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Thursday, October 27, 2005 

More academic journals discussing ID

(And not in a supportive way). PZ and Orac discussed a recent New England Journal of Medicine editorial critical of intelligent design. Though the article had several shortcomings, it's always a bonus to see other scientists treating ID as a valid threat (not in the scientific sphere, of course, but in the "hearts and minds" of the populace). Now the Journal of Clinical Investigation, another fairly heavy-hitter as far as medical journals go, recommends to its readers, Don’t be stupid about intelligent design. Kudos to them...now come the nitpicks. :)

Neill writes,
For those who have had their heads in the sand, it is worth going over the main points of intelligent design. Intelligent design challenges both Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and other tenets of evolutionary theory by arguing that many organisms are too complex and their systems too intricate to have been accomplished through evolution alone. Unlike creationists, who eschew scientific theory and believe that God created the entire world in 6 days, design proponents accept many of the conclusions of science. They accept the cosmologists’ view that the universe is 13.6 billion years old or the geologists’ view that the world is 4.5 billion years old and shun the Bible’s suggestion that the world is less than 10,000 years old. They accept that mutations and natural selection may have guided aspects of the natural world.
Well...many of them accept an old earth, but certainly it's not required of ID "theory" that the earth is 4.5 BY old.

They do not define the deity involved, other than labeling it "God," saying that intelligent design has no theology behind it — a way to avoid being called religion.

And here, not all of them even label it "God;" some simply say "The Designer."

Why should you bother with all this? Because this is not a fight for only developmental or anthropological scientists to fight. We all must be informed and we all must get involved to make sure that our lay peers know the facts. The science curriculum is being changed to incorporate intelligent design in Ohio, New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania — it is important to make sure this does not spread to other states, and that it is overturned in the states where it is taught. One thing is unambiguous: this sort of discussion — of religion — does not belong in the classroom.

Very much agreed, but I don't know why "developmental or anthropological scientists" are singled out. Weird.

Design theorists say that scientists didn’t see evolution occur and can’t recreate it in a dish, but this is untrue — chromosomal changes, mutations, and hybridization in plants, cells, and fruit flies have shown that changes can be seen in short order (microevolution, so to speak), and the study of fossil records over thousands of years have shown us how evolution has proceeded. They also say that mutations only eliminate traits and cannot produce new features. Those who came up with this argument have clearly never heard of a gain-of-function mutation.

Ah, but silly rabbit, this is just microevolution. As ID proponent Jonathan Witt so eloquently puts it:

Microevolution says a virus can change over time; macroevolution says a virus can change into a cow.

(You just can't make this stuff up, folks). Moving on,

An oft-cited, specious argument regards how life at the microscopic level is too intricate to have evolved. In particular, they point to the example of bacterial flagellum, with its intricate, interdependent motor proteins that couldn’t possibly have formed by evolution. However, not all flagellum are complicated, and not all components are required for the appendage to work. And many of the proteins are present elsewhere in the body.

This is sloppy. "Not all flagellum are complicated?" I'd argue that they are, but they're not "complicated" in the precise way Behe defines them; the flagella is not "irreducibly complex." And the "many of the proteins are present elsewhere in the body" should have been clarified; I assume it's a reference to the eukaryotic flagellum coming from the mitotic spindle aparatus?

Anyway, overall, a good editorial and I hope it will serve to bring more awareness of the issues to the scientific community. So many scientists that I talk to are shocked that people actually buy into ID, and assume that because it's so patently absurd, it will just go away. A wake-up call never hurts.

ETA: as noted in the comments, Witt does now mention: "[Update: to be precise, most Darwinists would say a bacterium evolved into a cow.]" That's sooo much better.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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