Wednesday, January 3, 2007

4:00 PM Posted by: M., 0 comments

from "Memoirs of an ex christian..."

I think this is a very interesting point. I still don't have a handle on what I may or may not believe about all this, but nonetheless I agree with this critique of the intelligent design defense.

Intelligent Design a black box?

Does Intelligent Design kill curiosity and inquiry? I found a really nice recording of a debate between skeptic Michael Shermer and Intelligent Design advocate Jonathan Wells (can be downloaded in MP3 format here) on evolution.I have much to say about the actual debate, but a comment made by a member of the audience (time: 49:39) during the question and answer session got me thinking about the explanatatory power of Intelligent Design. The audience member recounted a personal story of a nanny she had hired to look after her son. The nanny believed in Intelligent Design, and every time the audience member’s son would ask a question like “Why does it rain?” or “Why is the flower red?”, the nanny would answer: “because God made it so”. It was the same answer for all his questions, and soon he stopped asking altogether. Was the answer of “God made it so” killing his curiosity?

Jonathan Wells responded to this comment by saying that evolutionists are just as guilty by answering “Evolution made it so” to questions that kids might have regarding the complexity of life on earth. He might be right, but there is a crucial difference between the explanation of evolution and that of Intelligent Design. The difference is this: evolutionists can, in most cases, easily elaborate by providing an answer to the possible follow up question of “How does evolution make it so?” Intelligent Design advocates don’t seem to have an answer this question.

In fact, in seems to me that Intelligent Design advocates are not even attempting to provide answers for specific questions we have regarding nature. How did the designer create the clear fossil progression that we see in the fossil record? Did the designer create all these organisms separately, or was a form of natural selection used? Why do we observe whales with vestigial feet, human embryos with trails, and flightless penguins with hollow bones? Evolution at least attempts to answer these questions.

As Shermer correctly pointed out in the debate, Intelligent Design advocates are fond of attacking evolution without providing a testable theory of their own. When pressed by an audience member to provide a testable theory for Intelligent Design (time: 40:15), Jonathan Wells responded by saying that he isn’t obligated to propose an alternate theory. Isn’t this comment from Jonathan Wells the clearest indication of why Intelligent Design isn’t science?

So my question today to all who might read this: does Intelligent Design provide a suitable answer to why life is complex? Or is it simply a black box that provides a mysterious and unusable explanation, an explanation that stifles further inquiry into the natural world?

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