ID folks make numerous assertions said to represent scientific challenges to conventional evolutionary theory. These claims are uniformly wrong, which is one of the reasons scientists generally ignore them.
But ID folks also claim that adopting a design perspective could lead to great progress in science, if only scientists would take off their materialist blinders. There is an acid test for all such claims: Go discover something! Writers are fond of saying “Show, don’t tell,” and that adage applies very well here. If your perspective is so useful, then prove it by discovering something the conventional methods had overlooked.
Every once in a while an ID proponent claims to have done such a thing, but such claims invariably crumble after even the briefest examination. So I read with interest this post from ID hack and Dembski lackey Denyse O’Leary. It’s title: Nine Predictions, if Intelligent Design is True.
Golly! That’s a lot of predictions. Now, typically when scientists talk about a prediction of a theory, they are talking about something they can use to guide their research. Give a paleontologist a region of the world and rocks of a particular age, and they can tell you with considerable precision what sorts of creatures you ought to find in the fossils. We saw a dramatic example of this in 2006 with the discovery of Tiktaalik. Paleontologists were searching for a fossil with certain characteristics, and they had a good idea of where to look for the best chance of finding one as the result of evolutionary thinking. That is just one example. It is not difficult to come up with many more.
Can ID do anything like that? Of course not. If it could, it would have taken over as the dominant paradigm in biology long ago. This hasn’t stopped various ID folks from trying to pretend otherwise. Let’s have a look at O’Leary’s efforts.
Here’s one she was so proud of, she even cross-posted it over at Dembski’s blog:
Complete series of transitional fossils will not usually be found because most proposed series have never existed. Eventually, researchers will give up on ideologically driven nonsense and address the history that IS there. They will focus on discovering the mechanisms that drive sudden bursts of creativity.
No account of human evolution will show a long slow emergence from unconsciousness to semi-consciousness to consciousness, let alone that consciousness is merely the random firing of neurons in the brain. However consciousness got started, it appeared rather suddenly and it permanently separates humans from our genetic kin, however you want to do the gene numbers and however much time researchers spend coaxing monkeys to stop relieving themselves on the keyboard and type something meaningful.
Get the idea? O’Leary’s predictions look an awful lot like foot-stomping, arm-folding and head shaking. You will search her nine predictions in vain for any hint of something scientists can actually use in their research.
Evolution showed everyone that heredity was a subject of vital importance. Countless generations of creationists prior to Darwin overlooked that point. (Yes, I’ve heard of Mendel. And no, one lonely monk performing a handful of simple experiments does not count.) It is evolution that changed paleontology from the dreary business of bland description to the vital field of science it is today. Evolution gave paleontologists guidance as to how to do their work, and found itself enriched by what the paleontologists found. The same could be said for every branch of the life sciences. That’s what useful theories do.
And here comes O’Leary to tell everyone that a century and a half of unambiguous usefulness should be discarded. Why? Because she is not convinced. Okay, what should scientists be doing instead? Nothing. What sorts of research or experiments are suggested by a design perespective that would not be undertaken with a more conventional perspective? Nothing.
The most generous explanation is that O’Leary does not understand what is being asked when sicentists ask for predictions stemming from ID. In addition to the purely negative predictions I have mentioned so far, O’Leary gives some postive predictions. After her petulant remarks about transitional forms, for example, she writes:
Positive prediction: Discovering the true mechanisms of bursts of natural creativity may be of immense value to us, especially if we need to undo some significant harm to our environment.
That, folks, is not a prediction in the scientific sense. Of course, I agree that uncovering the mechanisms of natural creativity could be a useful endeavor, which is why I note with pleasure that biologists have been busily doing just that for quite some time now.
And the one about consciousness?
Positive prediction: We will focus on what consciousness can do, especially in treatment of mental disorders. Yes, a drugged up zombie is better than a suicide, but only because the zombie isn’t technically dead. Why stop there?
Well, that’s just great. Millions of people are able to get on with their lives because medication allows them to keep their illnesses in check. To O’Leary they’re all just drugged up zombies who are only technically alive. That’s pretty tasteless and stupid, even for an ID proponent.
As for the treatment of mental disorders, drugs have been inordinately effective while “focusing on what consciousness can do” has led to nothing. I wonder why that is? And does taking a design perspecitve help us find treatments for mental disorders? O’Leary doesn’t tell us.
ID is a complete dead-end scientifically. It just sits there and does nothing. For scientists this an even greater defect than being wrong. An incorrect perspective might still lead you to something useful and interesting, even if just the discovery that our perspective needs to be changed. ID doesn’t even do that.