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Is intelligent design science?

Is intelligent design science? Michael Egnor seems to think that a recent Nature editorial leads to the conclusion that:

Either Intelligent Design is Science, or Senator Brownback Got it RIght [sic]

So what is the basis for this conclusion? In their first debate Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback declared himself a disbeliever in evolution. In the aftermath he tried to clarify his position via an Op-Ed in the New York Times on May 31, saying:

“Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as atheistic theology posing as science.”

The Nature editorial replied

But its basis in the idea that human minds are the product of evolution is not atheistic theology. It is unassailable fact.

Based on this, Egnor concludes that either the editorial concludes that intelligent design is science, or the Brownback is right.

That’s a rather interesting conclusion to draw. How does Egnor get to it? In the tradition of creationist quote mining, he starts with

The editors assert that the emergence of the human mind without intelligent design is an ‘unassailable fact’.

One wonders how he gets there – after all, the words “design” and “intelligent” do not appear in the article. The editorial simply says that the idea that the human mind is the product of evolution is an unassailable fact. Since ID is (at best) nothing but a speculative, untested and untestable “hypothesis” the inclusion or exclusion of ID has no impact on the statement. Without whose “intelligent design” – Behe‘s ID which allows for billions of years of evolution, but requires the intervention of a malicious demiurge for each speciation event, or Wells‘ ID, which appears to be just warmed over young-earth creationism.

Egnor continues with his interpretive dance

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this claim, aside from the problems with their interpretation of the scientific evidence itself, is the admission by the editors that the question of intelligent design in biology can be adjudicated by the scientific method.

Hmm…I must have missed that bit (was it written in invisible ink?) He continues

If the evidence for or against intelligent design can be evaluated scientifically— as the editors at Nature firmly assert that it can— then intelligent design is a real scientific inference, albeit, according to the Nature editors, a mistaken one.

“Firmly assert”? Really? Again – in invisible ink? And then his great “gotcha” moment

And if they are asserting that intelligent design is mistaken from a non-scientific standpoint, then the editors are advancing an atheistic theology, as Brownback pointed out.

Fascinating. Fascinatingly inane. To assert that an unscientific assertion is wrong is a theological statement? There are people who assert that the earth is flat, based on the bible. Does Egnor believe that rejecting that (religious) assertion on the basis of scientific data is “atheistic theology”? What utter nonsense.

Of course, this leaves the other assertion – that “intelligent design in biology can be adjudicated by the scientific method.” Sure it can be – all we need to do is replace Dembski’s “small” probabilities with empirically generated probabilities for “design”. What’s the probability of goddidit? As soon as we assign it a probability, ID is testable.

Now, if I could only figure out how to read the “hidden knowledge” on the Nature editorial – the part where they make “firm assertions” about ID. Or is it only visible after you drink the Kool-Aid?


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