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Another Ritualistic Denunciation of ID

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Royal Society Alert 390
8 September, 2005

Comment by Royal Society Education Manager, Peter Spratt, Peter.Spratt@rsnz.org

It has come to our attention that a resource for teaching “Intelligent Design” has been distributed to secondary schools. The Royal Society, like other scientific organisations throughout the world, cannot support the views espoused by the proponents of “Intelligent Design” because their position does not withstand the rigours of scientific enquiry. The “intelligent design theory” is presented as a theoretical innovation supported by scientific evidence. Many critiques of this “theory” point out that the scientific evidence cited is very selective, and conflicting evidence is simply dismissed. The American Association for the Advancement of Science states clearly that ” ‘intelligent design theory’ demonstrates significant conceptual flaws, lacks credible scientific evidence, misrepresents scientific facts … and is improper (to be included) as a part of science education.”

At the risk of reminding Alert readers “how to suck eggs”, it is perhaps opportune to quote from the University of Waikato that “a theory is a rigorously tested statement of general principles that explains observable and recorded aspects of the natural world.” Theories are developed by gathering evidence and testing hypotheses. There is no evidence that the “theory of intelligent design” is developed in this way; rather the reverse seems true – the theory has been developed and then evidence selected to support it. A scientific theory is falsifiable, i.e. it holds until proven incorrect. The theory of evolution, as first proposed by Darwin and modified since, has stood the test of time and countless attempts to disprove it. Indeed much of the investigation has in fact supported, refined and advanced evolutionary theory well beyond Darwin’s original conception.

The material comes via the religion-based Seattle thinktank Centre for Science and Culture and criticises Darwinism, promoting the concept of an “intelligent design” outside the laws of nature to explain the complexity of living organisms. The resource could perhaps be used by an informed and knowledgeable teacher to engage their students in a stimulating and lively lesson about the nature of science. It can be used as the stimulus to involve students in guided discussion about the processes of science. It would be most unfortunate, and indeed unprofessional, for a teacher to use this resource in a way to reinforce the dogma and unscientific argument upon which it is based.

Glenda Lewis, Communications Manager, The Royal Society of New Zealand
PO Box 598, Wellington, New Zealand
(04) 4727421 fax (04) 4731841 www.rsnz.org

Mr. Fox, Exactly my point. The origin of evolutionary theory was philosophical, not scientific, a fact that modern evolutionists do not like to advertise. What Darwin supposedly did was provide a scientific foundation to a theory that intellectuals already believed for philosophical reasons. The theory of evolution was not "first proposed" by Darwin because he never proposed a theory of evolution at all. That had already been done. What he did was propose the mechanism, "the origin of species by means of natural selection." The article implies that evolution had its origin in the disinterested investigations of scientists, as though Darwin were just a disinteresed naturalist who one day proposed a "theory of evolution" that no had heard of before. Then scientists carefully and objectively evaluated the evidence, and only after long and careful analysis did they pronounce evolution a fact. That's nothing like the real history. Darwin's proposal was quickly hailed as a triumph by intellectuals like Spencer and Huxley, and used as it is today, as scientific proof of materialist philosophy. taciturnus
Spencer was a philosopher, not to any real extent a biologist. His theory of evolution was Lamarckian and his main contribution to Darwin was the phrase 'survival of the fittest" for which Darwin gave him full credit. Alan Fox
It's an indication of the state of Darwinism that Darwinists don't even bother to get their own history right anymore, as long as they can get some whacks in at ID. The theory of evolution did not have its origin with Darwin. There were plenty of theories of evolution before him, and the word "evolution" owes its popularity to Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, who barely used it at all in the first edition of the Origin of Species. Darwin's big breakthrough was the idea of "the origin of species by means of natural selection." It's "natural selection" that is Darwin's baby, not evolution. Spratt's coy remark that evolutionary theory has advanced beyond Darwin may be a backhanded acknowledgement that many scientists today don't think natural selection is up to the tasks that Darwin set it. taciturnus
"A scientific theory is falsifiable, i.e. it holds until proven incorrect." An interesting definition of falsifiability, and another example of how Faithful Darwinists stack the deck in their favor--perhaps without even realizing it. Actually, I think Spratt's argument is fairly typical: Without discussing any relevant facts, he makes a high-level argument in which he throws the cloak of "science" over his philosophical materialism--which can never be ultimately proven or disproven, and which he _assumes_ to be true--and then claims unassailability until proven wrong! Hard to argue with such a nice tight little circle--unless he's willing to admit that his assumptions are just that--assumptions and not the facts he thinks they are. SteveB
Oops. Change that last paragraph, please--where I said "hypothesis" I was really thinking "theory." Again, if I'd starting working out hypotheses and seeking evidence in grad school without a theoretical basis for it all, I'd have had my hand slapped. That was in a social science--but isn't it the same in all sciences? TomG
Well, I'll credit them this--they didn't just roll out the usual weak or false objections to ID, they made up some new ones. Their definition of "falsifiable"--"it holds until proven incorrect"--has nothing to do with the way the word is generally used in philosophy of science; it's simply false. (I guess we can say it doesn't hold any longer.) Their description of how theories are developed, "by gathering evidence and testing hypotheses", assumes that evidence is gathered before anyone considers a hypothesis--not very accurate to the real world. I was taught in research methods to start with a hypothesis and then work on the evidence. Is there even any such thing as "gathering evidence" without a guiding hypothesis? TomG

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