Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Darwin Where Art Thou?

Darwin's birthday just past and there are several articles discussing the merits of his general theory of evolution. But there seems to be a lot more heat than light in these articles.

First of all, we need to be honest about our terms. There is a sort of evolution that is supported by verifiable facts. Within each species there have been various changes and adjustments observed due to environmental factors. This sort of micro-evolution is observable and repeatable. However, the real debate is not concerning small changes over time, but macro changes from one species into another. And that all variety of life emanated from a single non-living event (abiogenesis). Even Darwin doesn't know how that could have happened successfully. This is called the theory of general evolution (GE).

Following, the fact is that there are no fossil records demonstrating the formation of one species into another. It is speculated as to what happened, but speculations are not scientific facts. True, stories have a purpose in explaining an hypothesis. But stories are not evidence.

The intelligent design theory (ID) on the other hand, makes the claim that stories are not sufficient to explain the diversity and complexity of life. They make arguments for an intelligent causal agent from a biological (irreducible complexity to DNA information) and a cosmological perspective (balanced universal forces to earth's unique positioning and environment). ID accounts for the laws of thermodynamics and says we can't contradict them like GE does (e.g. order coming from disorder). The role of science is to not only search for what is true, but to allow the evidence to form reasonable conclusions. It is more reasonable to believe that a bed of flowers that spell out the words, "I love you, Melissa. Will you marry me?", was planted and arranged by someone, than to believe it happened by random chance.

Some say that science cannot speak to those conclusions. When you do so, you must evoke the existence of God. But the problem with that notion is that you are begging the question. You have stacked the deck. By eliminating with prejudice any conclusion other than natural causes, you create a blindness to evidence that contradicts naturalistic conclusions. Therefore, the freedom to follow the evidence to wherever it leads cannot be allowed to exist. This makes it impossible to consider the role of intelligence, even when it is reasonable to come to that conclusion. (For example, the flower bed with a message could not have been designed because to consider it would evoke the existence of an intelligent cause.)

In forensic science, death is either determined by natural causes, or by premeditation. In other words, does the evidence demonstrate that death occurred by natural processes or by intelligence. We trust forensic science to make that determination, therefore it is reasonable to believe that science can speak to issues of intelligent causes. Therefore, science actually can (and does) consider the question of intelligence when it comes to causes.

If science can consider our origins from a biological perspective, as Darwin believed, it is reasonable to conclude that science can consider whether our origins are from an intelligent agent or natural causes.