact that you can be both Christian and have no problem with modern science. Finally, if you want even more ID trouncing, which has been occuring quite frequently in the media as of late, you should have a look at this piece in the Guardian Unlimited by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne. An excellent quote that cuts to the heart of the issue is this one:
If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish. Its advocates bypass normal scientific due process by appealing directly to the non-scientific public and - with great shrewdness - to the government officials they elect.
It's not enough in science to wave your hands and make 'claims' that you've got some idea that challenges a known theory. You have to back it up with actual experimental data published in actual journals. This is what ID advocates and proponents fail to understand, those that have challenged aspects of evolution in the past have presented testable predictions about their theory. For example, Lynn Margulis who first proposed that organelles such as mitochrondria and the choloroplast were better explained by the original host cells taking up the original bacterial ancestors of these organelles and forming a symbiotic relationship with them.

The theory, called endosymbiotic theory was not well accepted among microbiologists and these organelles were still seen to have developed in a gradualistic 'darwinian' mechanism. However, oevr time and particularly after publishing Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, opinion gradually changed on the status of her theory. All the while, what seperates this form of controversy from the ID movement is that L. Margulis and other proponents of endosymbiotic theory supported their ideas in the scientific literature with actual experiments and observations. It was, for example, noted that mitochondria are very similar to bacteria in many respects, such as having bacterial (but not eukaryotic) ribosomes.

I cannot really stress enough that ID knows it has nothing like the above in terms of predictive power and actual scientific evidence. They know this, so instead of trying to do real science they try to whine about a 'Darwinian' orthodoxy that doesn't let them publish. Yet above, we had L. Margulis completely challenge what was at the time a well accepted darwinian process for the development of those organelles and through sound hypotheses and experiments, completely disprove it. Quite frankly, the Darwinian orthodoxy that the IDers complain about is just a load of rubbish to avoid answering to scientists in actual peer reviewed journals. Instead, ID proponents attempt to dishonestly avoid this and instead go through political means to force ID to be accepted.

As you can probably imagine, having your theory accepted due to political and not scientific means was the sort of thing that Lysenko did. ID is not science, it makes no testable predictions about their designer and it is thrown out by scientists because of that reason.