Saturday, August 19, 2006

Who's the Dodos? Intelligent Design Theorists of Evolutionists?

Randy Olson, an evolutionary biologist, made a documentary called Flock of Dodos. that makes the case that the success of Intelligent Design is merely from a slick PR campaign (by Seattle's Discovery Institute) and not based on real science. Olson says there is no crisis of evidence in evolution, but some people still don't believe in it because of a poor job of communication by scientists. The film (I've only seen the trailer and the ABC interview of Olson) attempts to discredit the ID movement by revealing who the real Dodos are--anyone who doubts in evolution.

One thing Olson did well in the interview is to differentiate between Creationists and ID proponents, something that isn't often done. Creationists start with a literal belief in the book of Genesis and try to bend science to fit it. ID theorists don't begin with Genesis but only with the scientific evidence for design in nature. Yet excerpts from the film reveal evolutionists mixing them all together--one of them says we should call out supporters of creationism or ID and tell them "you're an idiot."

Although, it appears to give both sides of the story, the film apparently leaves out much of the story. There IS dissent among scientists. 100 of them from universities signed the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. Is this scientist in the film calling the likes of these--including agnostic David Berlinski and intellectual giant William F. Buckley, idiots? This debate is not a new PR battle that started in 2000, as the film claims. Biologist Michael Denton wrote Evolution: a Theory in Crisis in 1986. Mathmetician Berlinski, wrote The Deniable Darwin in 1996. UC Berkeley's Philip Johnson put Darwin on Trial in 1993. If one takes a truly objective look, the theory of evolution is in crisis. Even a Dodo can see that.


TheFallibleFiend said...

If it were the 1,000 of the bottom tier of scientists, would it matter? Berlinski, Wells, and Dembski aren't even scientists by any reasonable definition of the term.

Michael said...

Actually, I was wrong. Since the last time I checked, 500 more scientists have signed the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism for a total of 600. Yes, these people are scientists, some of them former Darwinists.

Michael said...

I'm wrong again! I rechecked and the number is up to 700. "The list is growing and includes scientists from the US National Academy of Sciences, Russian, Hungarian and Czech National Academies, as well as from universities such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and others."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out the difference between creationists and IDers. There is a difference, as well, between the theory of evolution and darwinism. See wikipedia on darwinism, particularly "Other Usages of the Term". Entry "Evolution as theory and fact" is also very good - note the difference between scientific theory and hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I also dislike Dawkins' habit of conflating Evolution and Atheism. Dawkins is an excellent biologist, but he is mostly making a fool of himself when he dabbles into philosophy and his counter religious efforts are doing more harm to science than to religion.

However ID, as championed by Behe, really isn't much more than rebranded creationism. They are simply trying to force science to accept the supernatural by any means necessary and then follow with literalist Bible. Most scientists don't find it credible and with good reason. You might want to consider reading this review of Behe's book by Catholic geologist, Steve Dutch. The whole review is worth reading, but this is his conclusion:

[T]he only difference between Behe and the classical God of the Gaps idea is that Behe's gaps are tinier. He still points to places where there is no information. He never points to a specific chemical reaction and says "We know this happened, but it happened supernaturally."

Second, the God of the Gaps was never about explaining anything and was never about information or the lack of it. The God of the Gaps is the steady retreat of supernaturalism in the face of science. When little was known about the world, everything was supernatural. (...) As more and more phenomena were explained by science, God was pushed into the remaining gaps. Actually, what was pushed into the remaining gaps was not God but the hope that some natural phenomenon would have an inescapably, irrefutably supernatural component that believers would be able to rub their opponents' faces in. (...) Behe simply crams the supernaturalism into very tiny gaps.

In fact, just about all texts on his page about pseudoscience are worth reading. Steve also makes a far more interesting case for a different kind of Intelligent Design here.


Michael Camp said...

Python, Interesting. You've picqued my interest. I'll check out Steve Dutch. Thanks!