Democrats & Liberals Archives

My Evo Fu Is Greater Than Yours.

Intelligent Design is like an amateur in a martial arts class who slept in the corner half the time, but still expects to earn a black belt when he’s done because he’s heard some other newbie did the same.

ID cannot compete on it’s own. Given time, a good theory could make its way to the textbooks and the classrooms based on its strength and general acceptance in the scientific community. But ID not only wants in now, it wants to determine the criteria for it’s own acceptance.

Science is a discipline, and disciplines by their nature are discriminating about what is proper technique. In martial arts, you can punch any way you want, but there are wrong ways to do it, and right ways. A conscientious master will tell you when you're doing it wrong not because they are dumping on you, but because they really do know better.

Punching the wrong way can end up hurting you. A punch is delivered with the first two knuckles of the hand, with the fist clenched at the last moment in a position where the arm is locked to the body, and the forearm and the back of the hand flat and parallel to the strike. The idea is to focus the force of the punch, and also avoid hitting the opponent or object in such a way that the force breaks bones or sprains joints Punching somebody with the bones of your finger can break those fingers. If your forearm isn't straight with your fist, the punch can twist your fist downwards, spraining or breaking the wrist. If you don't tighten your fist as you punch, a block could break the arm, unprotected by the untensed muscle.

Theorizing the wrong way can hurt one's ability to successfully map theory to reality. In the end, it's not about proving that theory. Your initial hypothesis is almost meant to be disproven. The idea is that as you test your hypothesis, your knowledge of other parts of the science will allow you to interpret the results, and determine what's wrong with your initial guess. As you correct it, you test your corrections. Gradually one refines a theory out of all that guessing and correcting.

How you do that is important. Do it wrong, and you'll end up wrong. One way to go wrong is to mistake an elegant model for an explained reality. This is one of ID's mistakes. It's got it's numbers, it's got it's tests for what is divinely or naturally created, but does it have any way of determining whether those numbers represent something real? The mistake is called reification: to make a thing out of a number that really is an abstraction.

Is there any way of proving that ID's mathematical gimmicks actually work? Well, you'd have to ask God.

Well, that's the problem. You can't, at least not in some measureable way. That's where ID falls apart as a scientific theory. You can't work it right. There's always that hole in things, letting the air out. You can only plug that up by saying that your intention is to unseat naturalistic, materialist science. You have to declare as invalid an entire discipline that has great reliability when it comes to determining the causes and the patterns of nature. Whose more likely to be wrong on this? The discipline with a track-record of actually working, or the upstart movement which can't even verify its central point with other natural evidence? I know there are people who want to prove to all the people out there that there is a God, but I don't think God needs the help.

In the end, the Religious life is a discipline all its own, and one whose context changes from generation to generation. Some may think that by opposing science, they enrich that discipline, but the truth is... Well, truth cannot oppose truth. If we are evolved, that is something to understand as religious people, not fight. If we live in a society filled with temptations, well, we have everything in common with every generation that's come before us.

In my last entry I spoke of the nature of conflict in stories and in life, of choices between mutually exclusive goods, and judgments between the lesser of two evils. I believe society creates the context of that, and technology helps create that society. Science creates and describes that technology. For so long, science has been viewed as the root of today's moral evils, but the reality is, that science is a tool for whichever purposes we choose. The choice between good and evil is still our choice. Maintaining antagonistic attitudes towards today's science only clouds the issue, and discourages people from developing a clear picture of the world in which they must make their choices. We have no choice about what truths science reveals, but we do have a choice about our response, and that is where we should put our interpretative powers to work.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 6, 2005 5:55 PM