Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Creationism in California

In My Backyard, Creationism in California
by Eugenie C. Scott
(California Wild)
Unlike creation science, ID makes no fact claims about the origins of the universe, or the history of Earth, or of life on Earth. Instead, it proposes that some things in nature are too complex to have been formed from natural causes and therefore must have been produced by “an intelligence.” Some structures showing an unexpectedly high level of organization (e.g., the first life forms, or cellular structures such as the flagella of bacteria) are inferred to be too complex for chance to have brought them about.

Of course, no evolutionary biologist ascribes the bacterial flagellum or other complex structures to the chance assembly of parts: natural selection is a mechanism that can generate complexity, and there may be other mechanisms not yet discovered. This last brings up another problem with ID: most scientists appreciate that we do not yet understand everything there is to know about the natural world. But if a natural cause for something is not known (indeed, there is no scientific consensus on the origin of life, or the evolutionary assembly of the bacterial flagellum) it’s not helpful to throw up one’s hands and say, “I don’t know! God must have done it!” The scientific approach would be to say, “I don’t know, yet,” and keep looking.

ID does not identify the “intelligent agent” and nothing is said about how or when or with what this agent created life. This “creationism lite” makes no claims about the origin of Grand Canyon by Noah’s Flood, or a 10,000-year-old Earth. This avoids immediate rejection by the scholarly community, and accommodates a wide variety of antievolutionists, including biblical literalist/young Earth supporters as well as more moderate Christians. But most ID literature merely asserts the failure of evolution to explain complexity, and makes no attempt to provide an alternative model. It is a variant of the creation science maxim that “evidence against evolution is evidence for creationism.”

In recent years, the main think tank of ID, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, has shifted to advocating that “evidence against evolution,” or EAE, be taught rather than ID. It’s a tacit admission that there is no evidence for their position. Perhaps ID proponents began to realize that design implies a designer, an agent, and that judges would figure out pretty quickly that the intended agent was God. Once proposals for teaching ID were recognized as a back door way of teaching “God did it,” the Center realized, such policies would be declared unconstitutional. Better to convince students that evolution didn’t occur and let them conclude that the only reasonable explanation left is creation by God.

What about the aliens? Why doesn’t anybody talk about the damn aliens?

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