National Post article on intelligent design

National Post Article on Intelligent Design

This is my comment on an article on the Intelligent Design movement entitled God's Two Books: Nature and Scripture, written by Elizabeth Nickson. The article was published on the internet by the National Post on May 5, 2001. Quotes from the article will be in italics

In her article, Ms. Nickson objectively reported the position of the Intelligent Design movement. Unfortunantly, she did not cover the position of the large majority of scientists who do not agree with the conclusions of the supporters of Intelligent Design. The article implies that mainstream scientists are at a loss to counter ID claims. This is definitely not the case. Intelligent Design proponents accuse mainstream sceintists of participating in a cover up conspiracy based on immoral atheism. That is bigotry, not science! ID design proponents certainly have the right to challenge evolution. But isn't it odd that Ms. Nickson says not a word about mainstream scientists challenging Intelligent Design?

A reporter doesn't have to have a scientific background in order to recognize the fatal flaw in ID reasoning: the untrue and unproven notion that evolution has to have taken place by mere chance. Ms. Nickson failed to question the basis of this icon of Intelligent Design.

While 90% of the members of the National Academy of Science consider themselves atheists, 90% of Americans believe that God created life directly or by guiding a gradual process. Nevertheless, publicly funded schools cannot teach creationism.

I suspect that Ms. Nickson has been misinformed. But it doesn't really matter. The Constitution of the United States prohibits government support of religion. Creationism is a movement dedicated to impose the teaching of sectarian religious dogma in our public schools. It has no scientific support. It consists entirely of unsupported attacks on science. Exhaustive evidence for this can be found in this web site and its links to other evolution web sites.

But science, backed by dozens of respected mainstream academics, trained at Oxbridge or Yale, posits, quite reasonably, by using logic and argument, that the weight of evidence leads one to suspect there just might be an overrearching intelligent hand at work in our universe, is very scary stuff indeed.

Where is the evidence? Where is the logic? There isn't any. The statement is merely the opinion of persons who invariably turn out to be fellow travelers with biblical fundamentalists. How does the possibility of an overrearching intelligent hand negate the possibility of evolutionary change? The answer is: it doesn't.

Such science [Intelligent Design] is demonized; teachers who attempt to outline its most general parameters have been fired, demoted or fined.

This is bigotry. Does a teacher have the right to reject public school course curricula and teach whatever he/she feels like? Does a professor have the right to disregard the academic course requirements? Perhaps, if he/she can provide factual evidence to support his/her viewpoint. But Intelligent Design proponents have completely failed to do so. Their arguments are based entirely on spurious attacks on evolutionary science.

In other words, intelligent design proponents say our very existence is far more conducive to a theistic view of the world than to the chance materialist view of Darwinists.

What is meant by the term "theistic?" It is naive to assume that it merely means that God guided the evolution process. In their public statements before religious groups, Intelligent Design leaders have made it clear that "theistic" means "bible based." (Notice how the phrase "chance materialist view" falsely assumes that evolution requires creation by mere chance alone.) ID proponents have not, and can not, provide any evidence for the above assertion. If not evolution, then what? Intelligent Design theory no answer, because no other alternative fits the factual evidence!

If the theory [Darwin's] were true, the fossil evidence should show lots of gradual change, with one species slowly grading into the next. In fact, it should be hard to tell where one species ends and another begins. But that's not what we find.

There are many examples in the fossil record of gradual change. Any mainstream geology professor could cite specific examples, but Ms. Nickson never bothered to follow up on the assertion. Fossilization is an extremely rare event. Most creatures, like the millions of American bison of the 19th century, simply disappear without a trace. ID proponents, like their blood brothers the creationists, simply ignore examples of gradual change in the fossil record and propagandize the cases where intermediate forms have not as yet been found.

This is what's known, in ID circles, as the Cambrian fallacy. That problem remains with us today. Most fossil species appear all at once, fully formed, and change very little throughout their stay in the fossil evidence. This problem reaches dramatic proportions with the Cambrian explosion, which began about 530 million years ago. Over a period of only five to 10 million years, a flash of geological time, virtually every major animal group (or phylum) appears in the fossil evidence. This is precisely the opposite of what conventional theory would lead us to expect and something which makes ID proponents rub their hands with glee.

No, it is not precisely the opposite of what conventional theory would lead us to expect and the statement that "over a period of only five to 10 million years, a flash of geological time, virtually every major animal group (or phylum) appears in the fossil evidence" is completely untrue. The "Cambrian fallacy" is itself a fallacy. Fishes do not appear in the fossil record until about 160 million years from the beginning of the Cambrian. Reptiles and mammals do not appear until about 450 million years from the start of the Cambrian. Except for bacteria and algae, no plants of any kind existed until 160 million years from the beginning of the Cambrian. Certain species, like the Coelacanth, can exist for millions of years without evolutionary change. Others, in response to environmental stress, may undergo substantial evolutionary change in 5 million years. None of this negates evolution. At the start of the Cambrian, marine animals started to develop hard parts, and therefore were much more likely to become fossilized. Evidence for pre-Cambrian soft bodied marine animals exists, but it is scarce for the obvious reasons: (1) most geological formations from that period have long since eroded away, and (2) soft bodied animals are extremely unlikely to become fossilized.

Darwinian evolution works by accumulating small genetic changes. Large jumps are anathema because they are too improbable and look too much like miracles. Each gene, then, had to be crafted one small step at a time. But if a gene can tolerate little or no change, there can be no line of evolutionary predecessors. Hence, intelligent design.

What is the evidence for this statement? It is merely an opinion of Intelligent Design proponents. My observation is that the only evidence that ID proponents can provide is quotations from other Intelligent Design proponents. Their basic argument is "unless you can prove me wrong, you must be wrong."