A friend of mine sent me a link to a recent article by Giberson. In it Giberson claims that the problem with ID is that “first they need a fertile idea—one that generates new scientific knowledge”. I think it has already done this.
Many eminent scientists have noted that the reductionist way of looking at biology in the 20th century cannot remain forever the way biology operates. Carl Woese’s “A New Biology for a New Century” is a good example of this. The question, though, is what to replace the reductionist view with.
What ID has done is develop a conceptual framework (or a set of frameworks) for examining biological phenomenon.
First and foremost, it allows a biologist to investigate the logical relationships in an organism or an environment without having to simultaneously find a historical relationship. The reductionist paradigm filters out ideas about logical relationships which don’t have historical causes. That’s why so few people comment on the relationship between the human eye and the squid eye, or even the entirety of the placental and marsupial mammals. Design gives an intellectual justification for seeing logical relationships even when the historical relationships are unknown or unlikely.
That, for instance, is the impetus behind Wells’ examination of the Centriole’s polar ejection force – it makes perfect sense logically, but is completely ridiculous to imagine historical, contingent causes that would bring such a system into being. That’s why Jonathan Wells – an ID person – thought of it, and no one else has.
The new way of thinking brings with it new questions. Questions such as “how would one quantify the influence of design on evolution”? Dembski, however, has helped with his recent introduction of the Active Information metric. This brings in a whole new way of looking at a cell. A reductionist *couldn’t* ask the question. ID brings to the table new questions which are unthinkable to reductionists, and a set of tools to help answer them.
Of course, the reductionists usually say that this isn’t new knowledge, because we aren’t answering *their* questions. However, I don’t see how the failure of someone else to ask relevant, consequential questions should be viewed as a mark against us.
In Seelke’s lab, they are asking the question, “how far can evolution go?” and developing models and experiments to answer that question. For reductionists, the question is invalid. For ID’ers, the question is relevant. We don’t have a prior way of knowing how far evolution went. Therefore, we must test! That’s why only ID’ers are conducting such experiments – we are the only ones who can ask the question!
Dr. Behe defined qualitative characteristics of systems that are unlikely to have evolved. Scott Minnich performed the knockout tests on the bacterial flagellum to determine if Behe’s characterization of it was correct. I added to that a model based on computability theory for understanding why these qualitative characteristics are important. The model gives a set of criteria for determining whether or not exogenous information is required for producing a biological change. Future versions will hopefully extend that into a numerical treatment. In what way is this not knowledge building? Only if you don’t like the questions.
Dr. Dembski set up a mathematical framework for calculating active information. This summer, at the BSG conference in July, you can see me apply it to a biological system to calculate the active information within a biological process. In what way is this not knowledge building? Only if you don’t like the questions.
Many people have used Kauffman’s self-ordering work as an explanation for how biological organization arises. However, as several ID’ers have pointed out, self-ordering is not the same thing as self-organization, despite the fact that proponents of self-ordering continually confuse the two issues. Is making this distinction not knowledge-building? Only if you don’t like there to be distinctions.
Dr. Axe has researched the sequence requirements for protein folds to occur. He asked the question, can these folds be created via evolution? He formulated and performed tests and experiments to determine the answer. Is this not knowledge building? Only if you don’t like the questions.
How far can evolution go? How common does common ancestry go? When are relational causes required for changes? How much precoded information is in the genome to drive its own evolution? How can design be characterized mathematically? How are the organisms in the environment related to each other *logically*?
There are a lot of people who don’t like questions. They like the answers they have been handed, and want to stick with those answers no matter what. Other people like looking for new questions. They like looking beyond the abilities of our current tools and conceptions, and seeing what might be discoverable.
If you don’t like the questions – that’s fine. Don’t ask them. Don’t repeat them. Leave them out of discussion. But there’s a lot of us who think that these questions are fascinating and remarkable questions, and that the search for their answers is a worthwhile enterprise. Even those who think that nothing will be found should be delighted at the search, and how it can help us rethink even our existing questions, and the way we look at them. It has already brought us remarkable new knowledge and ways of looking at problems. If we keep asking questions, keep reframing our ideas in fresh new ways, and keep developing new tools to understand our world, then I don’t think we have much to fear from the shortsighted people who don’t like the questions.