December 6, 2006

"Teacher says: 'Every time an experiment fails, "intelligent design" prevails'"

The ID assault on science and reason continues to be built upon desperation and misunderstanding. Of course, with "DaveScot" mounting the argument what else would one expect?

Not only do nearly all of ID "theory's" most popular public assertions reduce to gap arguments - i.e. biologists cannot tell us how some structure or function evolved so it can be attributed to "intelligent design" - but now we are being told that the failure of research to produce answers can constitute the consummation of an ID prediction. (A similar tactic was tried by Michael Behe when he suggested that biologists go into a lab and try to falsify ID by evolving a flagellum - expecting that the failure to do so would support ID.)

Not satisfied with current gaps, ID proponents are laying claim to future ones as well. Check out the following from the above linked UD post,
Harvard Origin of Life Project: An ID Prediction

In a nutshell they are setting out to demonstrate how DNA-based life could have originated from undirected interplay of chemicals.

If ID is true then it predicts the Harvard project will fail. This is based on the ID hypothesis that the complex patterns found in the basic machinery of life are too complex to come about without intelligent guidance.

Now if I may be so bold as to ask that ID theorists be allowed to make predictions based upon their own theory, and detractors are gracious enough to let us make our own predictions, then I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about ID making no predictions. This is a prediction. It will play out soon enough. Let the chips fall where they may.
Okay, let's agree up front that this is indeed a prediction. DS is suggesting that the Harvard Origin of Life (HOL) project will fail to produce definitive naturalistic answers. And any ID proponent will, of course, see that this is as a result of disregarding the design hypothesis.

But in what sense can we say this is an ID prediction? In the event the HOL is a bust can this be legitimately interpreted as direct support for ID?

I would suggest that for any prediction to be considered supportive of the design hypothesis it must be drawn from actual theory and connect back in some demonstrably empirical fashion to the tenets of that theory. But there is no testable, verifiable body of ID work to which we can link data and call it confirmation of a scientific prediction. In order to test "complex patterns found in the basic machinery of life are too complex to come about without intelligent guidance" we would need to have established empirical referents for the proposed purposeful activity. ID proponents offer us natural analogs, but of course these are not indicators of the kind of design they wish to infer, and do not suffice to support any prediction of "intelligent design."

The failure of the HOL is therefore no more the fulfillment of an ID prediction that life cannot begin without a designer than it is the fulfillment of a prediction that life cannot begin without the flying spaghetti monster, or the legendary invisible pink unicorn, or even a nice hunk of cave aged gruyere (Mmmm...subterranean cheese...argleargleargle).

There is virtually nothing in ID that we can hang any prediction on. There are no mechanisms for the design process, we know nothing of the designer(s), there is naught but a collection of gap arguments, and gaps in our knowledge are already predicted quite nicely by an understanding of scientific methodology and a smidgen of common sense.

The only forecast that can truly be drawn from ID is that the end of investigation of the universe, when we finally know all that can be known, will come without ever having produced evidence for the natural origin of life.

Now that's a gap that might someday be worth talking about (call me when those chips actually fall), but it's hard to get too worked up over right now.


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