Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Conservative Drinks From the Wrong Bottle

Granville Sewell has written a piece for Human Events, titled Intelligent Design Theories Gaining Steam in Scientific Circles.  As nearly as I can tell, he has gotten everything wrong.  Lets start with who Granville Sewell is.  He is a mathematics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and a long-time supporter of intelligent design.

First, the title is indefensible.  Whether or not he, himself, came up with it, there is no evidence whatsoever that intelligent design is gaining ground in scientific circles.  In fact, there is contra-evidence.  There have been no intelligent design-based articles published in any of the mainstream journals and the only journal that is devoted to it, Bio-Complexity, has had one article and two critical reviews published for the entire year of 2013.  The article is co-written by two members of the editorial staff, to boot.

 He writes:
Darwin thought he could explain all of this apparent design through natural selection of random variations. In spite of the fact that there is no direct evidence that natural selection can explain anything other than very minor adaptations, his theory has gained widespread popularity in the scientific world, simply because no one can come up with a more plausible theory to explain evolution, other than intelligent design, which is dismissed by most scientists as “unscientific.”
This is ignorant nonsense with an arrogant tone attached to it.  The theory of evolution has gained widespread popularity because, as a theory, it is incredibly robust, with over 150 years of evidence to back it up, coming from the fields of biology, palaeontology, biogeography, microbiology, molecular biology, geology and others.  Every year, the evidence for evolution continues to pile up as we fill in more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.  Witness recent discoveries that have shown that the first tetrapods evolved in the late Devonian in shallow seas, that feathers evolved and diversified in dinosaurs as a means of insulation before they evolved into a means of flight, or that the femur of Orrorin tugenensis shows transitional characteristics between late Miocene apes and the earliest hominins.  These are not minor adaptations.  They show selection and evolution across taxonomic levels and reflect predictions about what would be found in the fossil record IF evolution were true.

He writes: 
But, in recent years, as scientific research has continually revealed the astonishing dimensions of the complexity of life, especially at the microscopic level, support for Darwin’s implausible theory has continued to weaken, and since the publication in 1996 of Darwin’s Black Box by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, a growing minority of scientists have concluded, with Behe, that there is no possible explanation for the complexity of life other than intelligent design.

Contrast the publication record of Bio-Complexity with the journal Evolution which, in 2013 alone, published 200 articles. Furthermore, Journal Citation Reports lists 29 journals that have "evolution" in the title. This does not even count those that publish articles on evolution, such as The American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Cell and Systematic Biology to name just a few.

With regard to the "growing minority of scientists,"  if he is referring to the "Dissent From Darwin" list put out by the Discovery Institute, that constitutes no evidence against evolution whatever.  When I analyzed the list a few years back, I found:
13 physicists, 1 plasma physicist, 10 biochemists, 24 chemists, 8 engineers, 7 mathematicians, 2 psychologists, 13 geneticists, and 5 medical doctors.
There are only five geologists on the list, and one lone palaeontologist on it. 

Like most ID writers such as David Berlinski, Cornelius Hunter and David Klinghoffer, he argues that there is dichotomy between accepting evolution and ID:
If you believe that a few fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the basic particles of physics into Apple iPhones, you are probably not an ID proponent, even if you believe in God. But if you believe there must have been more than unintelligent forces at work somewhere, somehow, in the whole process: congratulations, you are one of us after all!
Here is one-dimensional, reductionistic thinking on display. it is either/or. There is no third option, the evolutionary creationist, who argues that the evidence for evolution of life, in all of its 3.5 billion year existence, can be explained as the work of a fantastically inventive and creative God, who took great joy in watching his creation unfold. It is also the thinking of someone who has taken no time to actually learn the basics of evolution and what the evidence is that supports it.  As long as this is the case, we will continue to be subjected to substandard prose such as this offering by Dr. Sewell. 

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