The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Monday, October 10, 2005

Intelligent Design Will Win?

A Tech Central Station column advances five reasons why. Victory can be declared, I suppose, if his predictions come to pass:

Intelligent Design theory is destined to supplant Darwinism as the primary scientific explanation for the origin of human life. ID will be taught in public schools as a matter of course. It will happen in our lifetime.
The approach is precisely the sort of haruspicy-based reasoning I deplore: advancing predictions instead of policy argument, so as to persuade that one might as well accept the inevitable. Anyway, here are his reasons. My comments follow each one.

1) ID will win because it's a religion-friendly, conservative-friendly, red-state kind of theory, and no one will lose money betting on the success of red-state theories in the next fifty to one hundred years.

I really don't get the sense that red states are much more or much less red than they have been in the past. It feels like these states are getting redder because the blue alternatives are getting worse all the time. Why, if ID is expected to "win", hasn't it won already?

2) ID will win because the pro-Darwin crowd is acting like a bunch of losers.
I guess you'll just have to finish reading this post and decide for yourself.

3) ID will win because it can be reconciled with any advance that takes place in biology, whereas Darwinism cannot yield even an inch of ground to ID.
That it can reconciled with any biological discovery is indeed a weakness. Given some set of underlying assumptions, we should then be able to formulate falsifiable predictions. This is hardly news. And so what if Darwinism cannot yield an inch of ground to ID? What matters is whether it must yield to new biological discoveries. When it must, it might be supplanted by more sophisticated evolutionary theory. Who says that the choice comes down to ID and Darwinism?
4) ID will win because it can piggyback on the growth of information theory, which will attract the best minds in the world over the next fifty years.
Only if ID is correct after all. If not, perhaps information theory will help to reveal ID's flaws.
5) ID will win because ID assumes that man will find design in life -- and, as the mind of man is hard-wired to detect design, man will likely find what he seeks.
Once we know better, we can check our instincts to some degree. But this whole point is a little misleading, and maybe more than a little. Are we hard-wired to detect design where there is none? Are we hard-wired to detect any "design"? We do tend to detect patterns in nature, even when careful analysis reveals only disorder. People often infer design from perceived patterns. But we frequently chalk up patterns to other phenomena, such as spontaneous order. I see many patterns in our market economy, but I don't infer any grand conspiracies from them.