26 September 2005

More on Dover

I don't have as much time to blog tonight as I'd like. Instead, I'm working on a couple of things that aren't on my top ten favorite things list - designing PCR primers and grading lab papers. I did steal a few minutes here and there to look at some of the news stories relating to the Dover lawsuit, which opened today.

Some good articles:
There are three articles that are especially worth a look:
There's a truly outstanding article in the Washington Post, that provides a nice, simple explanation of evolution. There's a couple of places where I think that they might have simplified a bit too much, but as a whole this article is the best treatment of the issue that I have seen in the media in years. (hat tip: Pharyngula)
The New York Times also has some decent coverage, http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,1579199,00.html.

The WaPo piece, in addition to the good coverage on evolution, has an amusing little quote from the Discovery Institute's John West:
Asked to provide examples of non-obvious, testable predictions made by the theory of Intelligent Design, John West, an associate director of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based ID think tank, offered one: In 1998, he said, an ID theorist, reckoning that an intelligent designer would not fill animals' genomes with DNA that had no use, predicted that much of the "junk" DNA in animals' genomes -- long seen as the detritus of evolutionary processes -- will someday be found to have a function.

(In fact, some "junk" DNA has indeed been found to be functional in recent years, though more than 90 percent of human DNA still appears to be the flotsam of biological history.) In any case, West said, it is up to Darwinists to prove ID wrong.

A few things worth noting here:

The Intelligent Design "prediction" is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin with, one must wonder as to exactly how they develop their expectations for this designer. They expect the designer to be intelligent enough not to leave lots of junk in the genome. Yet they are entirely unconcerned by any number of features in humans alone that smack of incompetent engineering. Why, for example, do our eyes have blind spots? Who put together the specs for my lower back? Flatfeet don't seem too intelligent to me, either. Of course, all of that pales next to the decision that was made to, as the old engineering joke puts it, run the sewer piping right through the middle of a recreational area. It's funny. Anything intelligent about the way that organisms are put together is, they feel, good evidence for an Intelligent Designer. Anything unintelligent about the way that organisms are put together, on the other hand, is just proof that we can't know the Ineffable Plan of the Designer. Who isn't necessarily God. Really.

Another interesting thing that I noted is that, somehow or another, the Discovery Institute doesn't seem to have focused anything in the way of research funding or energy into trying to find the purpose for the junk DNA. One really must wonder why. They are the main source of ID funding, and they think that they have a testable hypothesis out there. So why were they lobbying school boards instead of testing that hypothesis?

Finally, it is not up to us to prove them wrong. That's not how it works. If you think that you have come up with a good hypothesis, you need to go out and test it. You don't get to say, "This is how things are, and I'm right about that unless you prove me wrong." That sort of thing might work on a kindergarten playground. It doesn't work in science.
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