Sunday, August 26, 2007

IDers Give the anti-Science Game Away

A recent exchange on Uncommon Descent really illustrates the difference between the open inquiry of science and the closed procedures of a cult.

The following question was asked:

"So if ID is not creationism, then exactly who is the designer? Isn’t he the same as the creator? Creator (a person who creates), designer (a person who devises or executes designs, esp. one who creates), they sound the same to me. Can you tell me how they are different?

Is the designer a person, a supernatural being, an energy force, a deity, or what? Help me out here. Persuade me."

Now one would think on a site dedicated to discussion of ID that such a question would not only allowed, but welcome. After all, the IDers are adamant about not being creationism, so they should welcome a chance to clarify the distinction. However, this is the last thing they want, and the kinds of responses their side offers reveals why. One commentator responded this way:

”Your argument is beyond stupid. It is not necessary to know the identity of the designer to know something is designed and it never has been. This whole idea that the identity of the designer must be known to detect design is such a blatant logical fallacy it is laughable. It is clearly a bad argument thought up by people without a good argument in order to convince the gullible.”

Notice the complete lack of substance. No explanation of why the argument is stupid, a restatement of the position in question, a flip dismissal, and a little poisoning the well, sans evidence of course. The dismissal is especially noteworthy, because it involves an accusation of a logical fallacy without naming it. That would have taken one sentence, so why leave it out? The only reason I can think of is that the writer hasn’t really thought thought the arguments himself, so he’s forced to parrot what he’s heard his authority figures say. So there can’t be any detail or defense of the assertions when there is no understanding of the underlying arguments.

A second commentator at least addressed the question substantively, albeit poorly:

”To answer your question from a layman’s point of view, if you are wanting to find out who the designer is, ID will not answer that question. ID looks for the effects of design by examining an object or event. Asking who did the design is not a scientific question, but a philosophical and/or theological question.”

How does this follow? When an archaeologist is looking at an object identified as a designed object (eg an arrowhead, an ax blade, or a chopping rock), how is trying to determine to which group the designer belonged (Apache or Blackfoot, Greek or Roman, Aboriginal Australian or European settler) a philosophical question? Is identifying a beaver as the designer of the beaver dam, and the bee as the designer of the honeycomb hive, a theological question? For that matter, if ID is all about the science, and not about religion, how could any ID inquiry be a theological question? If SETI received a message determined to be designed, would the question of who the designers were be philosophical? Is a detective examining evidence in a murder case determined to be designed (say, a blood scrawl on the wall), and attempting to identify the killer engaging in theological pursuits?

Obviously the answers to all of the above are a resounding "No!". This ID mantra is rank nonsense. Identifying the designer that goes with the designed object is part and parcel of legitimate scientific pursuits like archaeology, forensics, or SETI. This demand that the question not be answered is a transparent attempt by the IDers to hide the fact that the designer is their god. That’s why they slip with references to theology like the above, or supposed anti-religious bigotry of scientists, when the subject arises. They just can't help themselves.

The comparison of this supposed philosophical delineation to the delineation between abiogenesis and evolution is strained at best. Evolutionary theory does not say one cannot ask the question of whence the first life form came, or that it isn’t scientific to do so. Indeed, that branch of science is alive and well, and even has its own name. The point of pointing out the distinction between evolution and abiogenesis is to refute the claim by creationists that unanswered questions in abiogenesis pose some threat to evolutionary theory. That would be like saying we can’t know anything about the history of Europeans in the Americas unless we know exactly who arrived first, Columbus or Erikson, and where. The fact of a European presence and history in the America’s is well-evidenced, as is the evolution of species. Likewise, the origins of these events are separate, but legitimate inquiries.

The conversation didn’t get anywhere near having those issues addressed, because shortly after that, the interlocutor asking a simple relevant question about the subject of the blog, was banned without explanation. Such is the way of pseudoscience, and the deepness of irony, that those who scream the loudest about censorship are the worst about censoring others.


PalMD said...

It is sad that Americans are so gullible to this. It shows a lack of education, among other things.
ID fails on its very first assumption--that they can tell if something was "designed". A watch and a snail are two very different objects, made of very different parts. One is assembled from manufactured parts, one is not. Embrace the mucus!

ScienceAvenger said...

Yes, it is amazing the IDers keep claiming they can discern design from non-design, and yet they never get around to actually doing it. Perhaps because at the core they believe everything is designed.