Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Giberson on ID

Do I sense a shift in the discussion? In yesterday's post I discussed a New York Times article whose author emphasized the total lack of scientific accomplishments coming from ID. Now we see the same theme in this article from Karl Giberson at Science and Theology News

Giberson takes for his starting point a piece of Michael Behe's testimony from the recent Dover trial. Apparently Behe made a comparison between ID and the Big Bang. Scientists are confident the Big Bang is correct, even though they can not yet give a precise explanation of what caused the bang to happen. Similarly, we can be confident that some bilogical structures must have resulted from intelligent design, even if we can not yet give a clear explanation of how the designer did its work.

An interesting analogy, but one that collapses when you compare the activities of early Big Bang proponents with those of the ID folks. Let me hand the reins over to Giberson:

However, this analogy breaks down when you look at the historical period between George Lemaitre’s first proposal of the big-bang theory in 1927 and the scientific community’s widespread acceptance of the theory in 1965, when scientists empirically confirmed one of the big bang’s predictions.

If we continue with Behe’s analogy, we might expect that the decades before 1965 would have seen big-bang proponents scolding their critics for ideological blindness, of having narrow, limited and inadequate concepts of science. Popular books would have appeared announcing the big-bang theory as a new paradigm, and efforts would have been made to get it into high school astronomy textbooks.

However, none of these things happened. In the decades before the big-bang theory achieved its widespread acceptance in the scientific community its proponents were not campaigning for public acceptance of the theory. They were developing the scientific foundations of theory, and many of them were quite tentative about their endorsements of the theory, awaiting confirmation.

Physicist George Gamow worked out a remarkable empirical prediction for the theory: If the big bang is true, he calculated, the universe should be bathed in a certain type of radiation, which might possibly be detectable. Another physicist, Robert Dicke, started working on a detector at Princeton University to measure this radiation. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson ended up discovering the radiation by accident at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1965, after which just about everyone accepted the big bang as the correct theory.

Unfortunately, the proponents of ID aren’t operating this way. Instead of doing science, they are writing popular books and op-eds. As a result, ID remains theoretically in the same scientific place it was when Phillip Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial — little more than a roster of evolutionary theory’s weakest links.

Well said. I would only add that all of the arguments in Johnson's book were complete nonsense. The points he made did not reveal any weak links in evolution. Instead they only revealed weak links in Johnson's understanding of the subject.

Giberson concludes with a simple question:

After more than a decade of listening to ID proponents claim that ID is good science, don’t we deserve better than this?

Indeed we do. But don't hold your breath.


At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

This is a wonderful comparison of how a genuine scientific paradigm shift occurs vs. the political hucksterism of the IDiots.

Did early Big Bang proponents beat up on local schoolboards to "teach the controversy" in cosmology? Did they whine and complain about "censorship" by the Monolithic Cosmological Dogmatists? Did they hire PR firms to pitch their views to the public?

This distinction between real science and the snake oil salesmanship of the IDiots should be trumpeted loudly at every opportunity.

The Average Joe may not pay attention to a "dry" point-by-point refutation of ID arguments, but nobody likes a snake oil salesman.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous darthwilliam said...

Plate tectonics is another good example. Originally proposed as "continental drift" back in the 20's, but solid evidence obtained in the late 60's caused the paradigm shift and acceptance of the theory.

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider this point about ID.

ID proponents claim an intelligent designer created the complex biological structures we see today.

But wouldn't the designer need to be FAR more complex than all these amazing creations?

Not just biologically, but technologically.
Indeed, even today we lack the needed technology to create complex biological structures. Yet the fossil record is not littered with advanced laboratory equipment! Perhaps ID proponents suggest the designers were also interstellar travelers?

The spontaneous creation of a (highly sophisticated) designer is a much greater leap than current Evolutionary theory.


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