March 1, 2006


Creation and Evolution in the Schools (Orson Scott Card, January 8, 2006, Rhinoceros Times)

Intelligent design uses the evil "must" word: Well, if random mutation plus natural selection can't account for the existence of this complex system, then it must have been brought into existence by some intelligent designer

Why? Why must that be the only alternative?

Just because the Darwinian model seems to be inadequate at the molecular level does not imply in any way that the only other explanation is purposive causation.

There might be several or even many other hypotheses. To believe in Intelligent Design is still a leap of faith.

But the normal answer of the Darwinists is also a leap of faith. In effect, their arguments boil down to this: We have no idea right now how these complex systems came to be, but we have fervent, absolute faith that when we do figure it out, it will be found to have a completely mechanical, natural cause that requires no "intelligent designer" at all.

If the Darwinists' faith is eventually proved correct, and we find completely natural, mechanical explanations for the evolution of complex biochemical systems, then these matters will remain within the purview of the scientific method. They will still be teachable in science class.

But if the Designists are right, and there is no natural explanation, no process of mechanical causation that can possibly lead to the automatic evolution of complex biochemical systems, then at that moment the subject ceases to be science at all, and becomes either history (what did the Designers do and why did they do it?) or theology (what does God mean by all this?).

That's fine. There are lots of subjects in this world that are worth studying, and in which true and valuable things can be discovered, which are not and cannot be science.

But when you purport to teach science in school, the subject you teach had better be science, and not somebody's religion in disguise.

That's the problem with both sides in this squabble. They are both functioning as religions, and they should stop it at once.

If both sides would behave like scientists, there wouldn't even be a controversy, because everyone would agree on this statement:

Evolution happens and obviously happened in the natural world, and natural selection plays a role in it. But we do not have adequate theories yet to explain completely how evolution works and worked at the biochemical level.

That is a true statement, according to our present state of scientific knowledge.

And when Darwinists scream that we do too know how to explain evolution, and it's natural selection, so just stop talking about it, they are dogmatists demanding that their faith -- the faith that Darwin's model will be found to explain everything when we just understand things better -- be taught in the public schools.

There is no reason for science teachers in the public schools to take a single step beyond that statement I made above. It allows the teaching of every speck of scientific biology; and it makes moot the as-yet-unknowable issue of how each specific complex biochemical system came into existence.

In fact, what every school board in this country should decide is to ignore both sides' demands that the schools teach their faith, and allow the public schools to perform their public service: educating children in our shared culture, including what we have learned through the scientific method.

Real science does not in any way impinge on a belief that God (or some other Intelligent Designer) created the world and everything that dwells in it. At the same time, real science does not -- and never can -- prove or even support the hypothesis.

But real science also does not support a misguided faith in the teachings of a scientist who is now regarded as a prophet, and whose disciples have an emotional commitment to his theories, even when they can be shown to be inadequate to explain the data as we presently have it.

Physicists know this -- they don't get their dander up and demand that non-Einsteinian physics never be taught in the public schools, for instance. They recognize that at the bleeding edge of science we simply don't know stuff yet, and no past genius has authority today, if and when we come up with data that may not support his theories.

Biology is no different.

In an otherwise sensible essay, Mr. Card makes one fatal error, taking on faith that because Darwinism proposes a way for speciation to occur that the fact speciation has occurred in the past demonstrates Darwinism. Here, he himself ignores the scientific method.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 1, 2006 12:00 AM

One of the problems ID has is that it does not propose a program of research that someone can use to shake the money tree.

ID will be "somewhat" less unwelcome (not more welcome) if, through the religious right, they go to Bush and propose spending increases in specific areas of research that have a dual purpose of benefitting mankind AND providing the raw material for devising a scentific theory of mathematical biological complexity.

I worked once with a professor who did such terrific work in theoretical chemistry that he was invited SEVERAL TIMES to the old USSR to discuss his theories. He just needed an office, a minicomputer account, and a college who was a computer whiz to do his work.

Posted by: Ptah at March 2, 2006 12:00 PM