Is Intelligent Design Science?

The question in our title was crushingly answered in the negative in the Kitzmiller case, after the advocates of Intelligent Design (ID) testified under oath. We wrote about it here: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science? We will briefly quote a portion of Judge Jone’s opinion:

We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:

(1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980′s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Judge Jones goes into considerable detail, all of which is quoted in our earlier post. But the fiction that ID is science continues to be proclaimed by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

We see this in their latest post — So, If “Psychology Isn’t Science”…. It’s by Bruce Chapman, whom we affectionately call “Chappy.” He’s the founder and president of the Discovery Institute. Chappy’s position makes him Lord High Keeper of the Discoveroids’ Wedge strategy, and the ultimate leader of all Discoveroids. Chappy says, with bold font added by us:

Every so often an article appears taking psychologists to task for claiming the purple mantle of “science.” As Alex B. Berezow explains in the Los Angeles Times, in the latest of such articles, the rules of science are strict.

“Psychology isn’t science,” he contends, “because psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.”

That’s interesting, and it’s not a bad description of the requirements of laboratory science, but it doesn’t define science. In fact, the article Chappy’s talking about doesn’t present it as a definition of science — it’s about “rigor,” which can be present in varying degrees. In fact, far from being a definition of science, the article’s really about some faculty rivalries, and it says:

There has long been snobbery in the sciences, with the ‘hard’ ones (physics, chemistry, biology) considering themselves to be more legitimate than the ‘soft’ ones (psychology, sociology).

That’s not much of an authoritative source, but it’s good enough for Chappy. He then asks:

Are those, in fact, the agreed requirements of science?

Shouldn’t Chappy know that? It doesn’t take much Googling around to find some workable definitions: See these provided by the National Academy of Sciences: Definitions of Evolutionary Terms. They define “science” as:

The use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.

That sounds better than what Chappy found in the newspaper. Anyway, having found a definition he likes, which isn’t much of a definition, he continues:

Sometimes one sees them [the newspaper's five requirements] applied in similar fashion to intelligent design. But, strangely, they don’t seem to get applied to evolutionary biology, and specifically to neo-Darwinism.

Maybe that’s because the status of the theory of evolution isn’t in question in legitimate scientific circles. Anyway, we know where Chappy’s going with this, but let’s watch him get there:

In that field ["neo-Darwinism"], terms’ definitions often change depending on the audience (“evolution” itself being an example). Quantifiability? (How?) Highly controlled experimental conditions? (You’ve got to be kidding.) Reproducibility? (Name one.) And, “finally, predictability and testability.” You can get a lot of hand waving over this topic, but no precision.

Observe, dear reader, that Chappy doesn’t even try to claim that ID meets any of those five requirements for scientific rigor. As for evolutionary biology, given the nature of the science it does just fine where the data permits (for quantifiability, see Mouse to Elephant in 24 Million Generations). What about predictability? No problem (see The Lessons of Tiktaalik).

So while Chappy is relying on an article in the Los Angeles Times to claim that evolution isn’t science (while ignoring the screamingly obvious shortcomings of ID), we’ll continue to rely on well-established criteria, according to which we have nothing to worry about. Chappy, however, has a lot to worry about — by any definition.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Is Intelligent Design Science?

  1. docbill1351

    Unfortunately, Chappy suffers from “short mans” disease and compensates by attempting to sound scientifical. However, all he can muster are opinion pieces from newspapers.

    Gee, Chappy gets no respect from scientific journals like Science or Nature because the sum total of “intelligent design” creationism articles there is ZERO.

    So, old Chappy must get his kicks at the Lafayette Journal and Courier and the Bartlesville Enterprise Examiner, not to mention (but I will) the Bentonville Advertiser (Wednesdays only! Coupons! Coupons!).

    What is astounding is that after over 20 years of work the Dishonesty Tute still can’t make a case for ID, much less define it, and saddest of all their whining hasn’t gotten any better.

