Thursday, April 06, 2006

I.D. Can Suck My Dick

I love how, while the "debate" rages on, paleontologists are quietly making discoveries like this.

The press coverage is given to over-use of the words "missing link" and hyperbole which makes the good (I hope) scientist in me cringe but it's still a remarkable discovery.

I think this article on the subject is especially interesting for the last sentence:

"When a fossil like this fills a big gap, two smaller gaps are created, Shubin said, leaving the possibility that better transitional species have yet to be discovered."


This is, of course, an ending which screams for exploitation by those looking to discredit evolution, evolutionary biologist, paleontologists, and any number of Satan's other minions.

But then, that's the problem with intelligent design, or really any faith-based "science."

Not to state the obvious or anything but I.D. lacks in one of, if not the, main tenants of what I would classify as Good Science. I.D./creationism seeks to explain why we are here with the simple statement "because God made us."

There isn't much you can do beyond that. That's why it's faith-based.
You believe it, you don't seek to explain it.

Certainly scientists don't know everything and I.D. proponents will always be able to raise some question that will make a scientist say "I don't know." but in real science, good science, there is no shame in saying "I don't know."


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

-Begin Devil's Advocacy-
I'd just like to say, as a well known advocate for the devil, that it is erroneous to conflate Intelligent Design with Creationism. Creationism does indeed, as you categorize, seek "to explain why we are here with the simple statement 'because God made us'; however, Intelligent Design simply stipulates that 'some intelligence made us'. The distinction, of course, depends on how one reads 'some' and 'made'.

I happily concede that there is an interpretation of 'some' and 'made' that includes the intervention of a/the God, in the traditional, Creationist conception. I don't call what these people believe Intelligent Design though, because it's already called something else, known by a far more appropriate, and specific, moniker: i.e. Creationism. Of the theories relating to the progeny and speciation of life on this planet, Creationism is, I suppose, correctly labelled as an element or subset of a group of theories known as Intelligent Design, though it (Creationism) is a rather poor construct and quite flimsy as far as most theories go.

But to illustrate the previous(er) point: take, for example, solipsism. I think it would be fair to claim that a true solipsist would hold a rather firm belief that all the species and animals and people in the world that don't exist as more than figments of this solipsist's imagination all have a shared progeny: in the solipsist's own intellgence, subject to this intelligence's own design. Clearly too, unless this solipsist believed himself to be a/the God in the religio-structural sense, he would not also be a Creationist.

But in any event, it is me acting as my own advocate (as opposed to the Devil's now) that feels inclined to suggest that modern evolutionary theory has something quite significant to learn from Intelligent Design (at least certain, highly specific, and very special formulations of I.D. that is). Let me be as precise as I may: modern evolutionary synthesis is a very good treatment of historical evolutive forces, functions, speciation, selection, population genetics and what not, but in a contemporary sense, in an anticipatory sense, in the sense that evolution is still going on today, I think it's missing a crucial element. This element, perversely if one hates and advers Intelligent Design, is an appreciation of the role modern intelligence(s) have in both shaping target genetic structures, and in manifesting recognizably evolutive changes in populations that may not, or do not, have strictly genetically-heritable traits.

What I mean to suggest is that intelligence is not strictly heritable. If your parents are dolts, that doesn't mean you're going to be one, and at the same time, intelligence manifests and compounds itself (intelligence operating on the shoulder's of giants; two intelligences in tandem are superior to the sum of them operating in isolation due to dependency-blindness; wastage; etc). What I mean to suggest, I suppose, is that the foundation of intelligence is described and accounted for historically with evolutionary syntheses, but in a contemporary sense, it is not. With the exploding population growth of sapien-sapien has come a commesurate intelligence explosion that cannot be accounted for in terms of evolutionary sytheses; our brains are not exceptionally different, certainly not as exceptionally as the state of our intelligence-art is exceptionally different.

The consequences become more apparent when you start to examine potential consequences of this unbounding of intelligence. For example: say some smart little computer engineer builds a computer chip that one sticks into one's brain, to double, triple, or quadruple one's own intelligence. This computer card certainly lacks a genetic component, this card is certainly not 'heritable' (his kids won't have them), and if he doesn't share the card with anyone, there is no effect on population. Is the engineer properly identified as a new species? Am I a new species if I take a blow to the head that destroys half my brain and makes me a moron? Why would it make a difference if intelligence is increased rather than decreased?

