Random confusion by design?

These days it’s hard to visit the few pro-ID sites and not be greeted by a level of scientific ignorance matching and in some cases even exceeding the level of scientific vacuity of ID itself. Point in case is a recent contribution by Logan Gage titled Francis Collins on Square Circles

If the Discovery Institute’s Center for the renewal of Science and Culture were serious about its quest to improve science education, especially evolutionary biology, then it should spend some time educating its spokespeople.

Gage objects to Collins’ position on evolution and Christianity, ‘arguing’ that an unguided and random process could not possibly involve a deity. Let’s count the many confusions:

Gage wrote:

If, however, you are talking about God using Darwinian evolution, as Collins did, you are ultimately forced to either believe in a God who doesn’t interact with his creation, the God of Deism, or an illogical God who can guide an unguided process.

In other words, just because a process can be unguided, it must be unguided. In other words, even God himself cannot use and manipulate the process? That’s a weird position as this means that God needs to violate natural law according to Gage. Even worse, it denies any possible role in a process which can be explained by appeal to natural processes. Nevertheless, unwittingly Gage has strengthened my claim that the design in intelligent design, has to be supernatural as anything that is reducible to regularity and chance fails the design inference.

If Gage were familiar with Darwin’s work he would also realize that artificial selection by breeders was presented prominently as a foundation for Darwin’s claims about natural selection. According to Gage, since the process of natural selection is unguided, artificial selection is an impossibility, or at least illogical for a deity to use.

I know at this point some readers are saying, “Oh, come on. We don’t have to believe that the Darwinian process is random!” My response: What have you been reading? Of course the evolutionary process need not be random; but a Darwinian process—by definition—does.

Gage then quotes from a letter written by 38 Nobel Laureates which clearly contradicts Gage’s position

According to an open letter sent last year to the Kansas State Board of Education by 38 Nobel laureates, evolution is “the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” (emphasis added).

First of all the process of variation and natural selection as proposed by science is indeed unguided. Whether or not there is an additional entity or entities that interact, and guide the process or have set the process in motion, is not a scientific concept. Furthermore, calling variation random does not make Darwinism random, in fact, most anyone familiar with the theory would know that Darwinian theory is NOT random. It’s this non-randomness which formed the basis of Darwin’s magnificent idea. And finally, the term ‘random’ basically refers to the concept that beneficial mutations do no arise preferentially, which does not mean that mutations cannot be biased based on past performance. In fact, the idea of evolvability, the capacity to evolve, is based on exactly this idea. Not surprisingly, evolvability can arise under selective processes. A good example is neutrality which is an important concept when it comes to evolvability and although somewhat counterintuitive, neutrality is a selectable feature.

The question is: Are ID activists really this confused about evolutionary theory or is this a confusion by design?

In the former case, one may understand why so much of ID is scientifically vacuous, in the latter case science can provide a useful service by exposing the vacuity of the confusion and guide those interested in good science to see how the process of evolution has nothing to say about the (non)-existence of a deity.

Perhaps it’s time for the Discovery Institute to teach the real controversy, namely the fallacious belief that Darwinian process is random and that an unguided process does not mean that it cannot be guided as well.

I’d hope and expect that ID activists will quickly distance themselves from these flawed arguments. I wonder how much of this confusion is due to the confused and often equivocating writings of the ID movement, promoting a confused view of science as well as theology. In the name of good science as well as theology, I suggest that we teach our children what Darwinian theory is, not what some believe it should be.

Does Gage even realize that by claiming that either Darwinian evolution is wrong, or the process is unguided and thus does not need a God, places the faith of millions in the hands of a well established scientific paradigm. Is faith worth that little these days?