    That said, I do detect that Gerbil Second Class Luskin seems to have developed a thin skin lately, stung by “nasty” comments. Awwwwww, it must have hurt the horse he rode in on, too!

  2. Hey CHAPPED,
    I’ll use just one aspect of one science to waste your incredibly bizarre arguments in your article.
    1. Quantifiability—-every stratigraphic correlation by every geologist worldwide shows
    in hundreds of thousands of examples that life
    forms are confined to for correlate able
    Beds. Radio metric dating using basic physics confirms the bed ages worldwide.EPIC FAIL CHAPPED
    2.Highly controlled experimental conditions.
    The stratigraphic beds of the earth are one huge lab for those capable of logic. You aren’t Chap.
    The potential to observe the record of evolution is visible in every major outcrop, every oil well ever drilled where a micro paleontologist collected samples. EPIC FAIL CHAPPED
    3, Reproduceabilty- okay name one.
    Ammonites.,They are perfect trace fossils.
    They are planktonic limited to marine sediments and easily correlateable by species in beds of different ages in the earths strata.,EPIC FAIL amd a huge ethics violation CHAPPED .
    4. Predictability Archaeopteryx . One of hundreds of transitional fossils.
    Epic fail DI
    Excuse me I’m going to go barf now after reading that DI tract.

  3. Even the believing dodos reading this clap-trap have to be thinking the same thing …

    how DO those five rules apply to ID?

  4. ID peddlers like to claim that ID is science (yet do everything possible to undermine that claim). They also like to claim that ID is not “creationism.” So have they ever gone on record claiming that “creationism” is not science?

  5. It may be difficult to define science, but even if it is impossible, that doesn’t mean that some things are clearly not science. As long as “intelligent design” has no positive, substantive description, as long as it’s dependent upon “something has got to be wrong with evolution” rather than what happens (or when, where, how, etc.), it isn’t a discipline of any sort (historical, esthetic, athletic, etc.), but is more like an advertising concept for a social/political movement (something like “time for a change” or “more people prefer”).

  6. TomS says:

    As long as “intelligent design” has no positive, substantive description …

    Genesis has a chronology and a description of specific events (creation week, the Flood, etc.). Those events can be (and have been) tested, because they are expected to leave behind biological and geological evidence. ID, by comparison, is utterly lacking in specifics. It just waves a magic wand at whatever needs explaining and says that the designer took care of that, somehow, sometime. So Genesis is far more scientific than ID — at least in terms of being a testable hypothesis.

  7. docbill1351

    Attack Gerbil and Lying Weasel Third class Luskin is having an egg fight on his own site! Fun to watch. Gerb covers up his deceitful quote-mining by saying it was “no big deal, move on, nothing to see here” not so much missing the point, rather avoiding the point. Nice one, Gerb! Fooled us all.

    Then he says this and it’s worth quoting because it’s just so Disco Tutish:

    And what if a fossil has both dino-fuzz and true feathers? Does that imply some that the two structures are related? Without the a priori assumption of evolution, why should it?

    I don’t have enough palms to do the facepalm that’s needed here! No, Gerb, without the a priori assumption of reproduction there’s no reason to believe my son and I are related. Really, Gerb, REALLY????

  8. Doctor Stochastic

    ID is not science because it assumes its own consequent. Theories in science (and in correctly processed legal matters) are subject to refutation as well as confirmation. Such theories are subject to modification beyond even what Bach did to the subject in the “Goldberg Variations.” Theories are modified continually as new data is assimilated. ID (and its identical sister, Creationism) fail to change their constructs.

  9. Doctor Stochastic says: “ID is not science because …”

    Beep! [*Trap door opens beneath Doc Stoc, who plunges into the Lake of Fire*] Next candidate, step forward!

  10. Curmudgeon: “Genesis has a chronology and a description of specific events (creation week, the Flood, etc.)…So Genesis is far more scientific than ID — at least in terms of being a testable hypothesis.”

