We haven’t posted much lately about what’s been appearing the blog of 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).
That’s because they’ve mostly been posting about their silly butterfly documentary, or else Casey has been giving his personal critique of biology texts — he doesn’t approve of them because they’re all about evolution. Well, today they finally posted something that’s funny enough for us to talk about: How Do We Know Intelligent Design Is a Scientific “Theory”?
To our delight it’s by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist, and apparently he’s the only one who isn’t a Discoveroid “fellow.” Last year your Curmudgeon compassionately remedied that cruel insult (see: Casey Luskin Is Named a Curmudgeon Fellow). Okay, here we go, with bold font added by us:
A question I commonly receive is whether intelligent design is a “scientific theory.” The word “theory” gets tossed around a lot as if everyone agrees on what it means. To answer the question, we must first consider the meaning of the word “theory.”
Casey has a history of attempting to re-define things so that the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design (ID) will then be scientific, and we’ve posted about a few of his earlier attempts. For example, see Tests for Intelligent Design! Such efforts are always absurd, but at least they’re amusing. Let’s see what Casey has for us today. He tells us about Peter Kosso, a philosophy professor. All the punctuation in this next excerpt is in Casey’s text, including the brackets:
In Kosso’s view, a theory “describes aspects of nature that are beyond (or beneath) what we can observe, aspects that can be used to explain what we observe.” Thus “[s]ome theories are true (atomic theory), some are false (caloric theory), and the scientific method is what directs us in deciding which are which.”
We know nothing about Kosso, but if Casey is quoting him (or purporting to do so) then it’s unlikely that Kosso is the last word in this area. It doesn’t take much Googling around to find some workable definitions: See Scientific Hypothesis, Theory, Law Definitions. Perhaps a better set of definitions is provided by the National Academy of Sciences: Definitions of Evolutionary Terms. At that second link, “theory” is defined — properly it seems — as follows:
A plausible or scientifically acceptable, well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena and predict the characteristics of as yet unobserved phenomena.
Kosso may be a fine chap, we don’t know, but scientists frequently cite Karl Popper, who famously said that a theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable. But we have digressed. Let’s read some more from Casey’s article:
Does ID meet this [Kosso’s] definition of theory? Yes, it does. ID is a theory of design detection, and it proposes intelligent agency as a mechanism causing biological change. ID allows us to explain how aspects of observed biological complexity, and other natural complexity, arose. And it uses the scientific method to make its claims.
It’s true that ID “proposes intelligent agency as a mechanism causing biological change,” but a mere proposal isn’t enough. Where’s the science? Where’s the evidence of this mechanism? By what experiment or observation could the proposed mechanism be falsified? Evolution makes testable predictions (see The Lessons of Tiktaalik).
But wait — there’s far more to ID than a biological mechanism. Casey says:
ID is not just an explanation of “some aspect of the natural world”: in fact it explains many aspects of the natural world. If we think in terms if just broad categories, ID proposes that intelligent agency is the best explanation for historical events like:
• the origin of the fine-tuning of the cosmos for advanced life.
• the origin of extremely high levels of complex and specified information in DNA.
• the origin of integrated systems required for animal body plans.
• the origin of many irreducibly complex systems found in living organisms.
Wow — ID is huge! But as we just asked: Where’s the science?
At this point we’re going to skip a big section of Casey’s essay in which he attempts to explain how ID “incorporates many facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.” It’s nothing but a list of unsupported claims — for example, that ID somehow explains things like the “abrupt appearance of body plans in the fossil record.” You can read Casey’s list at the Discoveroid website, if you like.
But claiming that the magic designer is the cause of those things is literally no different from claiming that Zeus caused them. If your Curmudgeon presented a long list of Zeus’ alleged accomplishments, it wouldn’t mean that our list is scientific evidence for the role of Zeus in our world. Does Casey understand what we just said? Probably not. Next he claims that:
[A] vast body of evidence can certainly be shown to back intelligent design. ID is well substantiated because a significant number of studies have confirmed ID’s predictions, such as:
We’ll ignore Casey’s catalog of nothingness, but it’s all there in his article for your perusal. Before you click over there to review his parade of evidence, you should know that it includes items like this: “experiments are showing irreducible complexity, such as in the flagellum, or multi-mutation features where many simultaneous mutations would be necessary to gain an advantage.” Yes, the Discoveroids are still waving the flagellum around and claiming that their magic designer did it — somehow. And here’s the article’s conclusion:
ID is supported by a vast body of evidence ranging from physics and cosmology to biochemistry to animal biology to systems biology to epigenetics and paleontology.
Therefore ID is a scientific theory — really, really it is. It belongs in all the textbooks, and it would be there except for the conspiratorial discrimination of those “Darwin lobbyists.” Right, Casey, but the Curmudgeon’s “Zeus theory” is every bit as good as ID. Better, really, because ol’ Zeus had an eye for the ladies. That’s a very good quality in a deity.
At this point we must repeat what we’ve said so often before: There are no data supporting the Discoveroids’ proposed “mechanism” of a magic designer — just a list of phenomena the Discoveroids attribute to the designer’s mysterious activities. Further, there are no tests which could ever falsify the claim that something was caused by the designer’s covert operations. So once more we ask: Hey, Casey — where’s the science?
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