Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mythicism == Intelligent Design

Over on Dr. James McGrath's blog, "Exploring The Matrix" he brought up an interesting point and related it to both scientific and historical investigations. I liked his point and the way he expressed it:

" . . . that mythicism is very much like intelligent design in at least one
important regard. It wishes to redefine the methods of a scholarly discipline in
order to accomplish an ideological agenda. What criteria should be used in
historical study? What should the standard of evidence be?"

While I fully expect Luskin, or someone else at the Discovery Institute pool of knee-jerk responders, to complain about his characterization of Intelligent Design, but isn't this exactly what we have been seeing? It came out clearly 5 years ago [has it been that long already?] at the Dover Trial when Behe agreed that in order for Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the very definition of science would have to be expanded to include supernatural causation. Is the reason they [ID proponents] have had so much trouble producing evidence simply because the current scientific methodology cannot be applied? It would certainly explain why anything that comes out of them is long on philosophy and short on science.

I think the problem in such a redefinition of science is not that it would make current scientists uncomfortable or threaten their livelihood -- as stated by those same less-than-honest fellows at the DI -- but that it would take a methodology that produces understandable and usable results replaced by one that doesn't seem capable of either. Seriously, after years of trying neither Meyer, Behe, nor Demski has been able to put any of their ideas within any framework in such a way that can withstand the scrutiny of anyone who doesn't already subscribe to their idea. Look at both the praises and criticisms of their work. The praises come from people who already subscribe to their ideological agenda and the criticisms come from everyone else. In my Post "Intelligent Design Sh** of get off the pot" I remember Stephen C. Meyer saying that ID was receiving support from scientists who were not ID advocates. Instead of leaving such a comment unsupported, which is the norm, he named chemist Philip Skell and geneticist Norman Nevin -- yet when we looked a tiny bit closer, which took all of 10 seconds, we discover that both Skell and Nevin are longtime ID advocates. So even when claiming external success the reality is only someone who already supports them does so.

I also liked Dr. McGrath's closing analogy:
"So (to use a sports analogy) mythicists are welcome to propose new rules that
they believe are better. But that will never be accomplished by standing on the
sidelines and criticizing those who play the game by the rules. Couches and
stadiums are full of such fans who know better than the players."

I will re-state what I think the DI, and any ID advocate, should do. They need to get out of the public view and go into the lab and do the legwork and use the methodologies according to current standards. They should open their work for scrutiny and criticism and work on developing repeatable, and usable concepts. If they cannot or even will not then they belong on the same fringes as tarot card readers, phrenologists, mystics and mythics.

His closing line "Few of them could do a better job if given an opportunity to take the field" is telling as well. How biologists are anti-evolution or pro-intelligent design (which are not the same thing no matter what Luskin seems to claim)? Damn few! Yet this is the organization bent on erasing evolution from the face of biological science? Sidelines indeed!

Thanks Dr. McGrath for another very interesting perspective!


  1. "...but that it would take a methodology that produces understandable and usable results replaced by one that doesn't seem capable of either."

    Nice. I'm stealing that.