    Yes! Check this thread on Talk.Origins. (let me know if you can’t access it). It’s about video where NCSE’s Eugenie Scott says that YEC is “better” than ID. I haven’t watched the video yet, I would guess that it’s essentially the same thing she said 11 years ago., and which makes perfect sense. Why this is still treated as news, or worse, is mind-boggling.

    I see the problem, though, and how “Darwinists” who know far more about the science and the “controversy” than I do nevertheless keep falling into the trap. If we are ever to get anywhere in this debate we must stop framing creationism/ID as belief and instead frame it as a strategy to mislead.

    As you note, and which needs to be noted much more often, YEC (and classic OEC) do make testable statements. They fail of course, and often contradict each to boot. That ID avoids those testable clams is much more damning than it’s avoidance of the designer’s identity. They are all pseudoscience of course – wherever one chooses to “demarcate” – but ID goes beyond the cherry picking, bait-and-switch, quote mining, and is all about promoting unreasonable doubt by any means possible – phony conspiracies to replace God with Hitler are fair game – and leaving it to the audience to fill in the blanks.

    Remember this: If YEC or OEC had the slightest bit of evidence, ID would still play dumb on the designer’s identity, but not on the “what happened when.” ID is not “creationism lite,” it’s “pseudoscience xtreme.”

  11. Robert D Luskin is one of Lance Armstrong’s attorneys in the
    doping scandal. He recently attempted to block court testimony about Armstrong’s doping activites by Hincapie, one of Armstrong’s lieutenants.
    Hypothesis; is serial lying genetically linked to family of origin ? The alternative is that the correlation with Casey Luskin’s name is merely coincidental? Perhaps more research is warranted.

  12. Doltish creationists always misrepresent what reproducibility means (film at eleven). It doesn’t mean reproducing *evolution* (although that has been seen)–it means that the experiments scientists do and the results they get are reproducible.

    Like, you know, those thousands of experiments done with fruit flies, or in molecular genetics, that demonstrate all kinds of evolutionary principles. Those experiments, and their results, are reproducible, therefore reliable, therefore sufficient for accurate conclusions to be drawn from.

    Of course, the notions of conducting experiments and getting results are in themselves foreign to creationists, so we shouldn’t have great expectations.

  13. Garnetstar: “Those experiments, and their results, are reproducible, therefore reliable, therefore sufficient for accurate conclusions to be drawn from.”

    Or they would be sufficient if the fruit flies weren’t still fruit flies. ;-)

    Before anyone flames me, I recycled that obnoxious, long-refuted sound bite for a reason. Anti-evolution activists don’t just avoid testing ideas that they know will be no comfort to their target audience, they also keep spreading sound bites like that, which look reasonable on the surface, but fall apart on close inspection. But 99% of that audience, most of whom are not “creationists” in the sense of “committed Biblical literalists,” do not dig deeper, and come away with worse misconceptions, such as “I hear the jury’s still out,” or “what’s the harm, let them believe.” This is a war of sound bites, and unless and until we get straight which “creationists” we need to help, and which ones we need to expose as scam artists – we will continue to lose.

  14. FrankJ is absolutely right. It’s amazing how much harm the big tent performers can do with a few words. Even more so how difficult to undo the damage done by growing up in a Bible thumping family. We do need to do a better job of targeting which of those audiences we can help.

  15. It’s all scientifical looking if you squint real hard and hold your mouth right.

  16. Tundra Boy: “It’s all scientifical looking if you squint real hard and hold your mouth right.”

    To us. Now. But think back to when you didn’t have to contort so much to make pseudoscience look “scientifical.” Then sdd the sobering thought that it’s still that way for 90+% of adults, most of whom are not the hopeless ones whom we can ignore, because they’ll believe what they want with or without the “help” of the snake oil salesmen. Not just in creationism/ID, but astrology, aliens, ESP, crop circles, etc.