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December 22, 2005
Poor Put-Upon Intelligent Design
I was driving last night and listening to NPR, when they broadcast a commentary by Joe Loconte of the Heritage Foundation. This was bemoaning the Dover decision tossing Intelligent Design out of the local Pennsylvania school curriculum, and I'm afraid I ended up adding some loud and vulgar commentary of my own while hearing it.
Loconte's analogy was to the Big Bang theory in cosmology. He claimed that when the theory was proposed, that some of the objections to it were because of its similarities to the creation account in Genesis. I wasn't aware that the Big Bang was considered too religious, but it seems that this was the case for some physicists. That's quite an irony, though, considering some of the religious objections to it now. (Here's a rundown from everyone's favorite creationist web site, Answers In Genesis, certainly the first time I've ever linked to them. Hours of entertainment await you there, though, I have to admit.)
And you can see where the rest of the commentary went. We should make room for seemingly heretical theories in science, even if they seem to have religious overtones, because the orthodox dogma of the scientists can indeed be overthrown, yea verily, just as it was with the Big Bang theory. Loconte has sounded this note before, many times - see this CNN transcript where he goes on about the "high priests of evolution" and the "divergence of views within the scientific community" on the issue.
But Loconte neglected to mention that Big Bang cosmology won its case by providing empirical evidence, and plenty of it. And this was done completely within the framework of scientific discovery - making testable predictions, for one thing.
And that's where the analogy with ID breaks down. If Intelligent Design has made any testable predictions, I've missed them. If it's advancing due to further research, I've missed that, too. Loconte has made the error, which is unfortunately common in those with no scientific background, of assuming that ID is just another scientific theory because it claims to be. "I can't see how something this complicated could have happened except by God doing it" is not a basis for scientific discovery. For that, you want something like "I can't see how something this complicated could have happened. Let's look at all the evidence we can get and follow it no matter where it leads."
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