Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Unnamed Intelligent Design post

My friend over at Random Brain Dribbles linked to an article about the Intelligent Design debate. I hadn't intended to remark on this, but I just can't resist a bad argument. The one that really got me was this:
... let us consider another possibility, which is that where there is a political controversy, there can be no scientific certainty. Or, to put the matter another way, so long as men dispute with each other about the answer to a question, that question cannot be considered settled.
As noted previously, quite a few Americans believe you can make radioactive milk safe by boiling it. This is false. It's no less false for there being a dispute. The article goes on:
To the scientist, this thesis may smack of heresy. After all, if I have discovered the truth, and have expressed it in my theory, then surely everyone else should be obligated to accept my ideas and to put away those of their own that are in conflict with it. Yet, oddly enough, the world does not work this way, nor is it immediately obvious that the world should work in this way.
Here we're talking about something different, and it's important to notice the difference. Scientific theories can certainly be in dispute, but not everything science tells us is theoretical. There's not much theory about the safety features of radioactive milk. The weakest statement we can make is that in every single experiment done, boiling has not made radioactive milk safe.

Now, bring this back to the origin of species. Evolution certainly is a theory and subject to debate. That's not to say that every time some large part of the population has a disagreement with scientists, there's some equivalence of authority. There isn't.

For people who study radioactivity (and, perhaps, milk), the question of whether radioactive milk is safer after boiling is pretty well closed, and any dispute stems from ignorance. I've read enough about Evolution and Intelligent Design (ID) to know that it's a much deeper debate than I have time to follow, so opinions I have on it come to you direct from the land of ignorance also.

That having been said, what are the chances that the scientists who've studied this stuff are full of primordial ooze, but the Intelligent Design folks are objective, unbiased observers of truth? I haven't studied it enough to know for sure, but it seems to me the ID folks have an agenda (God) which is not only less objective than scientists' agenda (as if objectivism can be relative), but also not quite in keeping with public schools.

I recall hearing about phlogiston in chemistry class. I wouldn't mind talking about ID in biology the same way, but I don't think the ID proponents would accept that. If it's not given an equal footing, it's not good enough.

There was one other really bad argument I couldn't let lie. It's this:
Darwin grew up believing in Adam and Eve -- proof that it makes little difference with what opinion we start out with, since all that ultimately matters are the convictions that we discover for ourselves.
I disagree. This is like saying that it doesn't matter if some people get a head start in a race because people without a head start sometimes win anyway. Opinions we start out with matter quite a bit. It's true that people don't always retain their opinions, but they're also far from irrelevant.

This is why what we teach in school matters to us and our children. If it's true that "all that ultimately matters are the convictions that we discover for ourselves," why push for teaching ID anyway? Why teach anything? Students can discover the truth by themselves.
Post a Comment