SMU Daily: The Discovery Institute: harming us with pseudoscience

The SMU Campus newspaper carried an opinion piece written by Ben Wells who is a junior anthropology major.

The article starts out by describing the political and religious foundation behind the Discovery Institute’s actions

This weekend Dedman Law School’s Christian Legal Society will be hosting a controversial and well-known institute that preaches a religious message masked in a capsule of pseudoscience.

Indeed, the Wedge document outlines clearly how Intelligent Design is meant to be a religious and not necessarily a scientific issue.

A controversial document (reported as the Wedge Document, a 1998 internal memo) stated the Institute’s goal was to “drive a wedge” into “scientific materialism” in order to divorce it from its purely observational and naturalistic methodology and stop the deleterious effects of evolution on Western culture.

Ben is quick to point out the real weakness in the Intelligent Design movement, namely its scientific vacuity

This is where the Discovery Institute fails. The claims they make, claims based purely on religious or supernatural grounds, can NOT be tested in the material world. I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god or gods via observable phenomena in the material world - and neither can the Discovery Institute no matter what they may tell you. If they do tell you this it is because they are saying it based on a spiritual and supernatural belief masked in scientific language - not in scientific language itself.

This explains why, contrary to claims by some ID proponents, ID does not lead to testable claims beyond ‘X cannot be explained by Y’.

Ben ends with a careful reminder

The Discovery Institute can believe in a deity - it is their right. The Discovery Institute can not pass off that belief as science. When they try to they only show their own inability to come to terms with our existence on this little pale blue dot. Believe in God, believe in humanity, believe what you will, but please realize that well practiced science is the best thing we as a species have to fight tyranny, environmental degradation, illness and suffering.

Amen. For an excellent examination of the history of the Intelligent Design Movement, I suggest the following book written by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross: Creationism’s Trojan Horse

For an excellent overview of why Intelligent Design fails to be scientifically relevant, read ecision in Favor of Plaintiffs Judge John E. Jones III, Middle District of Pennsylvania : Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District

and remember

Phase III. Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready. With an added emphasis to the social sciences and humanities, we will begin to address the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences.

Only problem is that ID forgot to present a scientifically relevant hypothesis of its own beyond an appeal to ignorance.