Convergence, ID Critics, and Public Theatre
|April 4, 2011||Posted by nullasalus under Intelligent Design, theistic evolution|
The Map of Life is a new website, funded in part by the Templeton Organization, devoted to highlighting and discussing the role of convergence in evolution. Simon Conway Morris, whose thoughts on evolution I’m actually very interested in, has a role in the site – and it promises to be a place of interest for those people (ID proponents and TEs both) who see convergence as evidence that evolution may not be as “blind” as many people typically assume.
But I’m actually not interested in the the convergence question at the moment. Instead I’m interested in the site’s stated “aims”. The second aim is to promote discussion about convergence in evolution, and whether or not evolution may be more predictable than previously thought. The first aim is to A) promote the truth of evolution, and B) criticize ID in one of the most mangled, confused ways I’ve seen recently.
More on that below.
Here’s the relevant portion:
Of note, the science of evolutionary biology is NOT consistent with the central tenet of the “intelligent design” (ID) movement that suggests, contrary to all scientific evidence, that amongst other things organisms were supernaturally created and have remained unchanged since the time of their creation. There is also NO evidence for biological structures being supposedly “irreducibly complex”, arising by non-evolutionary “processes”. Indeed, convergence points in exactly the opposite direction because supposedly “irreducibly complex” structures, such as the bacterial flagellar motor, evolved independently at least twice. Not only that but we understand how each of the component parts became adapted make the complex structure that exists today. The existence of change over time in living things is clearly manifest in the fossil record, and is supported by information from the molecules, form and behaviour of organisms alive today.
Where to begin.
1) If it’s the central tenet of the ID movement that organisms were supernaturally created, then I missed the memo. Last I checked, the main ID proponents typically stress that ID absolutely does not claim that the designer, or designs, were “supernatural” in nature.
2) Nor have I seen this tenet that claims said organisms “have remained unchanged since the time of their creation”. I’m sure the writer of this part means a lack of change on the species level, rather than asserting that the very first penguin-like creatures are still waddling around somewhere. But again, where is it a “central tenet” of ID that populations of organisms remain the same? Mind you, I’m sure there are some ID advocates who believe that species don’t change, and so on. I’m also sure there are some evolutionary biologists who think evolutionary psychology is nonsense. It does not therefore become a central tenet of evolutionary biology that evolutionary psychology is bunk.
3) No evidence for IC biological structures arising by non-evolutionary processes? Really? First, last I checked ID proponents didn’t need to eschew evolutionary processes – though said processes would not be entirely unguided or Darwinian ones. Second, I’ve long wondered… if Craig Venter makes an IC structure in a cell, would that count as an IC structure coming about through a non-evolutionary force? Would it count as evidence of some kind, however qualified, for ID? But that’s an aside more than anything.
Now, I’m on record as being skeptical of ID as science (and I’m likewise skeptical of no-design claims being science as well.) But really, one thing I get tired of – and which I encounter quite often – is this blatant mangling of what ID proponents are saying, or what they are committed to. I suppose I should be glad the site doesn’t outright connect ID with a belief in a young earth, since that’s one of the usual talking points I bump into.
Anyway, I’m griping, but I have a suspicion of why ID is taken out and whipped in the “aims” section of the website: Because the second aim – which at least implies thinking about teleology, direction, and maybe even purpose in evolution – is really the “first” aim. But to even hint that perhaps evolution is a purposeful thing – or, even more distantly hinted, perhaps a tool itself employed by a designer – is to invite potential panic, and guilt-by-association with some ID thought crime.
So some theatre is required. ID is denounced, loyalty to the great Defenders of Science is established, and everyone can get on – however carefully – with the business of maybe, kinda, sorta asking if the Blind Watchmaker may have been able to see a little after all.