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2012年7月24日 星期二

The Limits of Ignorance 3

Cont'd
 
In the case of Kitzmiller v Dover, one of the points made by Judge Jones is that ID is not a "scientific" theory. I have argued that ID can't be considered a scientific theory because it has not generated any "testable hypothesis". Are there any other reasons why ID can't be considered a "scientific" theory? Let's look at the article entitled "Faith in Theory: Why "Intelligent Design" Simply Isn't Science " by James Q Wilson in the Wall Street Journal 26.12. 2005.

Wilson says that some people disagree with Judge Jones' conclusion by arguing that both "evolution" and "ID" are each equally a "theory" such that students should look at both.  But Wilson says that such a view "confuses the meaning of the word "theory". To him, in science, "a theory states a relationship between two or more things (called "variables") that can be tested by factual observations."  Thus we have a "theory of gravity" that predicts the speed at which two objects will fall toward one another, the path on which a satellite must travel if it is to maintain a constant  distance from the earth and the position that a moon will keep with respect to its associated planet. Such theory has been so rigorously tested that we can now launch a satellite and know exactly where it must be in space to keep it rotating around the earth. But prior to the theory of gravity, many medieval scientists thought that the speed with which an object falls towards the earth will depend on its weight. We now know that that former theory is false and even know the formula of the "theory of gravity" with which to calculate that speed.

According to Wilson, another meaning of the word "theory" is popular but not "scientific". According to the "popular" definition of "theory", a "theory" merely means "a guess", a "faith" or an "idea". If so, it is a "belief" that may or may not be true but its truth may not necessarily be required to be testable by a "scientific" inquiry. One such theory is that God exists and intervenes in human life in ways that affect the outcome of human life. If so, that theory cannot be "scientifically" tested. According to Norman A Johnson in "Is Evolution "Only a Theory"?:Scientific Methodologies and Evolutionary Biology" ("IEOT") in Scientists Confront Creationism  ed. Andew J Petto & Laurie R Godfrey 
2007 ("SCC") "a scientific theory" is not mere speculation, not even
an "educated guess that can be tested ie. a hypothesis" but something
more,: "a coherent set of hypotheses, tested by evidence and reasoning,
that possesses explanatory power" (IEOT 340) and Douglas Futuyama
defines a scientific theory as "a mature coherent body of
interconnected statements, based on reasoning and evidence, that
explains a variety of observations" (Evolutionary Biology 1998 11).Up to now, no one has ever found a way yet to "scientifically" prove that an entity some people call "God" exists. I am sure that had such "proof" existed, it would long have been trumpeted by all religious publications. Religion is not science as such and the Book of Genesis was never intended to be a "scientific" account of how the world and the universe and the human race came about. The Genesis is a tribal myth of the Jews, written in poetic language, borrowed by the Jews from neighboring tribes and further borrowed by the Christians (about which I shall write about if I got time).

By contrast, the "theory of evolution" is a "scientific theory" because it can and has been tested repeatedly by examining the remains of now extinct creatures to see how one species has emerged to replace another. Scientists have found how birds on the Galapagos Island adapt their beak size from generation to generation to the food supplies they encounter. Up to now, it is the only scientifically defensible theory of the origin of species. But such a theory does not "require" one to rule out the idea that God exists. However, it also does not "require" the Christian "God" to exist before the theory of evolution can be continually tested and be functional. Whether "God" exists is in that sense, scientifically "irrelevant" ! Darwin started his life as a deep believer and a student intending to enter the ministry but he abandoned any belief that God has created animal species and replaced that view with his extraordinary and largely correct theory of evolution.

Proponents of the ID theory say that some creatures or features of creatures in the natural world are so "irreducibly complex" that they could not have been created by "accident". Wilson says if so, we must ask them what part of natural life is so "irreducibly complex" that it could not have evolved? So ID proponents suggested their favourite example of the "irreducible complexity" of life: the human eye. But observation by scientist has shown that the eyes must have evolved too. Wilson says: "At first there were light-sensitive plates in pre-historic creatures that enable them to move toward and away from illumination. For a few animals, these light sensitive plates were more precise. This was the result of genetic difference....so then some creatures were able not only to detect light but to see shapes or colors in the light as well. So when those talented creatures lived in a world that rewarded such precision, they reproduced and untalented creatures died out!" However if the "intelligent designer" had created the human eye, He/She made some big mistakes: the human eye has a blind spot in the middle that reduces the eye's capacity to see. The retina is built inside out and and the nerve fibres that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones ,which sense light and color, lie on top of them and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, and thus created the blind spot. This is one of the the hundreds of the "accidents" frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the evolutionary process. If so, the "intelligent designer", if he/she/it exists, could not have been very "intelligent" to have designed such an obviously "flawed " product. Other creatures more dependent on sharp eyesight than we are do not have this blind spot! Some people are born color blind and others have to start wearing glasses from a very young age. All such variations and shortcomings are consistent with the theory of evolution. But none is consistent with the view that the eye was designed by an "intelligent designer".

Wilson admits that evolution, like almost every scientific theory, has some problems but that they are not the kind of problems that can be solved by assuming that an intelligent designer or God created life. There is not a shred of evidence to support the ID theory, according to Wilson. Do the advocates of ID have anything to say to rebut Wilson?

(To be cont'd)