The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Jerry Coyne is one of the many contributors to magazines, newspapers, blog sites and so on who have realized that Intelligent Design is not only scientifically vacuous but also theologically risky.

In The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name Coyne writes

Coyne wrote:

Intelligent design, or ID, is the latest pseudoscientific incarnation of religious creationism, cleverly crafted by a new group of enthusiasts to circumvent recent legal restrictions. ID comes in two parts. The first is a simple critique of evolutionary theory, to the effect that Darwinism, as an explanation of the origin, the development, and the diversity of life, is fatally flawed. The second is the assertion that the major features of life are best understood as the result of creation by a supernatural intelligent designer. To understand ID, then, we must first understand modern evolutionary theory (often called “neo-Darwinism” to take into account post-Darwinian modifications).

Coyne quickly focuses in on the unsurprising reality that natural selection is one of several mechanism. Even Darwin was clear about this. And yet ID proponents tout lists of scientists critical of Darwinian theory, while posing irrelevant and in fact misleading statements.

The DI has posed the question is such a manner that most scientists would agree and yet few would consider Darwinian theory to be flawed or even irrelevant. The DI statement reads

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged. (Discovery Institute 2004)

As Jerry Coyne and others have pointed out, this statement is self evident, as there are additional mechanisms of evolution which play a role. Since ID however refuses/is unable to present its own mechanisms, ID is doomed to play the role of ‘the eternal skeptic’.

Coyne wrote:

The third proposition is that most (though not all) of evolutionary change is probably driven by natural selection: individuals carrying genes that better suit them to the current environment leave more offspring than individuals carrying genes that make them less adapted. Over time, the genetic composition of a population changes, improving its “fit” to the environment. This increasing fit is what gives organisms the appearance of design, although, as we shall see, the “design” can be flawed.

Coyne carefully explains the vaste amount of evidence supporting evolutionary science. He comes to the obvious conclusion

Coyne wrote:

Given the copious evidence for evolution, it seems unlikely that it will be replaced by an alternative theory. But that is exactly what intelligent-design creationists are demanding. Is there some dramatic new evidence, then, or some insufficiency of neo-Darwinism, that warrants overturning the theory of evolution?

The question is worth asking, but the answer is no. Intelligent design is simply the third attempt of creationists to proselytize our children at the expense of good science and clear thinking.

Dembski’s latest attempt to refute Darwinian theory is by arguing that in a closed system, information can only decrease. Of course, while interesting, nothing prohibits in an open system, information to increase. Dembski may argue that this merely displaces the origin of information but unless the source is supernatural, intelligent design is not going to answer the question either. Similar to the SLOT arguments of the 80’s and 90’s, Dembski is erecting his own strawman of ‘information’ and displacement.

Talkorigins has an excellent introduction to Information Theory and Creationism