Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Intelligent Design

For reasons I don't completely understand, this has become a hot issue recently.

John Derbyshire has been especially active against ID over on The Corner. The nature of his gripe (at least within the last few days) is very interesting, but ultimately not very persuasive. That is, the supposed "proponents" of ID, Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb are not really religious, but wish to prop up religion as a blessing to the populace as a whole. This is odd especially since Kristol and Himmlefarb are not exactly known for their stance on ID, who has other people interested in defending it.

Getting to the main point, it is important to note that Charles Darwin wrote before Gregor Mendel and the advent of genetics as we know it. Therefore, to him the biological relationship between parents and children was largely unknown and therefore could be fluidly postulated based on various observed facts. Now we know the rules of genetic inheritance, and they are fairly rigid, and Darwinism has never really recovered.

That is, according to Darwinism, natural selection, of each population in its own local environment, produces evolutionary pressure toward survival of the fittest in many incremental steps. The result of this process is the amazing diversity of species we see in the world today. Now many commentators have argued, pro and con, that the available evidence in biological history shows this is feasible or otherwise.

Because each of the observable macro changes in evolution depends on thousands or millions of micro changes, so this implies that the micro changes have to be plausible, and they are not. Because modern genetics tells us that mutations are possible and species can be bred for one trait or another, but it is just about impossible to breed one species into another species. In fact, people have tried, but as far as I know this has never been done. If any kind reader has a citation to the contrary, I would be very much obliged to see it.

Recall then, that the Darwinian theory depends on this occurring thousands or millions of times, when as far as we know it hasn't occured once. Now it is true, that alternative explanations to natural selection are thin and poorly developed. ID, which only sort of fits into this category in the first place, is a new discipline. We will be in a position to judge it better when people have been working on it for forty years and we can look back and see what they have done. But for now, we should applaud it as a rejection of simple fideism ("God created the world and the animals in it, and that's just the end of it. Now go eat your peas.") and a determination to study the issue further.

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