Archive for: May, 2012

Intelligent Design is Scientific Fraud AND It's Bad Religion

I'm posting this just to make sure the record is clear: I don't like Intelligent Design. The people who push it are culture warriors with a religious agenda that involves the denial of science. People who believe it are either confused and have been sucked in by those with an agenda, are cynical culture warriors who want to see science attacked, or are legitimate honest backers who really don't realize that by backing Intelligent Design, they're rejecting the fundamental basis of science.

I hope that's clear.

The reason I say this is that there is a post on the Intelligent Design blog "Uncommon Descent" that includes a quote from an earlier post of mine that appears to be supporting their argument. I reject their argument, and I reject the Intelligent Design behind them. The basis of their argument is that the "Darwinists" (a bad term, as it conflates science and religion) themselves can't agree about whether relgion is consistent with science, and so therefore you can't trust that it is. This, of course, has no logical basis. Hell, look at me and look at Uncommon Descent: thesists also disagree! What does that tell you about the issues behind them? Not very much. Trying to figure out what is true based on finding subsets of those who argue about it who have one thing in common but disagree on something else doesn't tell you a whole hell of a lot.

Looking at the post my quote is from, in retrospect, worrying that the ranting frothing of New Atheists is going to hurt free software is silly (Oracle, the closed gardens being built by the likes Apple and Facebook, the patent lawyers at Google, Samsung, Apple and others in the smartphone business, the MPAA and RIAA, and rhetoric over cyberterrorism don't need help from any form of atheists). However, I do stand by my rejection of the position on science and religion held by the New Atheists— those atheists who insist that modern acceptance of science requires atheism, and that having any form of religion is inconsistent with it. Not all atheists think that.

Any more than all Christians think that the Bible must be read literally, or any more than all Christians think that you must reject biological evolution.

So do NOT take my quote in the "Uncommon Descent" blog in support of what they're saying as any kind of support whatsover for the position taken by that blog.

Evolution is extremely well-established science. It is one of the cornerstones of biology. You can reject it, but in so doing you're rejecting the basic methodogy and mode of sciecne. And, I think that the evidence around us, the many huge successes science has had in describing our world and allowing us to manipulate it, makes rejecting science as a way of constructing reliable knowled rather absurd. New Atheists are sometimes befuddled by theists like myself who believe that there is wisdom in the Bible but reject things like the creation story as literal truth; how can you "pick and choose" is usually the sophomoric comment made in blog comment threads. Part of the reason of that is that in the intellectual mode of thought represented by science, you can't pick and choose. You can, and all of us are, be more convinced by some lines of evidence than others. Dark Matter is assuredly real, for instance, but Dark Energy, while I think it is probably real, may instead be a pointer to cracks in our theories. But you can't reject some lines of science because you don't like the results philosophically, if the scientific evidence is there. And the evidence for evolution is there, completely and overwhelmingly. Reject evolution, be it by being a classical creationist or by being an Intelligent Design supporter, and whether you know it or not you are rejecting science itself.

As for why I say it is fraud, that is well documented. While there are trained scientists out there who believe in Intelligent Design, honest ones who've managed to confuse and convince themselves that there's something to it, that's not where Intelligent Design came from. This has been well documented, in the case of the Dover trial and elsewhere. The lobbying organizations who push Intelligent Design and those behind the movement aren't scientists who beleive that they have a better theory, or even highly confused pseudoscientists like the backers of Plasma Cosmology, but they are (at least in the USA) Christians who think that science is a threat to their form of their religion. Intelligent Design was cleverly designed as a strategy to package creationism in such a way that it might be able to slip into school science curriculums where raw creationism was not able to. This is the way in which it is scientific fraud.

As for why it's Bad Religion— I covered that five years ago in my post Intelligent Design: a trap for Christians. Precisely because it's designed to sound scientistic, it allows Christians who think that accepting Christianity means that you can't accept modern science, including Evolution, to think that they're accepting science without having to reject their Christianity. But it's a trap, because as I've already said, it's not only bad science, it's fradulent science.

The real truth is that you can do what I have done, what Guy Consalmango (the Vatican Astronomer) does, what Ken Miller does, and what all the signers of the Clergy Letter Project do: accept modern science for what it is! Yes, some put an interpretational spin on it— evolution, you might say, may be part of God's engine of creation or some such. The difference, though, is that you don't have to deny the utterly rock-solid scientific truth of biological evolution, of mutations mediated by natural selection leading to change in species and the development of new species over time. Yes, you will find lots of Christains out there who say that you're fooling yourself by thinking you're still Christian (or a follower of whatever other religion— again, I talk from my point of view). Yes, you will find New Atheists out there who will hurl all sorts of insults at you about being intellectually dishonest because you haven't accepted the one true religion of atheism in your heart. (And you will be a bit struck by how the similar the fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist Christians sound. Indeed, look at that Uncommon Descent post I linked to— they're agreeing with the more annoying and frothy New Atheists such as the Jerry Coyne that things like Evolution Sunday and the Clergy Letter Project are no good. There's more common ground between the New Atheists and Uncommon Descent than there is between me and Uncommon Descent!) But there are lots of us out there— probably not a majority, given how sadly strong the right-wing religion movement in the USA is today, but probably a plurality!— who are in the same position, the position of fully accepting modern science while recognizing that one may be an atheist or one may be a theist at the same time.

If you're Christian, do not fall for the trap of Intelligent Design.

And if you're atheist, don't fall for the trap of New Atheism.

And, in any event, don't take my arguing against Intelligent Design as evidence that I'm a New Atheist or that I hate religion, and don't take my arguing against New Atheism as evidence that I'm in any way, shape, or form accepting of Intelligent Design.

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