Sunday, August 28, 2005

It's Not A Theory!

I think it's time for a unified front in the face of Intelligent Design.

Yes, I know, all sensible people are united in the face of Intelligent Design, because as right-wing looniness goes, it's right up there with the dangers of fluoride in the drinking water and the way video games are corrupting the nation's youth. But I mean, a specific united front. Currently, a big danger for liberals is that right-wing insanity is so all-encompassing, so thoroughly objectionable, and so vastly insane that it's hard to focus on a specific thing to fight them on. (Danger: This may become a Theme of later entries.)

But with Intelligent Design Theory, there is a single point at which I think we all should focus our efforts. Every time the phrase "Intelligent Design Theory" comes up anywhere, I think advocates of...oh, let's just call it "sanity and common sense" should just say, "That's not a theory. It's a hypothesis."

Because it's not. A hypothesis is an idea that a scientist has for a possible understanding of how something works. He then tests that idea in an experiment. Hypotheses that have been validated by tests become theories, which are then retested to refine the theory. Eventually, a theory that becomes fundamental and proven enough is termed a law.

So for ID to be a theory, that must mean there's some sort of test out there that has yielded results which suggest that there is an intelligent force that designed all life. Since ID is just creationism with a fake moustache, no such test exists, but that hasn't stopped people from calling it a theory. I don't think people should let that pass unchallenged. Force them to call it what it is--a wild guess, not a piece of science. Because the essence of science is forcing you to prove your assumptions to be true or else abandon them. The moment you say, "A higher power must have done it," you might as well give up and go back to the caves.

4 comments:

Arturo said...

Man, everyone's getting into the ID stuff this past fortnight...

Jon Carroll, at the San Francisco Chronicle, had two nice columns on this: August 19 and August 24.

John Seavey said...

What I found funny was that below the August 19th one were "ads by google" suggesting that "you can prove creationism" and that there's "science authenticating Bible detail". Someone's editorializing...

chroom said...

I'll grant you that ID is a hypothesis.

But what do I do with so-called scientists who insist upon the "fact" of macroevolution?

Doesn't labeling something a fact require evidence ... evidence which, to this point, simply doesn't exist?

John Seavey said...

So the hundreds of thousands of pounds of discovered bones, prints, fossilized eggs, fossilized dung, entire preserved prehistoric lifeforms trapped in amber...those things "don't exist"?

Macroevolution is a matter of fossil record. To argue with it would be like trying to argue against the existence of doors, or walls. Sure, you can do it, but you're only going to wind up looking like an idiot, and you might very well hurt yourself depending on how vigorously you try to prove your point.