Sunday, April 24, 2005

ID: Bad Science?

Today's Minneapolis StarTribune OpEx section is dedicated to the debate of evolution vs. intelligent design in the classroom. I will say right off that I do not have enough expertise in the biological sciences to argue either case on the merits in great detail. I am also not all that interested in the emotionalism that surrounds the separate discussion about what allegedly follows from either proposition. This discussion interests me primarily from a philosophy of science perspective. That said, I do consider it foolish to cut-off intellectual inquiry into the "design inference," as one of its proponents, William Dembski calls it.

The current state of the contention between evolution, primarily in the form of neo-Darwinism, and design is much overblown, in my opinion. In the realm of microevolution, which is where we find the practical day-to-day scientific and engineering advances of animal breeding, GMO, gene therapy, etc., there is no real dispute. It is when we look at macroevolution that questions (and angst) arise. Very well. This is where it is useful to remember that ALL theories are suppositions that implicitly begin with the phrase, "The universe/solar system/planet/ocean/pick your context behaves AS IF..." As a result, it strikes me as reasonable to teach the neo-Darwinist strength in microevolution, and discuss the macroevolutionary shortcomings of neo-Darwinism and some of the alternatives, including intelligent design.

All this is not unique to this particular debate, as I am reminded of James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis and its homeostasis claim that the resident life forms of a host planet coupled with their environment have acted and act AS IF they are a single, self-regulating system. What I find interesting, and perhaps ironic, is that Lovelock's hypothesis met intially great hostility in part because it fosters connotations of scientifically unrigorous quasi-mystical thinking about the Earth. Sound familiar? The biggest difference, of course, is that regardless of which macroevolutionary model proves to me more accurate and, more importanly, more useful, the vast majority of people will still believe God has had a hand in Creation.

The StarTribune is soliciting opinions from readers of no more than 150 words. In a similar spirit, I too welcome comments and e-mails on this. What say you?

The links to the StarTribune articles can be found here, for as long as they last (free reg. may be req'd):

Creator's Breath, quotes by Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Pope Pius XII from the editorial staff.
Pseudoscience would waste teaching time by Paul Z. Myers
Students should learn the weak points of evolutionary theory, too by Dave Eaton
When two core beliefs go head to head by Jim Boyd
The truth of faith doesn't depend on this debate by Alan G. Padgett

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