Saturday, February 11, 2006

Science losing war over evolution?

Is science really losing the war over evolution as Randy Olson claims? Isn't it interesting how the Intelligent Design - Evolution debate is framed as a "war" waged by ignorant media-savvy rich people against the poor intelligent scientists who just don't know how to express themselves. Apparently the free exchange of ideas threatens people enough to use such phraseology. Scientists tend to express evolution poorly because they are each specialists in particular fields of study and evolutionary theory is really a theoretical conclusion wrought from a philosophical worldview, not scientific deliberation, that creates a framework in which to organize the results of true scientific study and explain observable evidence. Intelligent Design is the same, except that it is exceptionally more likely than evolution to be true.

The philosophical worldview that serves as the premise for evolution is naturalism. The problem with naturalism is that it requires two assumptions. The first assumption is that the world is as it ought to be. The second is that "natural" is only that which is observable and that there is nothing else. The catch with the second assumption is that it begs the question that we know all that is observable. Take Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) for example. If you don't know much about how the Internet works, just click on "View" on your browser menu bar and click "source" in the menu that pops up. What you will see is a bunch of text that describes what you are looking at in your browser window. It may contain much of the text that you see in the window. It will at least contain code that accesses the source of the text. It also contains code that allows you to click on some text, images or buttons and go to different pages. Naturalism would claim that the only thing that is real is what is displayed in your browser window. It discounts that there is hidden text that describes what is displayed in your browser window. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, would allow for the possibility that there is hidden text that describes what you see in your browser window. The difference is that what is observable is debatable. In a browser we can click on the "View Source" menu option, but can we call what we observe in the browser window evidence that there is HTML code hidden somewhere? After all, observation is merely a subjective declaration on the reliability of evidence. If we observe something with our eyes, is it not merely light stimulating specialized cells in our retinas that is properly translated by our brains? Can we ascertain from this evidence that there is an object before us? This is the stuff of observation. To what degree can we determine that this world is merely the display with which we can observe something greater?

So naturalism, and thus evolution, inherently denies possible solutions. But Intelligent Design operates from the assumption that all possibilities are to be considered in order to arrive at truth. Understanding that all possibilities may not be known, it is reasonable to hold the position that while one may have calculated a high likelihood for a particular belief, there may be another possibility that could prove one wrong. For this reason, IDers generally do not disparage evolutionists like evolutionists disparage IDers.


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