I’m grateful for Michael Flannery’s less-than-favorable review of Evolution 2.0, because his review – and blind spots – exemplify why Intelligent Design, as promoted by the Discovery Institute, gets a black eye in higher education.
I’m not certain ID people understand how ID is perceived by the outside world – especially among practicing professional scientists.
Intelligent Design most certainly
can mean “goddidit.” It means precisely that to many, possibly most readers of Signature In The Cell, Darwin’s Black Box, etc.
ID can be a lens through which scientists recognize that “the same principles of design employed in architecture, computer science, and music are valid and necessary in science and biology” – in a manner that strictly conforms to the scientific method.
Similarly, evolution can mean “chancedidit”… or… scientists can conduct repeatable experiments and re-construct the chemical, genetic and information pathways that transform one species to another.
When practicing scientists – the ones with jobs to do, grants to secure and papers to publish – hear “Intelligent Design” or “Discovery Institute,” what they HEAR is:
“GodDidIt, and now they want it taught in schools.”
I don’t care what you say ID is, or how you nuance it, that’s what people hear. That’s what they hear in the press. That’s what they hear about the Dover trial.
To the average guy, ID is sophisticated Old Earth Creationism.
Flannery takes me to task for ignoring Stephen Meyer’s books. Mr. Flannery, you seem to have skipped Chapter 17 – “Why Is Neither Side Telling You The Whole Story?” where I take Richard Dawkins and Meyer to task:
Why didn’t Dawkins grant so much as three pages to the five best-documented mechanisms of evolution? Why does he act as though the last 50 years of microbiology and billions of dollars of research never happened? Oxford University’s former “Professor of the Public Under- standing of Science” wrote one of the most popular evolution books of the last decade, for which he received large advances and rode huge waves of media publicity.
So why isn’t he disclosing this?
On the other side of the fence, Stephen Meyer, in his pro–Intelligent Design book Darwin’s Doubt, makes an eerily identical set of omissions (130). Epigenetics gets decent airtime, but there’s no explanation of Lynn Margulis’ work on Symbiogenesis. Barbara McClintock, Transposition, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and Genome Duplication are touched on only briefly, mostly in footnotes.
The Evolution News and Views page frequently conflates evolution with atheism. The casual visitor would naturally conclude the Institute is anti-evolution.
When Meyer describes “Intelligent Design” as a solution to the Cambrian explosion, he offers no mechanism. There’s only an interpretive framework. I’ve never asked Meyer, but my impression has always been that Meyer is theologically predisposed against common descent; he’s just not coming right out and saying it.
This blind spot gives ID a black eye.
In the comment section on Flannery’s review, some readers fail to hear what I’m saying. Commenter “Mung” gets it, though:
A point Perry makes is that the ID community needs to start taking seriously how it is perceived by others, especially within science.
I recently witnessed an exchange between Casey Luskin and Perry Marshall, and Casey would repeatedly say that this or that feature was designed, and then just stop.
So whether or not that full stop indicated [insert designer here] or something else it certainly makes it appear to opponents of ID that that the default thing to insert is “goddidit.”
Perry’s argument is that until ID ceases to say therefore design and then stop there, it will always be perceived as a god of the gaps style argument that is a science stopper.
I agree with Perry about that…
Saying it’s not a designer of the gaps argument and that it’s not a science stopper doesn’t help if the typical offering of ID is for someone to say “therefore intelligent design is a better explanation” and stop with that statement.
If the goal of the ID movement is to get miracles accepted within science, so much the worse for ID. If it’s miraculous then it’s no better than goddidit. If it’s not miraculous, then there ought to be more that can be said than “therefore design.”
I’m not sure whether the Discovery Institute has a goal is to get miracles accepted in science or not. But I doubt anybody in our lifetime is going to get miracles accepted as science.
On the other hand, most folks don’t know the genome record strongly suggests that a hybrid of two species transitioned invertebrates to vertebrates; and that another such hybridization gave vertebrates a jaw.
Most people don’t know you can put bacteria and amoeba together (as Kwong Jeon did in 1987) and get a new symbiotic species in 18 months.
Most people don’t know the discovery Barbara McClintock won a Nobel Prize for – which is that cells re-arrange and re-program their own DNA in real time, making dramatic adaptations at high speed.
Evolution 2.0 is the first book in print that explains all this in plain English. From the standpoint of what you can buy in the bookstore, this is a bona fide third way that doesn’t pit science against religion.
Do I embrace intelligent design (lower case) writ large – meaning the universe is imbued with plan and purpose? Yes. But life also seems free to develop according to its own purpose. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that cells possess some form of consciousness. The rabbit hole of evolutionary systems runs very deep.
Do I identify with Intelligent Design the movement, such as it is defined by Discovery Institute? No. Not so long as these problems remain.
Last, a clarification. Flannery says:
Marshall is certain of his thesis, so certain in fact that he’s is offering a $10 million-dollar prize to anyone or group who can demonstrate a naturally occurring code…
Flannery presumes I “know” Origin Of Information is unsolvable. The prize currently stands at $3 million and I’m adding investors to complete my goal of $10 million. If one thought it wasn’t solvable, one might be tempted to just skip the fundraising and SEC compliance regulations and hope nobody calls our bluff.
Why go to the trouble? I’ll tell you what I told my investment group: I think there is a 10% chance someone will solve this in our lifetime. The business of searching for better discoveries is a better business than pronouncing what’s not possible.
Dear reader, what do YOU think? In your experience, in your conversations with friends, is ID a program of repeatable evolution experiments? Or is ID a search for divine intervention in the universe? Or both?
Leave your comment below: