Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hoisted with our own Petards

ID suffered a big loss yesterday. Not because it cannot be in the science curriculum in the Dover Schools—it didn’t belong there in the first place—but because its image is presently in the pits.

The loss is deeper than it would first seem. ID is now persona non grata. In my science classes in public school—precursors to ID always came up for discussion. As I have blogged about before, those rabbit trails made science class more interesting to the entire 2D spectrum of students: weak to strong, atheist to theist. Those discussions are now effectively, if not actually, illegal—at least if they are initiated by the teacher. (If initiated by a student, a teacher will, most likely, feel compelled to stifle the thread.)

So where does ID go from here?

My suggestion—stop the politics, do the science.

Is ID science? My view, which I have expressed before, is that it is not—although I doubt if Judge Jones knows science from Shinola. I have no idea if my view is a minority view among IDers. It probably is—I rarely seem to be the majority.

At the moment, I think that ID, and this applies to both the cosmological and biological varieties, does not make any meaningful, testable predictions. This criticism also applies Susskind’s String Theory Landscape and other “acceptable” frameworks, but that’s their problem. The playing field isn't level, but unfortunately nothing can be done about it.

ID is scientific. It lives in the world of science—it tries to explain, in the broadest sense, all the data. That’s fine and valuable—but it is not the same thing as saying: go to the lab and do this experiment that has never been done, and I predict you’ll find X if ID is true but Y if the prevailing theory is true.

Let’s face it—we are not there. I don’t think we are even very close. At the moment we have only negative predictions, such as another universe will not be detected or there is no evolutionary pathway that can explain this biological system—those do not count. A scientific theory must do more than point to the problems of other models.

Should IDers give up? Of course not. The idea that God not only created the universe but left evidence of His creation is legitimate, worthy, noble and probably true. (That is—the part about leaving evidence is probably true—the idea that God created the universe is not part of the ID debate—only the evidence-left-behind question is relevant.)

What IDers should do two-fold:
  1. They should do science.
  2. They should do ID.

Doing Science

Too many people on both sides of the debate (including plenty of the most obnoxious bigmouths on the evolution side) are not doing any science. They are doing politics and talking or writing about someone else’s science. ID scientists (that is, scientists who are pro-ID) should do research and write peer-reviewed papers the same way science has been done for, now, hundreds of years. The papers will not be ID papers—they will be “politically” indistinguishable from other research papers. ID scientists should give talks, teach classes, attend conferences—discussing and presenting what is indisputably science. Nothing makes a scientist more credible than an impressive vita. ID scientists should be working on having impeccable scientific credentials.

Doing ID

After first taking care of the science, scientists are free to take care of the ID. Write popular books—give popular lectures—give radio and television interviews. Talk to youth groups. Talk to college groups. Talk passionately about how amazing science is and how it points to a creator. This activity should be viewed as a ministry that parallels a scientific career, not a career in and of itself. Nobel laureates such as Penzias or Townes talking about ID are worth an infinite number of lawyers fighting about ID. A scientist who is doing and publishing science while engaging in ID “on the side” will be viewed by his peers as eccentric—which is never a problem in science. The science community doesn’t care what else you do, as long as your science is solid. However, a person who does ID but no science is viewed as a fraud.

In the future, it may be that ID will make concrete predictions. At that time it can rightfully claim the mantle of science. In the meantime, ID has a lot to offer and a lot of work to do.

Let’s stop picking the wrong fights to fight. If you hope that science can someday show that ID is right and evolution is wrong, the best thing you can do at the moment is have the current generation learn as much as they can about evolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment