Monday, December 12, 2005

Cal Thomas and Bob Beckelis on USA Today

Cal Thomas and Bob Beckelis had an exchange on USA Today on the question: "Intelligent Design: What do scientists fear?" Bob, ostensibly the liberal on the show (in opposition to the conservative Thomas) states

Despite the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that evolution is the sole explanation for all living things, these scientists have yet to prove the theory conclusively. Not only are there still gaping holes in the evolutionary chain from single cells to man, the science crowd hasn't come close to explaining why only man among all living things has a conscience, a moral framework and a free will.

This statement demonstrates many things at once: 1. that science education has completely failed Bob Beckelis. If it hadn't, he would understand that science is not in the business of "proving" anything. Science draws relationships between phenomena and either supports or rejects a particular explanation for events. Very few theories are "proven" conclusively. 2. As far as the holes are concerned, the statement is vague. There seems to be a lack of understanding of the nature of the fossil record. What holes is he speaking of? It is true that there are many areas of the fossil record that are less complete than others, but there are also many areas that show transitions and every major stage is represented by the record. 3. There is not an anatomical disconnect between the morphology of the brain and what its capacities are. When he says that evolution has not explained the cognitive abilities of humans, he is ignoring evidence of progressive encephalization and brain reorganization over recorded time that occurs in areas associated with just these concepts.

An excellent article on the nature of the fossil record can be found here.

Further on, Mr. Beckelis states:

...scientists will say the overwhelming body of evidence supports evolution, and no other theory comes close. Well, of course, it doesn't because no other theory has been studies seriously.

This is nothing short of hogwash. When evolutionary theory was first finding its feet, there was no shortage of competing theories. When the modern, synthetic theory was first formulated in the 1920s and 1930s, it was tested constantly. In a sense, every paper that is written involving the fossil record tests evolutionary principles.

The main problem with Intelligent Design in its current incarnation is that it has no theoretical construct of its own. When William Dembski writes that evolutionary theory cannot explain modern biological diversity, he has no theoretical explanation to impose in its place. ID isn't science because there is no way to practice it.

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