>Contact). Even Quincy's forensic science was all about trying to
>determine whether a death was due to an accident, natural caus-
>es, or the design of an intelligence.
>William Dembski puts it this way: "Specified complexity
>powerfully extends the usual mathematical theory of informa-
>tion, known as Shannon information. Shannon's theory dealt
>only with complexity, which can be due to random processes
>as well as to intelligent design. The addition of specification to
>complexity, however, is like a vise that grabs only things due to
>intelligence. Indeed, all the empirical evidence confirms that
>the only known cause of specified complexity is intelligence."
>Thus when Dembski observes this specified complexity in
>DNA messages and protein coding, he infers intelligent design.
>These patterns give real information in the form of meaning-
>ful instructions, precisely analogous to language with words, sen-
>tences, punctuation marks, and grammatical rules.
>The old "scientific creationism" based itself upon two tenets:
>a supernatural agent created all things, and the Bible gives us
>an accurate account of what happened. In contrast, accord-
>ing to Dembski, intelligent design is built upon three very dif-
>1. Specified complexity is well defined and empirically
>2. Undirected natural causes are incapable of explaining
>3. Intelligent causation best explains specified complexity.
>The anti-ID school might argue that in the case of biologi-
>cal evolution, natural causes do eventually produce the speci-
>fied complexity we see in living things. Natural selection culls
>through countless mutations over time, eventually producing
>specified complexity. As the need for survival helps organisms
>evolve, new information is created and they ratchet their way
>up into new forms.
>The problem with this scenario, according to ID theorists, is
>that mutations do not produce new information. Natural selec-
>tion has slim pickin's to choose from, even when it picks the
>fittest. Without an intelligence to produce new information,
>no amount of re-shuffling of genes will result in a new organism.
>Biologist Peter Medawar called this principle the law of
>conservation of information. Michael
>Polanyi himself believed that natural
>selection and mutation, the two mecha-
>nisms of neo-Darwinism, are inadequate
>for the task of producing new anatomies
>or functions in evolving animals. The
>focus on information theory is one reason
>mathematicians have often been more
>skeptical of rigid Darwinist explanations
>than their colleagues in biology.
>If the creation of new information is
>such a problem, you ask, then why isn't
>this common knowledge in our insti-
>tutions of higher learning? And if intel-
>ligent design is such an obvious answer,
>why haven't we heard more about this
>before? For one thing, no one's ever
>gotten far enough along to test it before.
>But William Dembski is getting close.
>Bruce Gordon says that design theory,
>as a scientific strategy, involves two goals:
>i. to mathematically characterize designed
>structures (using stochastic processes the-
>ory, probability theory, complexity theory,
>etc.) to detect intelligent design, and z. to
>go into nature and see whether the math-
>ematical structures map onto the physi-
>cal structures in a way indicative of design.
>This, of course, is precisely what
>Dembski has been preparing to do with
>his research center. He is laying the groundwork to hire mole-
>cular biologists to do research on protein structure and pro-
>tein folding to test ID. "What has to happen," says Dembski, "is
>that ID has to generate research that's more fruitful for biolo-
>gy than neo-Darwinism."
>Can design actually be tested as part of science?
>"Has ID really been tried?" repeats Eugenie Scott. "I think that's
>a legitimate question. I don't really think we have an answer yet."
>"The jury is out on that," says William Cooper, chair of the
>committee evaluating the Polanyi Center. "The mathematical
>discussion has not progressed sufficiently."
>Of course, if the committee pronounces final sentence on the
>Polanyi Center and ends all discussion now, we'll never know.
>The hanging will have occurred before the jury comes back.
>On May 10, a month after Baylor's big Polanyi conference, a
>number of members of Congress attended a three hour brief-
>ing on intelligent design. William Dembski had been invited
>to join other ID scientists in the presentation, but the Baylor
>administration ordered him not to participate. President Sloan
>wanted to keep Baylor from all appearance of mixing academics
>But some Baylor biologists became so concerned about how
>far the intelligent design message was spreading that eight of
>them drafted a long letter to Congressman Mark Souder, an Edu-
>cation Committee member, who had co-hosted the meeting.
>Their letter was intended to let the congressman know that he had
>been duped by the ID proponents, and that ID research is not legit-
>imate science. Their attempt to embarrass the ID people was
>turned around on them when Congressman Souder responded
>with his own presentation to the House of Representatives, includ-
>ing the reading of their letter into the Congressional Record.
>Using their letter as Exhibit A, he told the House that these
>scientists were practicing "viewpoint discrimination in science
>and science education," and that "ideological bias has no place
>Referring to the letter's frequent use of the phrase "materialistic
>science" as their noble cause, the congressman told his colleagues,
>"One senses here not a defense of science but rather an effort to
>protect, by political means, a privileged philosophical viewpoint
>against a serious challenge.... As [members of] the Congress, it
>might be wise for us to question whether the legitimate authori-
>ty of science over scientific matters is being misused by persons who
>wish to identify science with a philosophy they prefer."
