Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Throwing Back the Red Herrings

Well I have to choose between throwing myself into the debate going on from the previous post, or create a new one to finish my topics before Expat wrestles his blog back away from me. I have chosen the latter with the hope of having some free time for the former. Subject number next is some of the issues I consider to be red herrings in the debate about ID.

ID is not falsifiable, therefore it is not science (repeated from last post)
One reason scientists are reluctant to accept ID is because they say it is not falsifiable - it is not testable by the methods of science. You can't prove it wrong. But intelligent design'’s strong point is that it is falsifiable. The ID claim is there is no unintelligent process that could produce an irreducibly complex system. All you have to do is create ONE unintelligent process that can create such a system. On the other hand, darwinists claim that some unknown unintelligent process could produce irreducibly complex systems. To falsify that, you'’d have to show that a system could not possibly have been created by any of a potentially infinite number of natural processes. That's impossible. So which claim is falsifiable?

If we should teach ID, why isn't the Flying Spaghetti Monster an equally valid theory?
If you want to personally believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, go ahead. Intelligent design researchers are indifferent as to the identity of the designer (although some overzealous mis-guided proponents get caught up in this endeavor). It could be a Greek Pantheon God, an alien race engineering a planet, the Biblical God, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dr. Behe was asked in the Dover trial if it was possible that the Intelligent Force no longer existed, to which Behe responded that it was a possibility. The simple fact is that Intelligent Design makes no claims attemptspts to identify or define the Designer - that is the part that is well left to philosophy or religion class and is specifically NOT a purpose or goal of ID. That is the philosophical end of the debate. ID is not concerned with revealing, explaining, or studying the identity of the designer itself, but only the evidence and characteristics of design which we can observe in the real objects in the real world. The tongue-in-cheek Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory focuses on the identity and characteristics of the designer - ID does not, because that is not a scientific pursuit.

Intelligent Design Is Not Scientific
ID, as shown in the previous posts, is based up on accepted and applied scientific principles. It is falsifiable. All of the discussion in the posts has revolved around the application of varying scientific principles (save for PT). I am willing to say that ID is a new avenue of science, and it is up for question as to how well the scientific theories are applied, as expat has pointed ou. That is not in question - this is true of ANY scientific theory, but not of unscientific ones. The fact that we can questions the applicability of scientific theory as interpreted actually gives credence to it's stance as a scientific endeavor. So yes, ID still needs work. It still needs research. It's theories and hypotheses are developing and maturing, just as evolution did, and continues to do. As we reach new questions, new answers are needed in any area of scientific inquiry that often redefine or refocus the original questions. But it is, at very least, a scientific undertaking that duly applies the rules of science in an attempt to explain the physical universe, and deserves a place among the discussion.

If ID is true, I have to believe Jesus on Toast is designed. (Paraphrased from Expat)
This red herring claims that, in order to affirm ID, we must affirm that design is an inherent part of everything that has an appearance of complexity. But ID does not seek to entirely negate the existence of chance, randomness.... In fat, an honest ID proponent would say that if a random occurrencence can explain an event, than it is probably the more plausible explanation. Dembski, Meyer and company at the Discovery Institute are actually strong proponents of MOST of the evolutionary model (from what I have read anyway), believing that small progressive changes can explain a lot of the diversity of life we witness today. However, there are some areas where this explanation is implausible, such as the bacterial flagellum - in which there has never been a way discovered that this organism can exist other than EXACTLY as it exists now without losing its functionality. And this is another key aspect of the ID research: functionality. Jesus on toast does not qualify as an intelligent design candidate simply because, if "Jesus" weren't there, the toast would still serve the same purpose - still be functional. "Jesus"* was a random non-complex change. Now instead of a piece of toast becoming "Jesus Toast", separateate piles of yeast, flour, sugar, and baking powder suddenly became a perfectly toasted "Jesus Statue" made out of bread, well first call an old priest and a young priest. Then call the Discovery Institute, because you have an excellent candidate for Intelligent Design Theory - someone did some baking.

*not the real Jesus, the one on the toast

ID forces us to attribute a host of flaws and imperfections to the Designer.
This topic, called Disteleology,” refers to apparent poor design in the biological and physical world. For instance, we would have to wonder why an intelligent designer placed the neural wiring of the retina on the side facing the incoming light, making our vision less detailed than it might be, and even produces a blind spot at the point that the wiring is pulled through to produce the optic nerve that carries images to the brain. If there is a designer, doesn'’t the botched eye and other such imperfections prove he's not really intelligent?
The retina provides an excellent example of functional - though non-intuitive - design. The design of the retina is responsible for its high acuity and sensitivity. The blind spot is not an issue due to the placement of human eyes which mutually fill in the blind spot for each other. It is simply untrue that the retina is sub-optimal, nor is it easy to conceive how it might be modified without significantly decreasing its functionality.
Think of an engineer designing a laptop. Any one component we can say could be better, but any engineer knows that all designs require optimizing a whole barrage of parameters to achieve the best overall result.