Friday, January 24, 2014

Does intelligent design provide a plausible account of life’s origins?

Two writers go head to head. . . .
The Cambrian Explosion and the Combinatorial Problem
By Stephen C Meyer
We count on scientists to tell us what they know and don’t know—not just what they want us to hear. But when it comes to the contentious issue of the evolution of life on earth, spokesmen for official science are often less forthcoming than we might wish.
When writing in scientific journals, leading biologists candidly discuss the many scientific difficulties facing contemporary versions of Darwin’s theory. Yet when scientists take up the public defense of Darwinism—in educational policy statements, textbooks, or public television documentaries—that candor often disappears behind a rhetorical curtain. “There’s a feeling in biology that scientists should keep their dirty laundry hidden,” says theoretical biologist Danny Hillis, adding that “there’s a strong school of thought in biology that one should never question Darwin in public.”
The reticence that Darwin’s present day defenders feel about criticizing evolutionary theory would have likely made Charles Darwin uncomfortable. In the Origin of Species, Darwin openly acknowledged important weaknesses in his theory and professed his own doubts about key aspects of it.
Occasionalism Isn't Science
by John Derbyshire
Why can't the purveyors of intelligent design get a break? They have been plowing their lonely furrow for 20 years now, insisting on their right to a seat at science’s banquet and promising that their ideas will bring about a revolutionary overthrow of orthodox biology (which they call “Darwinism” for propagandistic reasons) Any Day Now. They drop heavy hints that biologists are in a panic about the instability of their foundational theories, but are anxious to hide their doubts from public gaze.
Really? One would naturally like to see some illustrative examples. Twenty years on from the inception of ID, the revolution seems as far away as ever. The ID-ers are still shut outside the banquet with their noses pressed forlornly to the window, and the ancien régime looks to be as firmly established as ever. What’s the problem here?
The least charitable skeptics accuse ID promoters of running a racket, taking part in the grand old American tradition of fleecing the rubes. (As the immortal Al Bundy told his acolytes while winding up for his sermon at the Church of NO MA’AM: “Now it’s time to eece-flay the ongregation-cay.”) I’m a cynic, but not that much of a cynic. I have engaged in formal debate on Intelligent Design on three or four occasions. I once spent an hour in a room full of principals from the Discovery Institute (DI). They struck me as persons who believe in what they are selling. The Charity Navigator website lists their total 2011 revenues as $5.7 million, which is not a lot. The executives, according to that same website, are not extravagantly paid.