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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why the predictions of ID's demise are false

Recently, a friend wanted some help in explaining to a hostile audience (1) why there is an ID controversy, (2) why it gets bigger, and (3) why it is not going away.

He was facing an audience, I expect, who would rather believe conspiracy theories than evaluate evidence.

His audience is probably a lost cause, but it may be worth a try if lunch is served.

Conspiracy theorists usually believe themselves more virtuous than their mythical conspirators, so their theories provide both pretended knowledge and pretended virtue at once. As a result, the theories are pretty hard to disconfirm by evidence.

However, there are always a few people who would prefer to orient themselves to reality. I address a number of relevant issues in detail here, here, and here, but here is q quick summary:

I suggested to my friend that a useful place to begin is to point out the following: The many predictions of ID's demise, based on current theories, have been so completely and systematically falsified that it is time to look for explanations with better predictive value. Not only did ID not die out after various court cases in the United States, but it is now pretty much an international thing - contrary to many predictions.

ID is not happening because the folks at Discovery Institute are clever and nefarious or because American fundies run the planet. Four factors mainly account for its continued growth:

1. The general acceptance of Big Bang cosmology focused attention on the mathematical probabilities of Darwinism. As if that wasn't bad enough, the world inside the cell turned out to be much more awesomely complex than anyone had realized. So, just when it should have triumphed, Darwinism received a one-two punch from reality. It is no accident that so many of the ID guys are in math, information sciences, and biochemistry, bioinformatics, etc.

2. Not surprisingly, the current generation of Darwinists operates on faith, mostly. The recent involvement of key ultra-Darwinists in the activities of the Church of Atheism is, under the circumstances, a normal and foreseeable development. You see, once you commit to materialist atheism, something like Darwinism must be true. That lifts a crushing burden from the shoulders of the Darwinist.

3. And the Darwinists themselves are largely responsible for the success of ID. The ID guys are smart enough to serve their turn, to be sure, but they have also been lucky in finding so many meatheads among their opponents. The persecutions of Rick Sternberg and Guillermo Gonzalez, to name two, left little doubt that Darwinists did not expect to succeed by convincing anyone of the sweet reasonableness of their cause or their methods.

But there is another factor that many observers miss:

4. The fact that Darwinism is the creation story of materialism says nothing, one way or the other, about whether it is an accurate account of origins - but an important consequence follows. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that it was an accurate creation story. The fact that it is any kind of a creation story at all means that it tends to be treated as both science AND religion. Those who affirm Darwinism often have a heavy emotional investment in it, in a way that they do not have in, say, continental drift. People notice this fact (it’s hard not to). That raises the justifiable suspicion that many arguments for Darwinism are put forward to boost faith, far beyond the argument's actual strength.

One can easily demonstrate this process from popular science magazines. Minor demonstrations of Darwinism are enthusiastically announced; major problems are downplayed or ignored. Wild extrapolations (evolutionary psychology, for example) and concepts far too vague to be science (e.g., the meme) are treated with a respect that would never be accorded to other sources.

The public is quite smart enough to see what is happening here.

The Darwinists' behaviour is easily explained psychologically as the behaviour of a religious sect unsettled by unwelcome new evidence about its account of history.

Now it becomes clear why predictions of ID's demise are consistently falsified. The question we should ask is, who is treated as an expert, when it comes to making predictions?

Ah yes! members and sympathizers of the Darwinist sect are treated as the experts on the challenges to their beliefs or on the people who present the challenges. In that case, we do not have a very reliable source of information. Thus, it is not surprising, let alone a mystery or a conspiracy, that predictions from that quarter would be wrong. Accurate predictions will not be possible until those who seek information cease to privilege the Darwinist sect as the preferred source.

Anyhow, I hope my friend will find at least one or two people in the room who would value the ability to make accurate predictions. Little by little, knowledge advances.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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