Saturday, October 01, 2005

Is "Intelligent Design" Really Science?


I have been following the recent articles in the news about the debate in the courts between intelligent design and evolution and it is driving me crazy to see that so many who think that they are well informed are actually utterly and completely ignorant. Now I just want to point out in the beginning that I am a neo-Darwinist who believes that the universe is about sixteen billion years old and I also think that the hypothesis of intelligent design is legitimate science. How can that be!? Isn’t intelligent design just another label for old school biblical creationism?

That is certainly the impression that you would get from the media or from talking to most Americans and there are a number of reasons why. The first and biggest reason is that for the most part the only people going around supporting the hypothesis of intelligent design are religious fundamentalist who have no idea what the theory actually means except that they think it means evolution is wrong. And in turn most serious evolutionists become alarmed and think that they must man their battle stations to defend the minds of the youth of America from the encroaching irrationalism of religious fundamentalism.

From this perspective – which seems to be one shared by almost everyone – it seems obvious that the debate between ID and evolution is the same old debate that has been going on between science and religion since the time of Galileo. But wait! The whole reason I’m writing this post is to attempt to change your perspective. Do not let religious fundamentalism and simple minded scientism set up a false dichotomy for you.

The truth of the matter is that ID is primarily a metaphysical theory about the creation and ontology of information. The man most responsible for this theory is a well respected philosopher and mathematician named William Dembski. Essentially the theory boils down to the idea that modern mathematics is able to define in very precise terms what is and what is not information and that all real information is ultimately the result of intelligence. (see his paper)

So the real significance of the theory is not whether or not evolution is correct. Clearly evolution is the product of the laws of this universe just as a highly advanced program can be created through the evolutionary process of a genetic algorithm. The real significance of ID is that it makes ‘Mind’ ontologically prior to ‘Matter’. This however is nothing new. For years now the greatest minds in science have been telling us that the most appropriate way for us to understand physics is as an informational process – just check out Steven Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science”.

Well I’ll wrap up my ranting. I just wish people would stop thinking about scientific theories as political factions. Read Dembski’s paper and think about it and you’ll see that the only thing ID threatens is the materialist world view not science or Darwinism and then you can join me in wondering why everyone is so afraid of it.


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