Friday, August 04, 2006

A Darwinian Trojan Horse: Part Two

This is the second of a two part posting about a Los Angeles Times three book review by Robert Lee Hotz. Parts of the article appear in italics along with my comments in standard print.

Fundamentalist proponents of intelligent design, however, make no broad claim for classroom equality on behalf of all religions because, they insist to the general public, theirs is not a faith-based initiative but "a scientific dissent from Darwinism." But as evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne at the University of Chicago notes, one of intelligent design's leading proponents, William A. Dembski, undermines that objective stance: "[A]ny view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient." He quotes from Dembski's book "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology."

Substitute anything for science and you get a classic statement of Christian theology. Christ should be in everything a Christian does. This is no more contrary to good science than the many extra-scientific statements made by noted anti-Christians and atheists throughout the Darwin era. Start with Huxley and then Haldane, Sagan, Dawkins and many others. Why does it matter to Darwinists only when the theistic proclamations are of a pro-Christian nature?

Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, however, has no patience with conspiracy theory. The intelligent design movement is simply a "hoax," he writes. Although its proponents claim that theirs is a scientific endeavor, they so far have produced "no experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding; no observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking."

This is sheer hokum. To begin with results of scientific studies are ideologically neutral. Whether the scientists involved are advocates of evolution, theistic evolution, design, creation or anything else is irrelevant to the data produced. At the outset supporters of Darwin cited data gathered by creationists. There were not many Darwinists around. Did it matter? No. The data and its interpretation is what matters.

What they offer instead is a glib debater's ploy: "First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work, provoking an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence there is a 'controversy' to teach," Dennett writes. "You can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point amid all the difficult details."

Those difficult details are what constitute molecular biology, cellular biology, biochemistry and the like. Issues should be framed around details. That's what science is about. The misuse of a scientist's work is a canard and a tired one at that.

"Christians should embrace modern science for what it has done to reveal the magnificence of the divinity in a depth and detail unmatched by ancient texts," Shermer writes. "In contrast, Intelligent Design creationism reduces God to an artificer, a mere watchmaker piecing together life out of available parts in a cosmic warehouse."

A predictable theological argument. Actually God designs through encoded molecular systems whose sophistication rivals and exceeds codes produced by the human species.

Yet he finally embraced his brainchild, impelled by an unflinching intellectual honesty, the weight of the evidence and the imperative of an undeniable idea. "There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection," Darwin wrote, "than in the course which the wind blows."

When is the last time you observed the wind blowing a design resembling an encoding unit replete with a promotor region enabling a transcription polymerase protein to bind with an assist from transcription factors? How relevant is the wind analogy to enhancers that effect the transcription process itself? When is the last time wind created a design comparable to the histone proteins constituting nucleosomes and an ingenious code governing gene expression? Can the authors at least produce a sequence of events consistent with the much touted natural selection explanation detailing how a single gene and its regulatory mechanisms evolved? Would such a sequence of events be based on empirical evidence or the imaginations of the story tellers?


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