When catching wind of an article about pseudoscience, my eyes perk up for obvious reasons. In this case, ye olde slashdot is running a story from kuro5hun about the argument for Intelligent Design, the idea that terristrial organisms (and indeed the entire comso) evince too much complexity for them to have arisen through chance alone. Therefore, some guiding intelligence must of been at work pushing life into increasingly complex forms. Fans of Clarke’s 2001 will note the Monolith-like qualities of this argument. While God is specifically not mentioned in the Intelligent Design hypothesis (theory is an inappropriate word here), He is clearly implied by the proponents of this view. Intelligent Design is an attempt by some Christians with a science background to take advantage of some unanswered questions in the scientific dogma of Natural Selection-driven Evolution.
Obviously, today is a slow news day.
To understand what the hoo-haw is about, one need only dig out your high school English books and look for Lawrence and Lee’s gripping courtroom drama Inherit the Wind. In it, a teacher is prosecuted for explaining evolution to hicks, I mean, the children of salt-of-the-earth Americans. Of course, you’ll remember that not so long ago, some states banned the teaching of evolution in public schools (and are doing so again). At stake is the validity of science and its methods versus the comfort and security of faith. Or more pointedly, it is yet another front in the war of modernists versus fundamentalists (which can be incautiously reduced to those who embrace change and those who fear it).
Intelligent Design, which sometimes ropes in Physics via the second law of Thermodynamics, isn’t really attempt to pursuade scientists to reject Evolution. ID isn’t a scientific theory; it predicts nothing, nor does it offer testable evidence. Rather, ID makes rhetorical appeals to the deficiency in the fossil record and the still-unobserved genesis of a new species from an existing one to wedge in a specious argument against Evolution. Note that the argument, while wearing the vestments of Science, isn’t scientific at all. It offers no conditions under which it can be proven wrong. This is preciously the characteristics of religious dogma or garden-variety piffle.
So if ID isn’t aimed at Scientists, for whom is this argument intended? The only group that jumps to mind are defensive, educated Christians who know enough biology to be uncomfortable with strict-constructionist religion and yet insistent on believing that faith anyway. This irony always strikes me the same way Jews for Jesus does. ID is a notional life vest for these individuals who are trapped in the rough waters between science and faith. ID is neither a product of devoted faith (if you know there’s a God, you simply don’t need ID in the first place), nor good science (see preceeding paragraphs). ID is a small, fevered argument of badly sutured science that attempts to scare its adherents away from looking into the swirling chaos that is the reality science proffers us.
So to those proponents of Intelligent Design, I implore you to pick a side: faith or science. By choosing faith, you abdicate your voice in scientific debates and inquiry for the certainty of Knowing the Truth and basking in unctuous Righeousnes. By choosing science, you must adopt its methods and put your hypothesis up for independent verification. Let me close with a little sumthin-sumthin from the Bible:
So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spew thee out of my mouth.