>A preferred philosophy? Could it be that it took an outsider,
>a congressman from Indiana no less, to get an objective fix on
>the real source of the conflict?
>There is a method used in science today that goes beyond the sci-
>entific method. It's based on a philosophy called naturalism,
>defined by Funk R Wagnalls as "the doctrine that all phenome-
>na are derived from natural causes and can be explained by sci-
>entific laws without reference to a plan or purpose." It's the "with-
>out plan or purpose" part that nixes intelligent design.
>When this philosophy is applied to science, it's called
>methodological naturalism, and for many scientists today it is
>an unquestioned assumption.
>Last spring biology Professor Richard Duhrkopf got his pic-
>ture in the papers when he accused the Polanyi Center of trying
>to "change the philosophy of science." But is science supposed
>to have a particular philosophy attached to it? Many of us laymen
>have always thought that science was supposed to be about
>applying the scientific method to observations and measure-
>ments and gaining as much knowledge of the world as possible,
>not reaching foreordained conclusions.
>Methodological naturalism proposes that scientists be provi-
>sional atheists in their work, no matter what contrary evidence they
>find. Intelligent design proponents are asking simply that science
>be purified of all philosophical biases. At least, no philosophical
>bias should be promoted as scientific. Scientists are welcome to
>hold to personal philosophies and even have them running in the
>background, as guiding principles, if they think that helps them
>do their work. But those personal philosophies should not be
>confused with science.
>Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson stated the issue suc-
>cinctly at the congressional briefing: Americans, he said, must
>choose between two definitions of science in our culture: i. science
>is unbiased, empirical testing that follows the evidence wherev-
>er it leads, or z. science is applied materialist philosophy which,
>like Marxism or Freudianism, is willing to impose its authority.
>Being Methodologically Correct
>"The twentieth century was the high point of methodological
>correctness," says President Sloan. "We all know that life is
>more than sociology or history or anthropology. Unfortunate-
>ly, people have forgotten that the methodological brackets we
>apply are purely artificial, intended to be temporary."
>ID keeps an open mind, and is entirely agnostic on the subject
>of religion. The intelligent design that Dembski hopes to detect
>could belong either to a Biblical God or to an earlier race of Mar-
>tians who planted us here (like in the movie Mission to Mars).
>The idea that life here was seeded from another place may
>seem pretty far out. But Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize
>for his co-discovery of DNA'S structure, is one of a number of
>scientists who have seriously promoted the "panspermia"
>hypothesis, the idea that life was sent here in the form of seeds
>from a faraway civilization. The reason for such an idea? Crick
>wrote that "the probability of life originating at random is so
>utterly minuscule as to make it absurd."
>Writing with his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, Crick
>stated: "The theory that life was assembled by an intelligence... is
>so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being
>self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific."
>Asked about the Mission to Mars possibility, Michael Sher-
>mer replies, "That's a legitimate hypothesis. That's testable,
>that's explainable. But 'a miracle happened' -- that's different."
>In other words, design is detectable and testable -- but only as
>long as you can be sure ahead of time that the designer isn't God.
>This is less a philosophy than an intellectual straitjacket. By this
>reasoning, scientists whose findings point to natural causes may
>proceed unimpeded, while those whose evidence points to a
>supernatural cause must immediately close up shop and go home.
>One thing you have to say for Dembski's intelligent design theo-
>ry: It makes the ultimate questions real, putting them into our own
>world. By blocking ID research, methodological naturalism
>becomes not only a method for doing science, but a method for
>keeping the deepest human concerns a safe distance from our per-
>On September 8 and q, the peer review committee finally met
>and even brought in Dembski and Gordon for y~ minutes of
>grilling. One committee member chastised Dembski for ques-
>tioning the adequacy of neo-Darwinism. Dembski, however,
>showed none of the hoped-for contrition. As this issue goes to press,
>the committee is getting set to announce its recommendation.
>What will be the fate of Dembski, Gordon, and their
>Michael Polanyi Center? It's up to one man only -- President
>Robert Sloan. He can bow to faculty pressure and dissolve the
>present Polanyi Center, perhaps restaffing it with scholars
>more to the faculty's liking; or clip Dembski's wings by taking
>away his ability to raise money to run programs. Or he can
>stand behind the man he hired, make the case that science
>should be about facts, not McCarthyite lynch mobs -- and
>take the heat that will surely be generated by disgruntled fac-
>ulty and their sympathetic media.
>Either way, the ultimate victim or victor won't be Bill
>Dembski, it will be unbiased science and humanity's quest to
>discover the truth -- wherever that truth leads us.
