I’ve known Todd since we were graduate students in the 1990s, and have a hardbound copy of his UVA dissertation (Theory and Application of Protein Homology, 1999) sitting on my office shelves. Todd knows more evolutionary biology than many evolutionary biologists. Yet, perversely, or inexplicably, in the eyes of his critics and growing number of blog readers, Todd is also a young-earth creationist (YEC). What’s up with that?
But he’s not much of an admirer of ID. Think about it this way.
Suppose you visit Stonehenge with a group of “Stonehenge is naturally caused” theorists, who vigorously dispute that ancient humans built the monument. No intelligence was involved, they say; some yet-to-be-discovered evolutionary scenario did the building. Stonehenge-is-natural research (or science) thus consists of looking for the unknown natural mechanisms or processes, which shaped the monoliths, caused them to aggregate into a circle, and so on. No “intelligence of the gaps” need apply.
Now, on Todd’s view, an ID theorist would patiently reason with these Stonehenge-is-natural researchers, carefully showing them the insufficiency of natural processes to explain the effects in question.
And that would be a colossal waste of time, Todd thinks. “I’m not terribly interested in design as an inference,” he writes. “Design is obvious.”
Over at the Panda’s Thumb, this attitude — design is obvious — is seen as somehow stopping science.
But who stopped? Did you? Did anyone you know? If you’re an evolutionary biologist, or origin of life researcher, is Todd’s position going to stop you from looking for (say) the natural origin of the ribosome, pictured above? Really? Gosh, you are easy to dissuade. Pushover. (Just kidding.)
Eugene Koonin, considering the unsolved problem of the origin of biological information transfer, proposed a solution. I’d expect — we haven’t discussed the matter, but from long friendship, I can guess — that Todd finds this “solution” fundamentally irrational. Anti-science, actually, and just as irrational, in the end, as Stonehenge-is-natural research. On some questions, the sensible thing to do is to walk away.
Not to debate. Just walk away.
I think ID has more going for it than Todd allows, but I can understand his position. “Design is obvious.” And this:
Arguing to design seems fruitless to me, but trying to comprehend design? That’s a captivating idea. Begin with the (inescapable) assumption that design is real, and where does that take us?