Thursday, September 29, 2005

Saletan on ID

Lithwick's Slate colleague, William Saletan, has also weighed in with a recent piece about ID.

Saletan's last foray into this subject was this awful piece of dreck from four monhs ago. At that time he was lecturing scientists about how ID was different from creationism, and that ID folks were making a big concession by playing on science's turf. He argued that ID's agreed that theories need to be testable and weighed against the evidence.

I skewered that essay in this blog entry. I wrote:

Saletan goes on in this vein, trying to persuade us that the latest crop of ID folks are so much more modest than their fundamentalist brethren. He analyzes in scrupulous detial the changes in the standards that the ID's are trying to implement and compares them to the changes the young-Earthers tried to make six years ago. That this modesty is a sham born out of political necessity has apparently eluded him.

In his latest missive, Saletan seems to have come around to this view. He writes:

Four months ago, when evolution and “intelligent design” (ID) squared off in Kansas, I defended ID as a more evolved version of creationism. ID posits that complex systems in nature must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The crucial step forward is ID's concession that “observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building”—not scriptural authority—define science. Having acknowledged that standard, advocates of ID must now demonstrate how hypotheses based on it can be tested by experiment or observation. Otherwise, ID isn't science.

This week, ID is on trial again in Pennsylvania. And so far, its proponents aren't taking the experimental test they accepted in Kansas. They're ducking it.

Saletan makes some other decent points, most notably in regards to Michael Behe's absurd suggestion that ID could be tested by taking a colony of bacteria and “challengin” them to evolve a flagellum. Saletan writes:

Behe is right that such an experiment, by showing that random mutation and natural selection can produce the flagellum, would disprove the claim that they can't. He calls the latter claim—that Darwinism fails to produce the flagellum—the “flip side” of his claim that the flagellum required intelligent design. But the Darwinism-fails claim isn't just the “flip side” of the design-is-necessary claim. It's the whole thing. The theory that's being tested in the experiment is Darwinism. If Darwinism succeeds, ID would be disproved, but only to the extent that ID consists of saying Darwinism would fail. And to that extent, ID isn't an explanatory theory in its own right. It's just a restatement of the first half of the Dover School Board's policy: a discussion of gaps in Darwinism.

Saletan's growth in this area is sufficiently impressive that I won't nitpick the many small details Saletan gets wrong.


At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Behe is right that such an experiment, by showing that random mutation and natural selection can produce the flagellum, would disprove the claim that they can't."

Why is Behe right about this? If Behe believes in an intelligent designer, how could he (or anyone) be sure that the designer didn't interfere with the experiment and produce the flagellum supernaturally? How can Behe know whether or not the Designer isn't interfering with any experiment he or anyone else performs? And isn't this the real problem with supernatural explanations in science?

At 12:16 PM, Blogger LiberPaul said...

Great point anon! That's exactly why science is Materialistic. Maybe all of those reproducible experiments scientists engage in are just a trick by Satan to take people away from god :-)


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