Now imagine too if Mr. Computer-Engineer with his multiplied intelligence used this intelligence to dream up an even more effective computer card for his brain, and then another, and another. As intelligence piles on intelligence, as ability piles on ability, it would seem that the rate of change in the system would increase, essentially unbounded, until there would be no more point in actually comparing the engineer to a normal human, in terms of intelligence, as there would be in comparing oneself to a frog.

But back to the point: intelligence has become its own attractor in the chaos of evolutionary-operators. We might engineer a new type of corn, or a new type or person. In either case, it seems perfectly appropriate to describe the process of doing so as "Intelligent Design". Again: some intelligence made it. Historically, intelligence has always been at work in affect evolutionary change, just to a much smaller degree than it could and potentially already is affecting it today (whether by design or not). If we project further rises in individual and group intelligence, and we similarly combine this with increases in ability to avoid traditional selection paths (disease, war, population density, mutation, genetic re-engineering, etc), it seems that the evolutionary theory becomes a trivial factor in evolving humans (and perhaps too all other species in contact with humans due to intended or unintended direct manipulation) when compared to the role 'Intelligent Design' may or will have.

In this sense, I can't help but feel that evolutionary theory is true and useful as a reflective instrument, describing how things got to be the way they are, but not at all useful as a descriptive or predictive instrument, able to describe the way things are now or the way they will be. Because the theory only operates (operates best?) in describing relationships among observations that have already been made, and that it is only useful in this capacity because of an entrenched opposition to "Intelligent Design", I remain confident that the two branches have much to teach (and prune from) the other.

Ann Thrope said...

Please, lets not play dumb.

Intelligent Design (R) the idea introduced by the Discovery Institute is merely dressed up creationism.

It's insidious in that it allows people to play devil's advocate but, as most people not looking to verbally blow themselves in my comment section are able to intuit and acknowledge, Intelligent Design as currently being championed is actually God Design.


I.D. seeks to explain how we got here, not where we’re going. I think that the flaw in your advocacy is that you’re looking at the latter. While this is admirable in that it allows for the oft-overlooked fact that humanity isn’t in stasis and we aren’t the final product of millions and millions of years of evolution I really think it’s overlooking, or being purposefully obtuse to, the current “intellectual” climate in the “field” of Intelligent Design.

So to sum up, I.D. seeks to explain why we’re here with input from an outside Intelligence. This Intelligence is generally accepted/assumed to be God. It is not a valid scientific theory that should be taught along side evolutionary theory in school. It could be included in some classroom settings if curriculum seeks to address the future evolution of humanity and re-appropriates, or better yet creates a new term for, the phrase intelligent design.

However, we can’t see into the future and this isn’t science. But we do already have another word which fits quite well and that is “speculation.”

Peter said...

The difference between science and "intelligent design" is that science holds out the possibility that things are not as we think they are while proponents of "intelligent design" insist that the conclusion can only be one thing: the universe was intelligently designed.

The practice of science is the use of an algorithm whose purpose is to find more accurate information about the world, where accurate information is defined as that information which provides the best predictions or leads to the most useful technology.

"Intelligent design" leads to no predictions and no useful technology. Why not? Because "intelligent design" does not follow the scientific algorithm: find a problem, formulate a potential solution, test your solution; if your solution doesn't work, try another one. The program of "intelligent design" is the antithesis of science: deny the problem exists, explain why you are right in a non-testable manner, insist that no one believes you because you are right; if no one believes you, change the name of your movement from "creationism" to "intelligent design."

Adam said...

I noticed your "devil's advocacy" has no "end." By the time I got to the end of your epic ramble, I wasn't so sure you were playing devil's advocate anyway. Did you just preface your "argument" with the phrase so people would be less likely to point out that it was erroneous?

Like Ann said, you are extrapolating with an intelligent design of your own definition. The intelligent design that is being lobbied across the country is seeking to interpolate. And I'm not speaking in a mathematical sense when I say that. I'll be clear on this. ID seeks to change or falsify science by introducing incorrect material. That is the interpolation I'm speaking of.

Making indefensible shit up does not count as science.