Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Washington Times Weighs In on Ball State

Getting in a little bit late in the game, The Washington Times waxes on the trials of Eric Hedin and Ball State University and, by and large, makes a hash of it.  They write:
At Ball State University in Indiana, for example, anti-religion activists are irritated that physics and astronomy professor Eric Hedin presented intelligent design in his classroom as a plausible theory of origins. The basic gist was that mankind and the universe did not spring forth out of a series of wholly random events and that some higher power guided the process.
For one thing, intelligent design is not a theory of origins. Intelligent design is not really a theory at all, in the scientific sense of the word. Intelligent design rests almost entirely on the premise that prevailing scientific theories are at a loss to explain certain processes that take place in the natural world.  Second, there is nothing in the scientific enterprise that argues that the universe sprang forth out of a series of wholly random events.  That is a non-scientific statement.  Onward.  They continue:
Progress depends on challenging the conventional wisdom. Most of the ancient world looked at the sky and assumed it was obvious that the universe revolved around the Earth. In the 16th century, Copernicus said, no, the common belief was wrong and the planets, including Earth, revolve around the sun. A century later, Newton explained how gravity made it all work, which was accepted until Einstein came along with his breakthrough theory of relativity. Science never rests.
It is somewhat ironic that she chooses these examples of people who challenged the prevailing views because each one of these people had hard evidence that supported their positions.  This was also true of Charles Darwin, who's theory was revolutionary for its time and, with other researchers extending it, had been found to be one of the most robust theories in existence.  Now let's see what the theoretical constructs of intelligent design are. As Paul Nelson said eight years ago:
Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory now, and that’s a real problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” –- but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.1
We are eight years down the road and intelligent design still consists of attacks on evolution rather than a attempting to design a full-fledged theorectical base. Jeffrey Shallit pointed this out a year back:
Here is a perfect example of this sterility: Bio-Complexity, the flagship journal of the intelligent design movement. As 2012 draws to a close, the 2012 volume contains exactly two research articles, one "critical review" and one "critical focus", for a grand total of four items. The editorial board has 30 members; they must be kept very busy handling all those papers.  (Another intelligent design journal, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, hasn't had a new issue since 2005.)
The 2013 volume has had, in eight months, only three articles and all three are based on arguments against evolution, not support for intelligent design.  The problem persists.  And as long as proponents of ID cannot provide their own tests of how this theory can be supported, it does not belong in the science classroom. Indeed, their only recourse in recent years has been to try to redefine science so that ID can be incorporated.  The problem here, is, as Michael Behe noted, when one does so, astrology is considered to be science.

Jo Ann Gora of Ball State did not close off discussion of competing scientific theories, she closed off acceptance of a non-scientific alternative to established science.

1Nelson, P. (2004) The Measure of Design," Touchstone, pp. 64-65

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