The Intelligent Design movement took a body blow yesterday when a US federal judge ruled
on Tuesday that "it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses because it is a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."" I particularly enjoyed his statement that the school board "made a decision of "breathtaking inanity" and "dragged" their community into "this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."" And this from a federal judge appointed by Bush the Lesser.
I tend to think that "inane" is a useful adjective for scientific creationism/intelligent design camp. But that is not a realistic point of view from which to proceed as these folks have a tremendous grassroots support base. They've even managed to get the Kansas State Board of Education to redefine science
to include supernatural explanations! And all along here I was, poor me, thinking that science sought only natural explanations for the workings of the universe.
I have been interested in the evolution/creationist "debate" for a long time. And I see scientfic creationism/intelligent design's (the two terms are equivalent, differing only in how much they wish to mask their God
as being behind the curtain) political activities as based upon 4 pillars, three of which are logical fallicies and the fourth being a characteristic methodology.
The first logical fallacy is a deliberate misunderstanding & misrepresentation of what evolution is. The best statement of this fallacy is by the astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe (not Sir Fred Hoyle) who stated, "The chances that life just occurred on earth are about as unlikely as a typhoon blowing through a junkyard and constructing a Boeing 747." Now this refers to the origin of life (which is not part of evolution; evolution explains the development of life once it arose, not its origin) rather than evolution. Nontheless, the typhoon/747 metaphor is very frequently trotted out by the creationists as their metaphor for the mechanism of evolution, likening the improbability of evolution creating good ol' Homo sap
to the randomness of material pushed about by the wind conglomerating into a functional jumbo jet. I am not going to refute or correct their misunderstanding here. Rather I am going to point out that they are deliberately attacking their misrepresentation of evolution, i.e. they are constructing a straw man and arguing against it. This is the logical fallacy of the Straw Man Argument.
The second logical fallacy is representing their explanation as the only alternative to evolution. In a true dichotomy, it's either A or B: if you disprove B then it must be A. Creationism is based upon presenting evolution/creationism as a dichotomy. If you parse their arguments, you will soon notice that they constantly posit any criticism of evolution as being evidence for creationism. They produce no positive evidence for their position whatsoever, relying entirely on negative evidence against evolution. I see them as thinking that if they manage to tear down evolution, to discredit scientific thinking counter to their Protestant fundamentalist understanding, that creationism is validated by default. If evolution is wrong then creationism must be right, nothing else to be considered, nothing else to be countenanced. And they posit this as evidence?? Well, that is the logical fallacy of a False Dichotomy. You never hear creationists talk about anything else, such as phenomorphic pleiotropism as an alternative to evolution, do you?
Their third fallacy is my personal favourite. A good example of it is their current argument of irreducible complexity, citing bacterial flagella and the human eye as being so complex, so fit for a purpose with said purpose not being achieved by anything less than perfection (i.e. the end position) that they could not possibly have evolved. Any less than perfect intermediary (to the current construction, that is) would be non-functional (in their view) and could not lead to the perfect functioning complexity that we see. I think that this fallacy is the heart and soul of their world view, indeed lies at the foundation of all religion. The fallacy of so-called irreducible complexity supporting teleological design can be easily shown by re-wording their argument thusly: "I cannot conceive how such an irreducibly complex object could have arisen except by being created". This fallacy is the Argument from Personal Incredulity. Such an argument simply shows their personal limits, not the limits of the universe. That they cannot understand how something occurs can have no bearing on the reality of occurance. Their wishful thinking cannot circumscribe the set of reality. (Parenthetically I note that by doing so, they are also attempting to limit the power of their own God. Who knows, maybe God used evolution to produce man?)
The fourth pillar is that of intellectual dishonesty. This is rampant throughout creationism, being most evident from the days of scientfic creationism (the political precursor to intelligent design). The tenets of creationism, as they apply to science and particularly in their misrepresentation of evolution, have been refuted over and over again. Yet, rather than going and doing proper research, they continually trot out their properly refuted and known invalid arguments over and over again to every new audience. Fallacies 1 and 2 above , for example, are fair enough the first time they were presented. Once they were shown to be wrong you would think that an honest person would retire those arguments and develop new ones (if they exist, that is). But that's not the creationist modus operandi
. They present themselves as wanting a fair and balanced treatment of the issues. Never do they mention that every
argument they present has been shown to be wrong, that their position has been given fair & balanced treatment and been rejected as fallacious over and over again. Scientific creationism/intelligent design presents lies as the Truth.