Level Playing Field?

Over on Imago Dei, PT has come in for some criticism because we didn’t excoriate Francis Crick for having suggested “directed paspermia” as a possible scenario for the origin of life on earth.

At least our friends at The Panda’s Thumb, who show so much disdain for intelligent design theorists, would provide a tough critique of Crick’s intelligent design theory. Remember that science is supposedly about evaluating the data, not making ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with your view. Here are their comments regarding Crick, with very little mention (and no critique of) his ID theory.

If you are a Christian and propose an ID theory with supporting evidence, you are lambasted as a simple-minded, non-scientific science killer. If you are a Nobel prize winner and you propose an ID theory with no evidence, you are applauded by your “bold speculation”. Who still believes that this is a level playing field?

It’s a criticism that is based on a straight-forward argument from analogy. So, just how good is that analogy?

Francis Crick labeled his “directed panspermia” conjectures as just that: speculation. ID advocates try to assert that their conjectures are established science.

Francis Crick never held a congressional briefing, nor lobbied a state legislature, nor inveigled a school board, to insist that “directed panspermia” be taught to K12 students as science. ID advocates are using a socio-political full-court press to skip over all the tedious work of convincing the scientific community that they have a clue.

Hmmm. That analogy doesn’t look like such a good fit, does it?

Beyond that, we have the false assertion: “If you are a Christian and propose an ID theory with supporting evidence, you are lambasted as a simple-minded, non-scientific science killer.” It’s false because this has never happened. First, there is a difference between a scientific theory and a wild-assed guess. Second, it isn’t a “theory” just to assert that a problem exists in someone else’s theory. Third, “supporting evidence” assumes that one has proposed a positive theory of one’s own and (here’s the tough part) performed some empirical tests upon it that actually might have told you the theory could be wrong. Oh, yes, the tests need to not actually tell you that the theory was wrong. ID advocates don’t have a “positive research program”. Just ask ID advocates Rob Koons, Bruce Gordon, or Paul Nelson what they have said on this point. (They are hopeful that such is just around the corner, and some have been saying that since 1997.) The twin stars of ID argumentation, irreducible complexity and specified complexity, both are based upon asserting problems for someone else’s theory. So the conditions of the assertion have not been met, and there is no evidence of any such “lambasting” as was said.

There certainly has been lambasting of misguided people who try to push non-science into the science classrooms, and that is just how it should be.

There does exist a level playing field. The scientific community communicates via the peer-reviewed literature, establishing an iterative process of inter-subjective criticism and review that finds what works in scientific ideas. This playing field, though, has been shunned by ID advocates.

William Dembski wrote:

“I’ve just gotten kind of blase about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print,” he says. “And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more.”