Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Soul of Science Vs. the Ghost of Intelligent Design

The most frustrating thing about the
Evolution vs. Intelligent design debate is the voluminous research
both sides have done. How can either side condense that information
into a paragraph or sound bite in order to persuade the other side.
When it comes down to it, the essential driving force of both groups
is philosophy. It deals with two main branches of philosophy,
epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology deals with the theory of
knowledge. In other words, how do we gain knowledge and how do we
know it is true. Metaphysics tells us what kind of universe we live
in. Your answers to these questions will determine the quality of
your science and whether something should be considered science at

Starting with metaphysics, do we view the
universe as something that has always existed, with everything having
a set identity and nature. This would entail that based on each thing
having a set nature, set consequences would occur by different things
interacting with each other. In other words, cause and effect is the
expression of the set nature of things applied to action. Which in
discovering the set nature of things and observing the cause and
effect of their identities in action, allows us to find universal
principles that apply to many things besides the ones we are
observing. For example, water boils when the right amount of heat is
applied. On the other hand, do we view the universe as something a
all powerful being created. Things did not always exist only the
powerful being was eternal. This universe would not have set
identities and natures. It would have the natures that the powerful
being or beings (god or gods) would give it. If the nature of
something is created by a god, it can be changed by that god. So a
car could be turned into a living human being if a god decides to. A
house is a lion if god wishes it so. Observe the different views of
life those two different ideas create. The universe that
always existed(UAE) suggests that studying every
thing's specific natures and their interactions with each other will
lead to an ever growing knowledge that uses past knowledge as a
stepping stone to reach new heights. A universe that was
created(UWC) suggest that we can never really know the
truth about anything because god can change the nature and identity
of something, by simply wishing it so.

This lays down the foundation of epistemology. In a
Universe that always existed, knowledge is attainable. It is
derived from the facts we observe, as well as the abstractions we
make that can be traced back to the basic things we observe in the
universe. Like links in a chain connected to an anchor, so must our
abstract ideas link back to the information we gain from our senses.
For in this type of universe, we have a specific nature. Our hearts
pump blood, lungs take in air, and our senses receive information
about the world out side our body. If we accept that our senses are
the base of knowledge, then it is a simple answer to the question:
“how do we find truth”? A good place to start is Reason, our
faculty that allows us to identify and tell the differences between
the information we get from our senses would give us the first clue.
If knowledge is a matter of identifying and differentiating between
things that we discover, then truth is a matter of integrating all
the knowledge we gain in a non-contradicting way. Think of it like
putting a big puzzle together. Ideas that do not link back to the
facts of existence would be like puzzle pieces from another puzzle.
They would not fit. We will not have an accurate picture if we try to
smash the pieces together in order for them to fit.

A Universe that was Created would give us a world in which we
could not trust our senses. In the UWC all things can be its opposite
at the whim of an all powerful creator. If the puzzle pieces did not
fit, our faith and prayer could possible persuade the creator to
transform the pieces so that they would fit. The truth would be
what ever the creator told you it is. Your senses could not be
trusted. The only thing that can be trusted is faith in the creator's
word. You guessed it, gaining knowledge only from the creator is
where it leads us. Since there is no objective way to determine the
truth, special people with the gift to communicate with the creator
would be the ones to give us knowledge.

Now for the fun part, science implies a philosophy that
recognizes a Universe that always existed. Hence, why the scientific
method relies on experimentation to gain information about the
natures of what exists. Using logic, scientist weed out any ideas
that contradict facts that have been verified by many fields and many
experiments. Intelligent design's major arguments filter down to the
main idea that if things that exist are very complex, then a creator
must have made them. They do not offer evidence for a creator's
existence. Instead they claim that if we do not have all the answers
to every aspect of evolution, all at once then a creator is the only
possible answer for the complexity we see around us. As if humans
gain knowledge automatically and all at once. Here we see the UWC
view of knowledge. Humans gaining knowledge like osmosis, rather than
through discovery and putting each part of the puzzle together to see
the full picture.

