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Friday, August 05, 2005

Great introduction to intelligent design theory now on line

If you have just started following the intelligent design controversy, I strongly recommend attorney Dan Peterson’s June article in the American Spectator, "The Little Engine That COuld ... Undo Darwinism", now on line.

(Note: If this is not the story you were looking for, see the Blog service note below or the stories listed in the sidebar. )

Peterson not only explains why credentialled scientists doubt Darwin but why the legacy media and science establishment are in a conniptions about it.

So, many of the news stories refer to intelligent design theory as "creationism" and ignore the science behind it. They imply that ID is just religion in disguise: "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo," as one headline put it. Let's look at the science, then, because the truth about the intelligent design school could not be more different from those stereotypes. The proponents of ID base their arguments on biological and physical data generally accepted in science. They use the same kinds of analytical methods and mathematical tools as other scientists. The ID theorists do not reason from religious premises. Neither do they attempt to prove the truth of Scripture, or of any particular religious views. As a rule, they do not contest that life on Earth is billions of years old, or that evolution has occurred in the sense of "change over time" in biological forms.

What they do contest is that undirected material causes alone can explain life's origin and development. Instead, they argue that design is the best scientific explanation for the stunning complexity of the cellular processes that underlie life, and for the evidence of how life actually developed. That conclusion, if true, certainly has religious implications. But, as will become evident, the reasoning and methods used by the ID proponents are fact-based and scientific.

And why is ID so controversial? Because

Severe difficulties with the Darwinian theory were becoming increasingly obvious by the 1980s, and some scientists began to state openly that design should be considered as an alternative theory. Then in 1991 Phillip Johnson (the Berkeley law professor mentioned above) published a powerful critique of Darwinism entitled Darwin on Trial. In that volume Johnson marshaled the extensive scientific evidence against Darwinism. More importantly, he showed that Darwinism has essentially become a faith in naturalism that is immune to refutation by any set of facts. Arguments or conclusions that are not Darwinian are automatically ruled out of bounds by the scientific establishment. Within the Darwinian fold, wild conjectures, surmises unsupported by facts, and arguments lacking in explanatory power are accepted as legitimate, so long as they permit a "naturalistic" explanation.

This, indeed, was the exact situation I found when researching my book, By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004). Truth, falsehood, and nonsense are all equally defended by an appeal to Darwinism as the very foundation of our understanding of the world, much as astrology was in the High Middle Ages — and with as much value too.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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