I just got done reading a review at reasononline of Randy Olson’s newly released documentary movie, Flock of Dodos (http://www.reason.com/0608/cr.ks.endangered.shtml or click the word Link at bottom of post), and as usual I'm stunned that there is still such strong opposition to evolution in this day and age. While I haven't seen the movie, I agree that many supporters of evolution have been less than eloquent when engaging supporters of intelligent design (ID), the belief that modern species as we observe them are just too complicated to have been produced as the result of random genotype mutations (genotypos?) over incredibly long periods of time. However, I agree with the Mr. Olson's assessment that egos and the possible destruction of peoples' world-views are at stake here and more civil discussion is required if evolution is to be accepted generally in the manner fitting its stature in the scientific community.
It's only fair to say at this point that I believe that the theory of evolution more than adequately explains how living things got to be the way they are. While I am not a biologist, I respect all endeavors scientific and am in awe of the sorts of things that giants like Descartes, Newton, Darwin, Clausius, Maxwell, Mendel, Planck, Einstein, Pauling, Wegener, Watson & Crick, Feynman, and Hawking, among many others, have managed to see that we mere mortals simply could and can not. The systematic approach, peer-review process, and predictive power required for an idea to become a theory which, in science, holds an elevated position of acceptance not consistent with the more colloquial usage of the word that tends to mean something akin to an opinion. This is the source of much of the non-controversy as I see it (as illustrated by
The primary schism as I see it is that this supposed controversy has prompted many who support ID to press for its (or some variation’s) inclusion as a topic to be introduced on equal footing with evolution in public school science classes, to teach the controversy. This, in a word, is absolutely, freaking preposterous. Establishment Clause arguments aside, ID doesn't even come close to having passed the rigorous screening process of the scientific method and to argue for its acceptance as a scientific theory subverts the entire enterprise of science and cheapens the hard work and belies the absolute genius of the luminaries mentioned above. Science is not a way of knowing but it is way of finding out. Simply put: nobody found ID. It was presented dogmatically and there is no way to either accept or deny its truth value on the basis of empirical investigation and as such, it is not science.
While I must disclose at this point that I consider myself to be an agnostic, I have absolutely no qualm with people believing whatever they wish to believe. If believing that someone’s keeping a tally of your transgressions and contributions compels you to behave in a more moral and civil manner then that’s great. There is no shortage of people behaving nicely towards one another in this world. This is a great country and our founding fathers saw to fit to make that the very first civil right afforded by the Constitution and it is in the First Amendment that I find my own minority belief validated. However, the root of ID, and its cousin nearing retirement, creationism, is simply the result of a literal interpretation of the Bible. The sincerest conviction on the part of any group of people – even if that group composes a majority – is not sufficient to grant the status of theory on any idea that comes along. Science is not a democracy but, rather, it is a meritocracy. A scientific theory must actually provide sound explanations for the past events, present observations, and future anticipated behaviors of the natural phenomenon it purports to model. It is the will of nature and not that of the people that dictates which hypotheses attain the lofty status of theory amongst scientists.
There are many things held to be scientifically logical that are anti-intuitive. That a single photon of light will pass through two adjacent narrow openings, ala Young’s Double-Slit Interference experiment, or that an entire star’s worth of matter can collapse upon itself and compress to just a few miles in diameter and suck in everything nearby – even light – as in the case of black holes are not easy to believe. And, yet, they are completely accepted by even non-scientists for one basic reason: they do not contradict commonly held Christian dogma.
It’s time for ID to go the way of the dodo, its utility having been completely spent. It has been said that the most common application of rational thought is to justify that which we already believe and, as such, supporters of ID need to carefully examine their argument’s premises. It is for this reason that evolutionary biologists find the debate tedious and eventually lose their tempers when arguing their case. Granted, it’s not the best way to convey such a profound message but any sensible person would likewise become frustrated in the face of such illogical defiance. If Christianity is half of what its believers say it is, it is seemingly more than robust enough to survive and, indeed, thrive, despite the fact that the Book of Genesis is not the unerring word of their lord. It is allegedly much more than a story about where the world came from and who the first people to walk the Earth were and will continue to encourage its followers to practice good-will, empathy, and altruism despite its historical shortcomings. Scientists do not dictate to the clergy the content that they deem suitable for presentation on matters of faith. The faithful should, likewise, let the scientific community determine what conclusions to draw from their own empirically derived data and, it follows, what is appropriate to teach in science class.Link