Scott Adams on Intelligent Design

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I've been on a bit of a blog hiatus due to work and some outside projects for my church (particularly, working on editing some material for a couple of books). I'm going to try to find a little more time to post -- although there's no guarantee I'll be successful -- but let me start off by pointing out a couple of interesting (and funny!) posts on Intelligent Design by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. See here and then the follow-up, here. If nothing else, I think these ought to highlight that (a) it's not very productive to go around misrepresenting other people's views, and (b) it's concievable that scientists could be wrong about evolution.

Adams also has a third post, here, on what he means by someone "credible" on the topic of intelligent design and evolution. He says credible experts are those who don't have financial or career incentives, or preconcieved notions. Well, it's a bit easier to meet the first two criteria than the latter. Pretty much any scientist who comes out in favor of intelligent design at a secular university has a financial and career incentive NOT to do so. I suppose in the interest of fairness you could argue that those who come out in favor of evolution at Christian schools have financial and career incentives to the contrary, but I'm not sure that's true anymore. Regardless, on the third point, I really haven't met many (any?) people who don't have preconcieved notions of one sort or another. So maybe Adams is right and no one is credible. I would point out, however, that a lot of people have turned their back on their preconcieved notions. Michael Behe himself, for example, began with the notion that Darwinian evolution is right and can do all that's claimed for it.

My own take on scientific evidence in general is that I try to avoid believing things just based on credibility or say-so. That's why, for example, I'm undecided about whether I think global warming is for real or not. I hear lots of noise on both sides, and it's pretty much overwhelmingly accepted in my area of science that it's real, but I've never yet had someone lay out the evidence in favor of global warming in a way that I find compelling; nor have I heard someone lay out the evidence to the contrary in a compelling way. My opinion is that when the evidence is really as compelling as people say it is, they should be able to explain it to me in a way that I'll agree that it's compelling. So, in the meantime, I'm really not sure -- all I've got to go on are "expert opinions", and I don't find those that convincing. After all, there have been an awful lot of Nobel prizes awarded to people who flew in the face of expert opinion.

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I still think science is a crashing bore, but our friend Samantha assures us that some of you like it. So. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has actually written an even-handed set of posts on ID. "To me, the most fascinating aspect of the debate over Darw... Read More

Sorry about the delay, but the Christian Carnival (#97, parts 1 & 2) is up and running at Thought Renewal. Take a walk down the midway and enjoy the various attractions. Please comment at the blog so I know you made it safely! :-) Read More

4 Comments

Something I found interesting was Darwin's belief in God. So many opponents to intelligent design often go back to the book "The Origin of the Species" by Darwin. The book mentions several times that the complexity and similarity of the species proves God had a hand in creation.

Rusty,

Most creationists prefer to pain Darwin as some sort of demon, so his religious beliefs are ignored, downplayed, and outright denied by most ID advocates.

But be careful with claims about Darwin's mentions of God's hand -- they are rare. He worked most often with the evidence he had at hand, rarely from speculation. It's clear he was a believer when he discovered, developed, tested and published the theory of evolution. Just try to convince hardshell creationists of that, though. Just try.

I don't think Darwin's beliefs are quite that clear cut. Indeed, my understanding is that the original edition had statements like those mentioned by Rusty, but they were removed from later editions, and Darwin was in fact somewhat outspoken against God having a hand in creation later in life. It isn't a topic I've looked at that much, though.

And as far as Ed's point goes, I don't think Darwin's views are terribly relevant to the discussion. That is, what really is at issue is "Darwinism", the idea that all of life evolved, without the intervention of involvement of God, by Darwinian natural selection, with universal common descent. This is something believed by a huge number of scientists today, whether or not Darwin himself actually believed that God was involved or not.

So you can't reassure or ridicule creationists, or members of the intelligent design movement, by saying that they're attacking something that Darwin never believed. Even IF he never believed it, the fact is, the view ID is opposing is the predominant view in the life sciences today, whether or not Darwin actually believed it.

Abechego,

I am intrigued to find someone who shares my status on global warming--I'm afraid we're a rare breed, at least among the science literate.

I don't think one needs any recourse to credibility to settle the argument about ID though, because the theory doesn't work even if you grant any disputed claims of fact. The problem is simply that there aren't any relevant prior probabilities.

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