Best op-ed yet: "The E Word"

Extra kudos to Ben Fulton of the Salt Lake City Weekly for his perceptive op-ed piece, “The E Word.” Many op-eds have pointed out that “intelligent design” is simply creationism with a new coat of paint, that ID proponents are trying to “cut in line” and get ID into the public schools before it gains scientific acceptance, that there is no ID research program, no “ID theory”, and that it is really all one big misguided exercise in conservative evangelical Christian apologetics.

However, Fulton puts his finger exactly on the point that really drives most of us science fans at PT:

Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, “We don’t really know. It’s a mystery.” Would anyone dare call that education?

Ben Fulton, “The E Word,” Salt Lake City Weekly

The “intelligent design” movement takes scientific knowledge and substitutes ignorance. It’s not so much that ID takes _un_answered questions and says, “Hey, maybe an intelligent designer did it!”, although that is fairly annoying since they never give means, motive or opportunity for the designer, which would be the bare minimum required to begin testing ID.

The biggest problem is that ID proponents take answered questions, and assert – usually through laziness or raw ignorance – that no answers exist, and then substitute their flaky, empty, non-explanation of “Poof, ID did it.” The origin of ‘information’ is one prominent example – this core ID argument, stretching back to Charles Thaxton in the 1980’s, is that evolution can’t create new information. “New information requires intelligence,” they say. But ID proponents have systematically ignored the actual explanations for how new genes with novel functions arise. They studiously ignore papers like this one that explain the various processes that give rise to new genes (this paper gives 20-odd examples where the origin of new genes has been reconstructed in detail – it was cited in the PT critique of Meyer’s ID paper, and the Discovery Institute promised they would reply back in October, but they stopped as soon as they got to this section).

In his conclusion, Fulton writes,

Those among the “Intelligent Design” movement, such as Pennsylvania’s Dover School Board, which succeeded recently in requiring that creationism be taught alongside Darwin, don’t care about the gaping problems of their explanations, which are far more complex and harder to swallow than evolution. “Intelligent designers,” as they’re called, can’t explain how their “designer” creates new species. “We don’t know,” a director of the Intelligent Design-oriented Discovery Institute’s Center for Science recently told Newsweek. “It’s a mystery.” And some people call talk like that “education.”

These same people would have countless American students’ heads wrapped in a similar veil of know-nothingness. Why ask questions about the origins of life? Indeed, let’s demolish the whole foundation of scientific discovery–questions–and leave the mind blank. Somewhere, for some unknown reason, some “designer” executed the whole scenario.

Ben Fulton, “The E Word,” Salt Lake City Weekly

All you ID fans out there on the blogosphere: if you really want to address the core issues here, attempt to rebut Ben Fulton’s op-ed. Use the origin of information (please tell what is wrong with Long et al. 2003) or the common descent of humans and apes (please tell us where the gap is between human and ape) as test cases. Are you proposing an answer to an unanswered question, or are you taking the actual answers, ignoring them, and proposing magic as an alternative?