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Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
10:57a - Trapped in a world gone suddenly... sane?
I'm not sure what's going on, but let's look at recent news: Senate filibuster to block the renewal of the Patriot Act, the NSA spying on Americans turning out to be the final straw that makes America realize Bush is attempting to build an empire, and now the courts have ruled the Dover school system cannot teach ID because it's an unconstitutional imposition of religion...

This has been a good few days, news-wise.

I admit to being a little uncomfortable with the NYT story. Not that I think they shouldn't have published it; I just worry that they intentionally timed it to coincide with the Patriot Act debate. They were sitting on it for a year, after all. It's a little suspicious. If they were trying to influence the Patriot Act renewal, even though that's a good cause, it's still a major violation of journalistic ethics. A newspaperman is an observer, not a participant. Actively trying to manipulate politics with timed scoops is pretty despicable behavior. However, I cannot be certain that they did this, and certainly the outcome has been overwhelmingly positive, so it's hard to judge them too harshly.

On ID, everything I have to say has been said a thousand times already, so I'll be brief. In order to qualify as a scientific theory, a speculation must have several features: (1) it must explain all existing data related to the topic; (2) it must be logically self-consistent; (3) it must make testable predictions of what data will be found in the future; (4) it must be entirely naturalistic, providing natural explanations for natural phenomena.

Thus, "creation science" is a contradiction in terms, since it seeks supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. In addition, "creation science" fails to explain existing data which indicates an age in the billions of years for the Earth and a complicated but steady succession of (sometimes wildly) different lifeforms. Finally, it makes no predictions about what paleontologists will find in the future.

Questions of motive aside (it seems likely that ID is just a trojan horse for creationism), ID fails the third test. While it does explain all existing data by arguing that all mutations and selection are due to the actions of a constantly-meddling intelligent being, maintains logical consistency, and carefully leaves open the option that that being is some sort of alien or other naturally-occuring entity, it utterly fails to predict what data will be found in the future. Since the "design" in ID is entirely arbitrary, obeying no rules, ANY data found, regardless of what it shows, is consistent with ID. Since the theory cannot be falsified, it is utterly useless to scientists as a tool for understanding the world.

Since it fails as a scientific theory, ID has no more place in a science classroom than other un-disprovable ideas, such as "We're all inside the Matrix" or "The universe ended on the third day and this is the dream of the second night."

What I would support (quite strongly, actually), is a mandatory high school class in which the basic tenets of all the world's major religions were presented. There's simply no way to understand the modern world without understanding the principles guiding, say, Iran. Or Bush, for that matter. Besides, I hold out hope that the more people realize how ridiculous the beliefs of others are, the more likely they are to realize that all beliefs are inherently ridiculous, and stop taking their own so damn seriously.


current mood: hopeful, for once

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