Orr on ID

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H. Allen Orr from U. Rochester has a very nice piece disassembling Intelligent Design. Also, check out his review of Behe's Darwin's Black Box.

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8 Comments

"His book “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996) was a surprise best-seller and was named by National Review as one of the hundred best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. (A little calibration may be useful here; “The Starr Report” also made the list.)"

This little pot-shot (in a New Yorker article) substantially weakens his article. Is this guilt-by-association necessary to advance the argument? Actually, I think that he engages in more than a little of this stuff. It's a real shame, if his position is as strong as he claims.

How's this?

"Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena."

Yes, I would like my work to be inspiring and surprising as well--but my work does not fail to be good if it does not. In order for a theory to be scientific at all, it must be falsifiable. Now if he means falsifiable when he says "inspires new experiment", that is fine, but I have to wonder if he doesn't really mean "provides justification for the continuation of a research empire funded at the point of a gun".

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that ID does very well at this point. I also don't think that DE does either. DE is taken on faith, and experiments are designed to understand how DE occurs.

I've not read the NFL theorems, although as a (non PhD) mathematition, I could see where the criticism of their use by Dembski would come in.

I can also see where the ideas might lead to another attack, but I won't waste everyone's time trying to hash out such a theorem here.

If Orr covers the ID position adequately, (he is clearly not being fair) then I should probably revise my statement from a prior thread:

"IDT may be made scientific."

BTW, I was mostly offline for a couple of days. I have a response on the
Ethical Implications of Evolution
debate.

I'd really like to know what about DE you think has to be taken on faith. Seems like a pretty strong statement to make without a little more detail.

Propose an experiment to falsify DE. Propose one to falsify IDT or Special Creation. (pick your version)

How does one decide a proposition which might be false but which is not falsifiable? Faith.

Ahh, you and I have very different understandings of the philosophy of science. My understanding is that it requires a hypothesis to be testable. If you don't consider digging up fossils to be hypothesis testing, then there's really very little for us to discuss on the topic.

Oh, I quite agree that digging up fossils can be hypothesis testing. I don't agree that the hypothesis being tested is DE itself.

Seriously, how could one falsify DE?

The effects of selection pressure on gene frequency are well established in the lab. Failure to establish these effects would have been a big blow to DE. Of course, you almost certainly know this. So you must be on of these micro-evolution but no macro-evolution guys.

Setting aside for a moment the difficulty in actually distinguishing between micro and macro evolution, there are a several potential ways to falsify DE. Discovering anachronistic fossils would be a big problem. But as far as I know, none have been discovered. Not being able to find sequences of evolving creatures in the fossils record would also be a problem, but this is actually relatively easy. Not being able to find evidence of vestigialism or dwarfism would be more minor, but still suspicious. Again, there is in fact evidence for these.

So what more do you want? A 200 million year long video?

Having grown up on a farm, I am fully aware of the benefits (and hazards) of selection pressure.

I agree that anachronistic fossils present a big problem. I had forgotten about that--and the controversy surrounding some claimed anachronistic fossils on the one hand and the circular dating methods on the other. As for the "evolving creatures", I would argue that I could stack current species up & create some lineages which are just as convincing as those you dig up.

As far as I know, most of the dating controversy has been eliminated through radiometrics and the claimed anachronistic fossils didn't bear scrutiny.

As for lineages, I'm not sure I understand your point. Remember, you asked for potential ways to disprove DE. My point is that there are numerous segments of the fossil record that have _at_least_one_ plausible evolutionary lineage. If such plausible lineages where hard to find or extremely contrived, that would constitute contrary evidence.

Moreover, the linkages in many of the lineages are becoming closer together as we find more fossil evidence. Not being able to improve this resolution with a larger quantity of fossils would also be contrary to what you expect from DE. But just look what we've done with whales in the last 20 years.

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