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Monday, April 28, 2008

Reasons to Believe group: The relevance to science of intelligent design - and the irrelevance of creation models

At Uncommon Descent, - as here - I commented on the hostility of Reasons to Believe (a group of Christians in science) to the Expelled film. One commenter, C_G_K, responded peacably,
My guess is that they just want to avoid controversy as that could take away from from what they are trying to accomplish.
But I felt that RtB's behaviour raised larger issues, so here is what I replied:
C_G_K - 2, I wish I could be as charitable in this matter as your comment offers to be, but unfortunately, the press release explicitly says "In Reasons To Believe's interaction with professional scientists, scientific institutions, universities, and publishers of scientific journals we have encountered no significant evidence of censorship, blackballing, or disrespect."

If so, that is because their "creation model" is completely irrelevant to science*, unlike fellow astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez's "galactic habitable zone" hypothesis, which is entirely testable and falsifiable - and THAT'S the problem with it. Win or lose, it's still science based on ID assumptions.

The conflict from which Hugh Ross and his team have chosen to be absent is primarily between people for whom science exists to defend materialism - no matter how ridiculous its theories, as Lewontin has so usefully pointed out - and people for whom evidence trumps theory In other words, Darwin fans vs. ID theorists.

The conflict is secondarily between people for whom science faculties are a tax-subsized private playground for materialist atheists and people who want to restore academic freedom of enquiry for all scholars whose research produces results - like Gonzalez, for example. Again, a conflict between Darwin fans and ID theorists.

*completely irrelevant to science? - If your answer to the question "How did life begin?" is that God zapped it into existence (RtB's view, I gather), then the origin of life is not researchable. That's because the key actions take place in a zone we cannot research.

If, however, you are an ID theorist, you might say "The origin of life shows evidence of design rather than chance." That doesn't mean it cannot be researched. It can be researched in depth. But the purpose of the research is to reconstruct a series of designed events, not to come up with a scenario about how it might all have happened by chance. The ID theorist sees such fantastically improbable scenarios as a waste of time compared to backward engineering the design.

In other words, studying the cell becomes more like studying ancient manuscripts to reconstruct the history of a civilization. We know that the manuscript (and the civilization) didn't all happen by chance, so we are not looking for some "rainwater dripping from a leaky roof" explanation for the marks on the paper. We are looking for what we can learn from the information they convey.

That's the future.

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