Expelled: Quit Thinking So Hard, God Just Made It…Okay?

12 03 2008

With the approaching release of Ben Stein’s new creationism movie “Expelled” I am once again surprised at the degree of legitimacy given to the debate over the merits of evolutionary theory versus intelligent design (ID). Given the literal tonnage of positive evidence for evolution (also known as fossils) and the utter lack of any evidence for ID it is astonishing that a false scientific idea like this still garners any respect in public and in the press. The scientific evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that the arguments for ID in this “debate” do not merit equal time any more than arguments that the world is flat when discussing planetary geometry.

Since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority, has been the measure of a scientific idea’s worth. In contrast, the foundation of the ID argument takes a natural phenomenon and looks for purely supernatural causes. I will skeptically concede that supernatural explanations may someday prove to have some merit but as yet they are not from the realm of science.

Irreducible complexity, the lynch pin idea behind ID, suggests that there are biological structures that are too complex to have arrived naturally and therefore must have been designed. This is a negative argument against evolution that looks to exploit intricate features in nature combined with inevitable gaps in knowledge and to then interpret these gaps as proof of an intelligent designer without any positive evidence of such. This false dichotomy is wielded in the debate to intentionally confuse people who have better things to do than stay abreast of the current scientific findings and to falsely assert that wherever a gap in evolutionary theory appears it automatically provides de facto evidence for a designer.

To the contrary, it has been seen countless times in the history of discovery that just because scientists cannot explain today how a biological system evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain it in the future. This same contrived dualism was employed by creationists in the 1980’s to support “creation science” and is no more credible an argument than it was twenty years ago.

In contrast Evolution has 150 years of cumulative and corroborative evidence from the varied sciences of paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, genetics and molecular biology. It is only in the thinly veiled attempt to defend the dogmas of religion that ID advocates insist on continuing to try to undermine a theory as universally confirmed as evolution with such uninformed or intentionally deceptive arguments.

Since ID claims are so vague and broad it would perhaps be better suited to address questions far less understood by science, questions like the beginning of the universe marked by the “big bang” or perhaps even the origin of life itself. I’m not suggesting that ID actually provides any real insight into those longstanding mysteries, it’s just that given the lack of a universally accepted scientific theory explaining these events that ID could, at least for now, enjoy a less challenging landscape. It seems inevitable that ID will have to cede these mysteries to science as well, but at least religious literalists like Mr. Stein can have something to cling to while their Bronze Age myths still maintain a shred of popularity.

As for Mr. Stein’s claim that ID advocates speech is being repressed, I think he has it all wrong. This is a question of true science, not free speech. Everything they’re saying today has already been looked at and roundly debunked as religious propaganda. There are no free rides in science. When the ID camp can produce new hypothesis, new tests that produce new data that provide real evidence to back up their new claims then their research will be considered just like any other submission into the world of science. Until then they have the freedom to speak about and repeat their tired old testament fictions…but they should be prepared to have such speech met with well deserved ridicule.