The idea that complexity equals a creator and many variations of
that idea spawned from Rev. William Paley. Paley's analogy was that
if you found a pocket watch on the ground, that it was unfathomable
to think that it came to being naturally, but would have needed a
creator because of it's intricate workings. Some people call this
the Watchmaker idea. Richard Dawkins a very knowledgeable person on
evolution, enjoyed this analogy so much he wrote a book called the
which shows that the complexity we see around us
was created by the blind forces of physics. In this book, he talks
about how he created a
computer program
to show the cumulative effect of small changes
through time. The program starts with a parent biomorph and shows
what the possible offspring would like like by varying the genes
slightly. Then you would select a child that looked most like a
design you want and it would become the parent instead. Then the
process is repeated by showing you the new offspring. In the end you
will have a complex design if you continue to select the more complex
design to be the new parent. Some may say that we take on the role of
creator in this biomorph software. However this misses the point, the
real role that we are actually playing in this computer game is
nature, selecting who survives long enough to reproduce. Whether they
survive because of better physically advantages, environment, or
mating habits. The point is they lived long enough to reproduce and
pass on their genes. The game just shows us that complex things can
be created by the different gene combinations guided by the blind
hand of physics.

On another note, we often forget that our ideas do not become
true just because we falsify some one else's ideas or find some error
with some of their ideas. There are Intelligent design advocates that
offer no proof of the existence of a creator. A key component of
science is falsifiability. It is not a matter of just falsifying
other people's ideas, but our own. For something to be proved true,
in other words verified, it has to be able to be falsified. Here's
the deep thought of the day, what evidence would you accept, that
what you believe isn't true. It is often heard, that we can not prove
that an all mighty creator doesn't exist. I must ask again,"
What evidence would you accept that their isn't an all powerful
creator." The only answer I have ever received to this question
is a reversion back to the supernatural or faith. For example, some
one told me they would need to take a time machine and go back to the
beginning and witness their was no creator. This assumes that time
travel adheres to the facts of existence. Which it does not, and is
another story for another time. An alternative way to look at this
question is court cases. Anyone can claim a person guilty. However,
that person is not guilty until proven innocent. The one making the
claim must provide some evidence of guilt before you can prove that
claim wrong. Hence the rule of law, the accused is innocent until
proven guilty. It is like someone claiming that Johnny is an arsonist
and wants us to prove that he is not an arsonist. There would be no
context of proof to offer if the person making the claim never gave
any evidence to their claim. If the accuser stated that they saw
Johnny at the scene of the crime before the house burned down, then
we would have to prove that he was somewhere else or doing something
legitimate at the scene of the crime. On the other hand, if the
accuser says Johnny did it with out proof to back up their claim,
then we could spend eons finding evidence that he did not do it. Yet
all this evidence may not make a difference if we do not know what
proof the accuser has against Johnny. That is why another important
concept is that the burden of proof is the responsibility of the
accuser. This is the same situation when we take a look at
creationism and its offspring Intelligent Design. The accuser says
that you can not prove that a all powerful creator exists or that the
things in the universe are to complex so they must have been made by
a creator. In the first part we have to ask what evidence has the
accuser provided that a creator exists. In the second part, it sounds
like they are offering evidence by saying that complexity points to a
creator. However, this is not a new idea. Before there was science,
when we did not understand something, our claim or idea was that god
must be doing or creating it. For example, lightning was claimed to
be god's doing. This was the catch all phrase for “I don't know”.
Intelligent Design advocates can not fathom any other possible answer
for complexity in the world that is supported by the facts provided
by our senses. So they say, “God must be doing it”. If they do
not provide evidence, then their claim is arbitrary. It is an idea
separated from the facts of existence.

The supernatural or faith is not science and neither is its
offspring Intelligent Design. Advocates of Intelligent design (ID)
state that they provide a theory like every other scientist. However,
a theory suggests that some evidence exists, but not enough to be
conclusive. There are many things that may falsify their theory. ID
scientists either have no evidence or theories that flat out are in
no way connected to the facts of existence. We called that arbitrary
claims in the old days. However, when it comes to the theory of
evolution, most scientists acknowledge the fact that evolution
occurred in the past, present, and will occur in the future. This is
not what is at question. There is plenty of evidence of evolution
through out many fields of science and growing. The true theory in
dispute is by what process is evolution happening. Natural Selection
is a big factor, but not the only one that causes evolution.

We do not teach voodoo or snake oil treatments along side doctors
that teach medicine to cure your ailments. Let's not start teaching
Intelligent design along side biology. Allowing ideas that have not
the sliver of evidence into our training of knowledge is like letting
someone one dump a box of puzzle pieces that do not belong with the
puzzle you are working on. It prevents you from seeing the big
picture sooner and in some cases prevent you from ever completing the
puzzle until you realize that those foreign pieces do not belong and
need to be removed.

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