Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Shermer in the L. A. Times

Michael Shermer, editor of the excellent magazine Skeptic, has a good op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today. Here's an excerpt:

If intelligent design is not science, then what is it? One of its originators, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley, wrote in a 1999 article: “The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism versus evolution to the existence of God versus the nonexistence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.'”

On March 9, I debated ID scholar Stephen Meyer at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. After two hours of debate over the scientific merits (or lack thereof) of IDT, Meyer admitted in the question-and-answer period that he thinks that the intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian God and that suboptimal designs and deadly diseases are not examples of an unintelligent or malevolent designer, but instead were caused by “the fall” in the Garden of Eden. Dembski has also told me privately that he believes the intelligent designer is the God of Abraham.

The term “intelligent design” is nothing more than a linguistic place-filler for something unexplained by science. It is saying, in essence, that if there is no natural explanation for X, then the explanation must be a supernatural one. Proponents of intelligent design cannot imagine, for example, how the bacterial flagellum (such as the little tail that propels sperm cells) could have evolved; ergo, they conclude, it was intelligently designed. But saying “intelligent design did it” does not explain anything. Scientists would want to know how and when ID did it, and what forces ID used.

It should also be stated clearly that the specific examples ID proponents cite as stumbling blocks for evolution, like the flagellum, are in fact not stumbling blocks at all. “Intelligent Design did it” is indeed a linguistic placeholder for things that are currently unexplained. But in this case it is tyring to hold a place that is already filled by adequate naturalistic explanations.


At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Duane Smith said...

ID is a marketing slogan that supports a political movement. Nothing more. The political movement's goals are to re-brand old-fashioned creationism as "science" and re-brand science as a heterodox religion.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger em said...

Incidentally, the creationist base (e.g., school boards in rural Ohio, where I am) understand perfectly well that ID is a semantic figleaf for God. Discuss it with 'em and the argument collapses into Bible study in 5 seconds flat.

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another ridiculous article giving Discovery credibility


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