Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Creationism unplugged ... and a musical interlude

Iris DeMentIn an active exchange of commentary in response to Genesis for the rest of us, Jason Harrow and others have debated the desirability of engaging proponents of so-called "intelligent design" as if those advocates had taken the first steps toward science. I have a simple if curt contribution to this discussion. When the "IDers" set up an experiment that allows everyone else to falsify their claims, we can ponder the proposal to treat "intelligent design" as a workable conjecture. The quotation marks don't come off one minute sooner.

"Intelligent design" is creationism unplugged. And creationism unplugged is creationism, just in a more soothing musical idiom.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I love acoustic music. Here's a particularly appropriate selection from one of my favorite artists, the infamously angelic Iris DeMent:


Blogger Jason Harrow said...

Professor Chen-

While I thank you for acknolwedging my comments, I want to point out that your response, while admirably brief, is hardly sufficient to answer the question of whether or not ID theory is "scientific" or ought to be engaged with.

After all, professor, let's put ID theory aside: I doubt that you could tell me how Darwin's theory is falsifiable. Is there a result that a scientist could announce tomorrow that would make you abandon your belief that undirected evolution is the proper explanation for the origin of life? A new species? A fossil? Evidence from DNA? Of course not: the beauty of a comprehenive theory like Darwin's is that it makes future results comprehenisble - but it does not by any means predict with certainty what we will find (though it does constrain certain possibilities).

In my opinion, the notion that theories ought to be classified as scientifically viable only if they are falsifiable exists in the same fantasy world as the President's "No Child Left Behind" policy: it'd be great if we could measure theories (or the acheivment of kids) on the basis of a single, standardized test, but, alas, we live in no such world. Both science and education are a little more complex than that.

As the fierce Darwin-defender and self-confessed atheist Peter Godfrey-Smith (of Harvard) writes, "There are serious problems with [falsifiability], and hardly any philosophers would accept anything as simple as this. It is a fantasy to think that big theoretical ideas in science are set up in such a way that they can be knocked out, with logical certainty, if some single crucial observation is found." Let's not make ID theory pass a test that a) ours can't pass either and b) isn't all that relevant in the first place (and for more G-S, see this blog post:

I look forward to the continuing discussion that I'm sure your new series of blog posts will ignite. Thanks for raising this issue.

8/30/2006 6:07 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Web Jurisdynamics