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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Britain's New Scientist drops the ball on intelligent design?

Britain's science magazine, New Scientist weighed in in July with an alarm piece on intelligent design, "A sceptic's guide to intelligent design" by Bob Holmes and James Randerson.

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

The interesting part is that, as Bill Dembski relates, reporter Bob Holmes told him,
I’m a Canada-based reporter for New Scientist magazine, an international newsweekly of science and technology. I’m working on an article about intelligent design, and would very much like a chance to talk with you by phone in the next few days. It seems to me the media coverage of intelligent design has mostly failed to present your case on scientific grounds, and I’d like to remedy that.

Dembski agreed to talk to him and relates the following:

During the phone interview, which lasted well over an hour, Holmes asked good questions and seemed to be tracking at key points in the discussion. For instance, on the question of testability of ID, I remarked that proponents of materialistic evolution invariably invoked as evidence for their theory experiments in which structures of biological interest evolved reproducibly. But for the results of an experiment to be reproducible, they must occur with high probability. Thus, if high probability confirms evolutionary theory, shouldn’t, by parity of reasoning, low probability disconfirm evolutionary theory? If not, the theory is insulated from empirical falsification. I offered as an example the original success of the Miller-Urey experiment in origin-of-life research and the subsequent failure of that origin-of-life research to explain information-rich biomacromolecules. Holmes seemed to “get it” during our interview, but none of this appears in his story.

No indeed. When the cover story appeared, it was merely the usual canards, claimimg among other things that ID is not testable, which is clearly not true. Dembski notes:
The article, instead, continues in exactly the same vein as the other media stories against ID that Holmes seemed to want to rectify. In other words, it constitutes media coverage of intelligent design that yet again fails to present our case on scientific grounds. Indeed, all the cliches and stereotypes are there. ID is repeatedly conflated with creationism. Additionally, the designer of ID is claimed to be “supernatual,” when in fact the nature of nature is precisely what’s at issue, and the designer could be perfectly natural provided that nature is understood aright.

I think the problem here is that Holmes — and indeed most current science writers — assume that science IS naturalism. The purpose of science, as they understand it, is to find explanations for all phenomena that depend entirely on chance events governed by natural law. Thus, the purpose of science is not to address Darwinism but to defend it. Design is, by definition, not part of science, even if design is part of a correct explanation.

Thus, even if Holmes had wanted to address Dembski's point above (that Darwinism — as it is currently held — is unfalsifiable), I can't imagine his editor letting him. Darwinism is indeed an unfalsifiable belief tenaciously held by almost all of New Scientist's subscribers, and that's why they cannot examine the arguments against Darwinism or for design, only raise alarms about them.

Dembski provides a .pdf of the article at the link above, so you can read it for yourself.

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.

Science on settlement of intelligent design defamation lawsuit

Science magazine reported recently on the settlement of California attorney and ID sympathizer Larry Caldwell's defamation action against the California Academy of Sciences, for statements made about him in California Wild'st. The magazine will have to publish both an explanation by Caldwell of the facts of his involvement in the intelligent design controversy through Quality Science Education for All and a retraction by Scott for statements made. Caldwell notes that the article "is surprisingly accurate and balanced –except for the title."

The title is "Creationism Skirmish". As it happens, many titles are not written by the author of the article, but by a clever person who may not have had time to clearly grasp what the article is about. The title should have been something like "Defamation suit settled." Meanwhile, Caldwell has written to thank the author.

For more on the agreement by the California Academy of Sciences to correct the potentially libelous statements, go here.

Blog service note: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?

- The op-ed by Catholic Cardinal Schonborn in the New York Times? Note also the Times's story on the subject, some interesting quotes from major Darwinists to compare with the Catholic Church's view, as expressed by the Cardinal, and an example of the kind of problem with Darwinian philosophy that the Cardinal is talking about.

- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.

- Bill Dembski threatening to sue the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover, Pennsylvania ID case, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for updates. (Note: In breaking news, this dispute has apparently been settled. See the story for details. )

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