>Top 10 Accusations
>Bill Dembski is guilty of: 9a) Pollitically incorrect thought-crimes.
>(b) True crimes against science and religion. You decide. Here are the
>leading accusations- and how the Polanyi Center folks reply:
>1. It's all a front for the creationists.
>Lewis Barker: "These people are creationists. They define that as some-
>one who takes a literal interpretation of Genesis."
>Reply: ID is a research project to find out if design is detectable.
>Unlike creationism, it's not concerned with the identity of the design-
>er. It proposes scientific tests that can be falsified, not presuppositions
>that must be believed. Bruce Gordon says, "The Polanyi Center has
>no interest at all in the Biblical literalist approach. I have considerable
>problems with it. It doesn't do justice to science nor to Biblical
>2. It's all politics.
>Michael Shermer: "Their agenda is a re-introduction of Judeo-Chris-
>tian thought into the public schools. They're carrying out a bottom-
>up strategy, by starting in the academy."
>Reply: The Polanyi Center's purpose is research, not getting involved
>in politics or textbook wars. If ID proves correct, say its adherents, its
>research results should of course be included in textbooks. But no one
>at Polanyi is proposing that Genesis be taught in public schools.
>3. ID is a science-stopper.
>Complaining Baylor faculty members, says one journalist, "see the intel-
>ligent design crowd as seeking to put a tourniquet on inquiry."
>Reply: Dembski says that naturalism often stops inquiry, "such as
>in its expectation for the uselessness of vestigial organs and junk DNA,
>whereas intelligent design profitably continues looking for their func-
>tion." The call for the dissolution of the Polanyi Center is a better
>example of "putting a tourniquet on inquiry." Even ID proponent
>Phillip J'ohnson, the Berkeley law professor most abhorred by ID crit-
>ics, does not advocate the removal of Darwinism from the curriculum,
>but that schools should "teach the controversy."
>4. ID doesn't want peer review of criticism.
>Included in the Baylor biologists' letter to Congress was the claim: "The
>supporters of intelligent design have never openly presented their
>Reply: Anyone looking at the list of scientists invited to the "Nature
>of Nature" conference should be cured of that notion. The majority
>were critics of ID.
>5. All they can say is that God did it. And where did He come from?
>Saying that God did it, writes Darwinist Richard Dawkins, only leaves
>us with an unobservable cause that itself needs to be explained.
>Reply: ID, says Dembski, studies the results, the design, not the agent
>that produced it. Dembski further points out that most new theoretical
>entities would forever remain off limits if their source had to be fully
>stood before they could be proposed. Example: Boltzmann's kinetic the-
>ory of heat, which invoked the motion of unobservable particles (now
>called atoms and molecules), which Boltzmann could not explain.
>6. ID can't be quantified.
>Lewis Barker: 'There is absolutely no prediction Dembski can make. His
>arguments do not produce a new research agenda."
>Reply: Lewis Barker should read Dembski's monograph, in which
>he lays out rigorous, mathematical tests to identify complex specified
>information and to show how CSI always implies intelligent design.
>7. All ID can do is criticize evolution.
>Eugenie Scott: "It is certainly fair to describe them as anti-evolutionists."
>Reply: In fact, says Bruce Gordon, "intelligent design is compatible
>with evolution. Many biologists are theistic evolutionists. Design can
>be understood as built into the initial conditions, so that the subse-
>quent development was continuous and not interrupted by any tran-
>scendent intervention. Yet the teleology could still be quantified through
>the methods of the mathematical techniques of design theory."
>8. It's bad theology.
>Eugenie Scott: 'Theologians don't like it because it creates a mammoth
>Reply: If intelligent causes exist (as forensic science and SETI
>already assume), then it is wrong to assume that all gaps in present
>knowledge must eventually be filled by non-intelligent causes.
>9. It's bad science, or not science at all.
>Reply: Dembski points out that if you say ID is not science because
>it can't be observed, then we must also toss out theoretical entities
>like quarks, super-strings, and cold dark matter. If you say it's not sci-
>ence because the design is not repeatable, then out goes the big bang,
>the origin of life, and the origin of humans. If you say science must
>deal exclusively with what is governed by law, then out goes the
>special sciences that deal with intelligent agents, like forensics and
>SETI. ID advoca'tes aren't asking to be cut any more slack than
>10. ID invokes supernatural causes.
>According to Eugenie Scott and biologist/philosopher Michael Ruse,
>science studies natural causes, and to introduce design is to invoke
>Reply: Dembski says that this contrast is wrong: "The proper con-
>trast is between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intel-
>ligent causes on the other. Whether an intelligent cause is located
>within or outside nature is a separate question from whether an intel-
>ligent cause has acted within nature. Design has no prior commitment
Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
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