Teacher, feminist, krautrock connoisseur, anime enthusiast, player of video games, occasional modder, intermittent blogger

ID is as old as the hills

Scientists do not welcome teaching ID in science classes for the simple reason that, apart from NOT being science at all, it is a totally made-up construct built with the intent of sneaking religion in the science classroom by presenting it as a plausible scientific theory. 
—Ugo Cei, on the Dilbert Blog

That one’s easy to knock on the head at least. Wait for it… ID is older than Darwinism. It’s known as the teleological argument for the existence of God, and can be formulated as follows (I’m quoting the Wikipedia article):

  1. X is too complex to have occurred randomly or naturally.
  2. Therefore, X must have been created by an intelligent being.
  3. Y is that intelligent being.
  4. Therefore, Y exists.

In fact, the more cautious ID people would only go as far as step 2 above, and make no claims about which Y is that intelligent being (the FSM enters the argument at step 3, and as such, as I said a couple of days ago, is irrelevant.)

And the Wikipedia article also notes that Cicero (106 BC-43 BC - note BC) made one of the earliest teleological arguments:
When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers? (Gjertsen 1989, p. 199, quoted by Dennett 1995, p. 29)
Just to put that in context, Darwin first proposed the theory of natural selection in 1858. That’s nearly 2000 years after Cicero. There is nothing new or made up about ID. It is only a modern formulation of an extremely old idea; and if people keep shouting at the proponents of ID that they are only making it up in order to force religion into the science classroom, it’s no wonder they become indignant. The least we can do is have the common courtesy to acknowledge that the theory they are espousing is far, far older than anything that upstart Darwin ever thought of.

Finally, a good defense of ID

After literally hundreds of posts on the Dilbert Blog, someone called Mark came up will a good defence of the principles of Intelligent Design. I’ll quote a bit:
They only propose that according to their theory logic demands a single uncaused cause for all and that various phenomena support the theory of design better than randomness and therefore the implication is intelligence.

That places the ID discussion on the very edge of science, where it becomes metaphysics in the sense of the word which Kant meant - what comes after physics. As such, it is a proper object of science, although hardly the kind of science you should be teaching in school rooms.
But the identity of this intelligence is beyond the scope of their theory just as it is beyond the scope of the theories of most astrophysicists who restrict their analyses to that of existence at its earliest moment and no further back.

And so it isn’t theology either. Now that is something we can get our teeth into. Thanks, Mark, for the interesting post.

Why the Flying Spaghetti Monster misses the point

I’m afraid I've caught the ID/evolutionism bug. The following is based on a post I just made to Scott Adam’s blog, where I got infected in the first place. I made three pages of notes in the Chinese restaurant today, so there's more to come.

What I have been thinking today:

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, which several people provided links to, utterly misses the point of ID and so precisely provides more evidence for Scott’s point in his original post. ID needs only to say that the evidence could be interpreted as supporting either the existence of an intelligent designer, or a process of natural selection - in fact, all it needs to do is say that it neither proves one nor the other. That, despite all the protests, is a scientific/philosophical question, because it challenges our assumptions about how to explain the evidence, and about whether the evidence actually proves evolutionary theory or not. Any debate about which designer is the realm of religion.

So the Flying Spaghetti Monster theorists contend that FSM should be taught alongside ID, on the basis that God didn’t create the universe, the FSM did. Which means they’re attacking the religious agenda which they infer as being behind ID, rather than the actual point being made. And that comes under mistake #2: Turn someone’s factual statements into implied preferences [from the Scott Adam's Results of why I'm stupid post].

What is needed is to attack ID on it’s own terms. Ironically, that’s just what the FSM people see themselves as doing. But whether we claim that the designer behind the universe is God, a Flying Spaghetti Monster or a fur-ball is completely irrelevant to ID.

The Dilbert Blog

I’ve become something of a regular over at the Dilbert Blog recently. About a month ago, Scott Adams launched the blog, and it has proved to be well worth a visit. Generally the posts are humorous, but a recent post dealt with Intelligent Design vs. evolution and prompted a great deal of fervour among the readers, much to Scott’s delight, I think. I myself printed out the first post on the topic and used it as a basis for a discussion in my Proficiency class, with the general gist being: what is the problem? Three people in a class had even heard of Intelligent Design, and none thought it was deserving of the controversy which it has obviously generated on Scott’s blog. Seems like it’s the hottest scientific America, but that no-one in Europe would even realise it was a topic. Very odd, and interesting reading.

So, I would absolutely recommend people stopping by Scott’s place and subscribing to his RSS feed. Intelligent, often surreal, controversial, and wonderfully funny. Even the comments are an eye-opener.

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