Monday, October 30, 2006

UD on Harvard's "Origin of Life" Initiative

Longtime readers might recall that I have, on several occasions, written favorably about abiogensis research. As it turns out, this means that, once again, I don't see eye-to-eye with Mr. Dembski.

I noticed on Uncommon Descent that Dembski posted on Harvard's "Origin of Life" initiative. As is his style, he simply makes a wry comment and then pastes an excerpt from some an article.

Dembski's comment:
How much play do you think ID is going to get in Harvard's new origin of life initiative[?]

Of course, the question is rhetorical: Dembski knows the answer: the answer is none.

His manner of asking it, however, is meant to imply that the answer is "none" because of some vast scientific conspiracy.

In fact, Dembski is correct: the answer is none, because nothing is owed a "play" in scientific research, which self-organizes along a pecking order based on "put up or shut up." Dembski is preaching to his choir, one that tends to believe that research scientists view theists and theism as the enemy. This is false, as Dembski would know if he spent any length of time in an actual research environment. At least I hope that's his excuse--I hope he doesn't sing that "they hate us, they really hate us" tune knowing that it's a lie. At any rate, one of his great disservices to Christianity is that he is helping to make Science vs. Christianity a self fulfilling prophecy. He is doing his darndest to drive a wedge between the two--and many Christians, I fear, are taking the bait. Demonizing scientists is just another way that Dembski is very much like Ken Ham of AiG.

Perhaps, Mr. Dembski, if you care to make a testable prediction regarding Harvard's initiative they will give you some "play." In fact, I am willing to bet that if you can make a testable prediction from your theories and apply for research funding under this initiative that your proposal would be reviewed favorably. By all means, submit a proposal that states: My ID theory states that if you do this experiment: [fill in the blank] the result will be this: [fill in this blank too].

As it is, or at least as far as I know, ID makes no prediction beyond that of the theologian: Harvard's effort will fail to explain the origin of life. Though of interest, that's not a scientific prediction. Neither is its corollary: research into the origins question will only further demonstrate the implausibility of life starting by itself.

Though such predictions don't constitute scientific research, they are precisely why Christians (and IDers) should embrace and participate in the origins initiative. It's the same reason we should encourage cosmology studies or archeological research in Palestine. If you are worried that scientific research can undermine your faith, then I suggest you work on strengthening your faith instead of attacking the researchers. Attacking the researchers is Dembski's and Ham's approach, and it is bad scientifically and, more troubling, it is bad theologically.

Christians should be saying, in effect, "bring it on!" Dembski, for reasons that I cannot fathom, does not go beyond predicting that he won't be invited to Harvard's potluck, while conveniently ignoring the fact that, scientifically, he has nothing to contribute.

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