Paper from the colloquium: In the light of Evolution
Eugenie Scott and Nicholas Matzke, from the National Center for Science Education, offer their analysis of how ID is making "a serious challenge not in the world of science, but in the world of public educational policy." It is a paper that reworks the NCSE position without contributing any new ideas to the debate.
These authors reveal an unqualified confidence that evolutionary theory has the answers. It is "replete with explanations for complex biological structures." It "continues to make progress in explaining such fascinating structures". They assert that there is "no serious scientific challenge to evolution." Underpinning theory are "fertile and unifying evolutionary principles". Anyone challenging such robust scholarly accomplishments must be deemed lacking in academic credibility, inevitably with a political or religious agenda! (If you don't recognise this as Darwinian spin, or if you want more input on this, go here).
Unfortunately the paper is very weak in its handling of complexity. Although the authors recognise the terms "irreducible complexity" and "specified complexity", they very quickly discard them in favour of mere "complexity". Thus, we read, "complexity is not a reliable marker of intelligent agency." Yes, exactly - that is why the terms irreducible complexity and complex specified information are needed! Failure to engage with ID arguments leads to a paper that completely misses the mark.
The authors do make a good point when they write: "complex biological 'machines' are always, upon investigation, found to be cobbled together from preexisting modules with other functions. Biological designs are not really 'purposeful arrangements of parts,' they are really adaptations of parts originally used for some other purpose." But this is a contrived assertion! What we find in the biological world, in most cases, is exquisite design and not the tinkering design of Darwinism. If we consistently found "cobbled together" design, the ID community would be much smaller than it is. Also, biomimetics, as a mushrooming interdisciplinary research activity, would not exist. Similarly, Systems Biology would have great difficulty developing a coherent methodology for research.
The authors go to great lengths to derive ID from creation science. No one will deny that connections can be made. However, Scott and Matzke overlook the fact that the ID community is capable of learning, of modifying its thinking, of maturing in its approach to science, philosophy and to education. What is needed is not an inferred 'guilt by association' exercise, but an engagement with the arguments. Unfortunately, there is very little of the latter for those who take the trouble to read the paper.
Biological design in science classrooms
Eugenie C. Scott and Nicholas J. Matzke
Published online before print May 9, 2007
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0701505104
Abstract: Although evolutionary biology is replete with explanations for complex biological structures, scientists concerned about evolution education have been forced to confront "intelligent design" (ID), which rejects a natural origin for biological complexity. The content of ID is a subset of the claims made by the older "creation science" movement. Both creationist views contend that highly complex biological adaptations and even organisms categorically cannot result from natural causes but require a supernatural creative agent. Historically, ID arose from efforts to produce a form of creationism that would be less vulnerable to legal challenges and that would not overtly rely upon biblical literalism. Scientists do not use ID to explain nature, but because it has support from outside the scientific community, ID is nonetheless contributing substantially to a long-standing assault on the integrity of science education.
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