Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Note to Readers
I will be more or less incommunicado from June 8th to July 2nd. I'm headin down to Lake Norfolk for some boating this week, and then it is on to the Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models Institute at Wash U. in St. Louis until July. Will be pretty intensive (6 days a week, 6 hours a day), and I probably won't have much time for blogging. But I'll try and check in occassionally and will be back in full force in July!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Orr Not...
After reading Behe's original response to Orr's critique of DBB, I'm not sure there is really anything else to say. Most of what's in Orr's new piece is merely a rehash of that original review. I found it amusing that Behe had also noted that Orr seems to be able to state the ID argument...but somehow forgets it when he gets around to offering rebuttals. A bit of a bait-and-switch. Anyway, I reccomend you peruse Behe on Orr here and here.

Assessing ID

I have been reading a bit more of Dembski here and wanted to share his excellent and consise summary of the 'test' for ID going down the road.

ID's criterion for success is rather the following: whether its arguments are sound, whether its evidence for design is solid, whether its critique of materialistic accounts of evolution holds up, whether it is developing into a fruitful scientific research program, and whether it is convincing to people with no stake in the outcome of this debate. On all these points, ID is proving quite effective.

This seems to me to be exactly the rub. The second to last is where I have my strongest doubts. IOW, where design could prove to be helpful in advancing science. I.D. seems to me to be a limited franchise, though arguably one of the more important ones (and perhaps the most important subject). Of course, the same could be said for evolution's take on origins...but that isn't the beall and and endall of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary concepts such as descent with modification, natural selection, etc. have proven quite fruitful in terms of investigating the real world (from understanding population genetics to finding new vaccines for diseases). I have much doubt as to whether I.D. offers anything along those lines. Which isn't to say that the question I.D. is concerned with isn't important. I just think that its prospects as a lively research program may be greatly restricted by its focus on the origins of design...with little to say about biology or physics in the here and now.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Orr Strikes Again

Alan Orr is once again taking on Intelligent Design. You can read his piece in the New Yorker here. Orr is hardly new to the Intelligent Design / Evolution debate, and as usual he mixes in the sort of prejudicial 'descriptions' of his opponents that have absolutely nothing to do with the power of their arguments but rather are merely ad hominem smears. Orr does do a credible job of reproducing, in summary form, some of the main themes of I.D. and in sketching the arguments of some of its prominent scholars (Dembski & Behe). Other critics (John Derbyshire of NR and others, as I have pointed out here and here) haven't done as well. However, he provides little in the way of rebuttal (again resorting to 'just so' evolutionary hypotheticals)...and his 'this is politics and religion, not science' speel is tired and trite. However, his point regarding the prospects of ID as a scientific paradigm are well taken...but are perhaps premature. But his argument sets this up as a straw-man. Most ID'rs don't reject 'evolution' in its entirety (as he acknowledged in describing the differences b/w Dembski & Behe), and thus aren't arguing that evolution hasn't been a profitable scientific paradigm. His description of ID arguments belies his conclusions regarding their motivations, and he portrays both Behe and Dembski as having 'backtracked' when, in fact, neither have one bit. And whining about the fact that most Americans aren't buying what atheistic evolutionists are selling isn't particularly relevant to the scientific debate. So Orr is no more innocent of 'politics' in this discussion that any ID'r. And as much as he wants that debate not to occur at all, it has, it is, and it will continue. I'll do a more detailed Fisking when I get the opportunity.