Thursday, January 10, 2008

The testability of Intelligent Design

Now before I get into the real subject matter, I would like to point out that the author of the article is one Casey Luskin, a fellow over at the Discovery Institute and host of a weekly Podcast on Intelligent Design. So just be clear that this person is already a true believer. But I do have issues with his 'proof'. His article, "The Double Standard for Intelligent Design" points to two links that he claims shows the testability of Intelligent Design. You really need to look at the links because they go right back to the Discovery Institutes's EvolutionNews website. Now if that wasn't bad enough the second link is really a link to another paper, one written by . . . guess who . . . Casey Luskin. OK, does anyone else see a problem with this circular argument. "I tell you it's proven and to prove it I will tell you once again it's proven!"

Well now on to the basic discussion, first let's address the supposed double standard. In his own article he addresses the hypothesis of a 'Multiverse' and states that since this isn't testable, how can anyone say that Intelligent Design isn't science just because it's not testable. He is forgetting a couple of things. First of all the 'Multiverse', or multiple universe idea, is not a theory in science, it is a hypothesis. Intelligent Design claims to be a theory, which is not accepted by the scientific community for many reasons, only one of them is because it is not testable. It's also not falsifiable, it's not plausible, it's not been tested, and it has not been proven through any level of experimentation. Until it becomes a theory, it doesn't deserve to be taught in public school science class. I know of no high school text that discusses the "multiverse", at best it's probably a little side note as a hypothesis.

Is it conceivable that one day we can test the hypothesis of the Multiverse? Yes, I believe it is conceivable, we can also conceive of ways to falsify the theory, in other words prove the theory is false. Tossing out a hypothesis because we cannot test NOW, but we can conceive of ways it might be tested is not the same thing as tossing out an idea [Intelligent Design] which no one has conceived of a way to test and no one has conceived a way to make it falsifiable. You might be able to test for multiple universes, but how do you test for God? I know true believers, like Mr. :uskin, will go blue in the face of denying the connection between God and Intelligent Design -- but your loud protestations haven't been working for a while. Sure in print use the term "Designer" but only someone who already buys into it will wink and nod, the rest of us just laugh at you for such a transparent and obvious lie.

Let's go into some details, in one of his paper, Mr. Luskin listed what he calls examining the evidence and seems to believe that this evidence proves design.
Under Biochemistry, his evidence is "Natural structures have been found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information), such as irreducibly complex machines in the cell. The bacterial flagellum is a prime example. The specified complexity of protein bonds, or the simplest self-reproducing cell are other examples."

Then he says that Intelligent Design predicted this and that this proves design. My question is does it? These are Michael Behe's arguments that have been torn apart in so many places. All he's done is identify that there are complex natural structures. Evolutionary theory has many times traced the evolutionary pathways of such complex structures, including bacterial flagellum, protein bonds and self-reproducing cells. Science has proven these things are not irreducible complex, so Mr. Luskin is caught repeating an already discounted argument.

One that even Michael Behe admitted in "Reply to My Critics" that there was a defect in his view of irreducible complexity because, while it purports to be a challenge to natural selection, it does not actually address "the task facing natural selection." and that "Professor Behe wrote that he hoped to "repair this defect in future work" So the work Mr. Luskin is holding up to prove design doesn't even present a challenge to the established theory of Evolution, yet he persists on stating this is evidence of design. So, strike one, there is no proof that design that has been tested or experimented, you are only co-opting existing evolutionary proven systems and claiming they are designed.

For Paleontology, his 'evidence' is "Paleontology Biological novelty appears in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors. The Cambrian explosion is the prime example." While there are many scientist debating the so-called Cambrian Explosion, a period of hundreds of millions of years in which there was a great deal of diversity in the evolution of life. Evolutionary science predicted the level of complexity that Paleontology has discovered, imagine that. This argument is also a restatement of the old argument that there are gaps in the fossil record. Yes, we know there are gaps and your efforts to shove your designer theory into those gaps seems to falter every time a new fossil discovery is made. Evidence of gaps, yes, evidence of design, No!

In Systematics: "Similar parts have been found in organisms that even Darwinists see as
separated by more closely related forms that do not contain the similar parts in question. Clear examples include genes controlling eye or limb growth in different organisms whose alleged common ancestors are not thought to have had such forms of eyes or limbs." They may not have had eyes of limbs, but they could easily have the building blocks for those parts. Or if they are further down the evolutionary path, what do you call evidence of legs in the Whale? This is a similar argument where the Discovery Institute took evidence of evolution and claimed that it could have just been done as easily by an "Intelligent Agent". What proof of design is this? I also love the "alleged common ancestor" line. So he is using a theory he discounts as proof? Anyone else following this?

In Genetics: "Genetic research continues to uncover functions for “junk-DNA,” include functionality for pseudogenes, introns, LINE, and ALU elements. Examples of unknown DNA functions persist, but design encourages researchers to investigate functions, whereas Darwinism has caused some scientists to wrongly assume that non-coding DNA is junk." So what exactly is he saying here? That we don't know everything again? Thats what it sounds like to me. He's right, we don't know everything about DNA, and something once identified as 'junk-DNA' may serve unsuspected purposes. The theory of evolution isn't what classified some of the DNA as junk, it was scientists that hadn't found a use for the DNA who coined the nickname junk DNA. Again with the gaps, we don't know everything and when there is a gap, Mr. Luskin is more than willing to force his designer into the gap. And then, like an unwelcome house guest, the designer is forced out when the gap gets filled. Science is proving some of the previously identified DNA is not junk, but that doesn't mean Intelligent Design had anything to do with Genetics. Design proponents have furthered scientific investigation, I will give him that, but not in the way he seems to imply. When a design proponent, like Behe, identifies something as 'designed', it is like a call to arms and previously known gaps suddenly get attention. In a way that is furthering science, but they certainly didn't do anything but raise a finger and point to a gap.

So back to the original question, is there a double standard on testability. Intelligent Design hasn't been tested and no amount of playing gap-filler will make it so. The very idea of proving the existence or even disproving the existence of God is not within the realm of science, and that is why Intelligent Design, no matter how often you whine about not 'officially' identifying God as your Intelligent Designer, is not considered science -- get used to it.

Now if you want to talk about a double standard how about the one you [Mr. Luskin] used here? Science is expected to have all the answers, and if not you step in and try and cram your design stuff into the gap. But what answers is design supposed to have? Apparently None. Now that sounds like a double standard!

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