Thursday, August 11, 2005

Science is Science, Dammit!

Who the fuck cares what religious leaders think about evolution?

Seriously, are we allowing artists or literary theorists dictate our science curricula? These atavistic, knuckle-dragging morons are the last people who should be determining what gets taught in a science class. If they need to control some aspect of the curriculum, give them phys. ed.—that's about the right level for their intellects.

For some bizarre reason, neo-Creationists (and that's what the "Intelligent Design" advocates are, whatever they say) just love to use the second law of thermodynamics as an argument against random mutations leading to greater complexity. Hey, you might not have noticed, but there's this big, yellow, glowing thing in the sky an average of twelve hours every day, and it makes things hot. The second law applies to closed systems. That means no outside source (or sink) of energy. It also applies to entropy on the whole. There's absolutely no inconsistency between the second law of thermodynamics and a piece of a closed system becoming more ordered, as long as the order of the system taken as a whole decreases.

Oh, and the "scientific debate" over evolution? Yeah, just when the blue and red monkey-birds speciated is the lynch-pin of evolution. If biologists can't agree on that, the whole thing must be wrong. Or whether new features evolve only when there's an open niche due to extinctions or whether they evolve constantly and rarely provide sufficient advantage to oust the current niche-holder (or other members of their own species). That's another major debate by which evolution must stand or fall.

People who claim that evolution (random mutations, competition for resources) can't explain the variety or complexity of life are lacking in imagination. Just because they can't see how it could happen doesn't mean it couldn't happen. So their intellectual laziness should trump the work of people who have spent years studying and understanding evolution? Does anything else in life work this way?

Do evolutionary biologists understand every aspect of how every current species (or really any current species) came to be? No, of course not. The fossil record is necessarily incomplete, since fossilization is so rare. Is this a problem? If you're trying to trace a complete lineage (whatever that might mean, given evolutionary changes are extremely slow), then sure, it's a problem, or rather an obstacle. If you're trying to explain the origin of species more generally, then no, it's no problem at all. Any particular lineage might be spotty, but there are so many examples of gradual changes within large groups of species, and so many observable examples of micro-evolution in the lab today, that the general framework of the theory holds up very well.

Let's put this in perspective. Darwin's theory of evolution has held up better than Newton's theory of classical mechanics. You know, that whole "F=ma" thing? What they use to plot the trajectories of inter-planetary spacecraft? Evolution has perhaps required a few tweaks over the years, as we learn more (and isn't that what science is all about?) (unless, apparently, if you live in Kansas) (OK, the 60% of Kansas that voted to appoint blithering idiots to the school board). Mechanics required a substantial re-writing in 1905 when Einstein realized that there was a fundamental limit to how fast things can go. Oh yeah, and then there was the 1920's, when another group of physicists discovered that when things get really small, you have to throw a whole bunch of the theory away and replace it with something really weird (and I say this as someone who holds a PhD in physics).

Intelligent Design is fundamentally intellectually dishonest. It's authors and supporters shouldn't be telling others what to teach in science class, they should take the class themselves. Who knows? They might even learn something.

3 comments:

EmmaPeel said...

You have to understand, intelligent design advocates aren't really in it because they think scientists got it wrong. They're in it to save society from the devastation caused by not enough people believing in the supernatural.

Mike Marsh said...

Thanks for the link; the article was very interesting. I have to wonder about two things, however:
1. If they're so concerned about children learning their "supernatural heritage," why not teach it at home?
2. How do they reconcile representative democracy arising from the belief that Man is created in the image of the Gods with the fact that the Romans didn't anthropomorphize their gods?
That's not to say I expect particularly rigorous logic from the ID side of the "debate."

I could go on for pages about their critique of materialism, as I could about postmodernism, but those are subjects for another time.

Victor Rockson said...

Sorry; can't read the article but want to comment anyway.

I thimk the truth is half way between saving society and wanting to be in charge. They want to save society but not their part because they are already saved. It's us un-indoctrinated folk who need to be saved from our selves. And it's just a happy coincidence that they get to bein charge and tell more people what to do as a result.

Just my 2 cents.

VR