Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Klinghoffer Plays Pretend

Over at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division, David Klinghoffer attempts to fisk a Jacob Weisberg article in Slate and falls on his face in the process. He takes him to task for defining intelligent design this way:

Weisberg has demonstrated ignorant prejudice in the past. He has written elsewhere that intelligent design is the assertion “that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation.”

But in the real world — as opposed to the world of PR spin created by ID advocates — that’s a pretty good definition. ID is, in fact, a pure “god of the gaps” argument. It relies on the alleged failure of evolution to explain a given trait in order to then justify the claim that it must be the result of divine intervention instead. ID can be summed up in one phrase: Not evolution, therefore God.

Don’t believe me? Look at the arguments made in the books put out by the leading ID advocates. Every one of them is a negative argument. Michael Behe’s central argument, irreducible complexity, is in precisely that form — evolution can’t explain X (the flagellum, the immune system, etc.), therefore God must have done it.

Jonathan Wells’ book Icons of Evolution is nothing but one long attempt to disprove some of the central arguments in favor of evolution. And Dembski’s explanatory filter explicitly requires one to first rule out natural processes in order to reach the conclusion that God did it. All pure god of the gaps arguments.

In fact, Klinghoffer himself unwittingly admits this in this very same post:

In reality, the evolution debate turns, in part, on the question of how much of life’s history can be explained in the neo-Darwinian terms of natural selection operating unguided on chance genetic variation. Darwin skeptics argue, not on the basis of “religious beliefs” whether harmless or otherwise, that the development of complex life may be explained in this Darwinian fashion only up to a point.

The scientific not religious question is where to set the “edge of evolution,” as Michael Behe puts it. ID theorists also argue about whether, given the apparent limit to the explanatory power of Darwinian theory, a different explanation involving teleology may be scientifically called for.

Which is identical to Weisberg’s definition, that ID attempts to fill in any alleged gaps in evolutionary explanations with God.