27 November 2006

"Intelligent" Design

So the ID'ers are stepping up the pressure, here in the UK. They have a shiny new Web site - Truth in Science, no less - that looks jolly impressive in its comprehensiveness. You might think it would require an equal number of pages to counter the arguments put forth there. Fortunately, that is not the case.

It all comes down to the following section:

What is Intelligent Design?

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Well, natural selection is not an "undirected process": it is one absolutely directed by a very simple, readily comprehensible mathematical fact: that a system with a greater rate of growth than rival systems will inevitably overtake the latter as time progresses. The graph is steeper, so whatever the starting point, there will come a time when it overtakes every other system's graph. The difference in growth rates is what is known as the "natural selection": in fact, there is no selection, just this gradual but inevitable emergence.

Every change to a system that causes it to grow faster is a change that will be propagated more thoroughly than one that tends to slow down the growth. This means that systems "evolve" - that is, that they change over time in such as way as to maximise their growth (and note that this evolution is not unique or directed at any particular "goal".)

On the other side, the basic fallacy of invoking "intelligent" design to explain "certain features" of the universe, is that it explains nothing. It is a completely circular argument: things are as they are because an "intelligent cause" made them that way.

That is neither explanation nor science, and as such has no place in either schools or universities except as fodder for debating societies who wish to hone their skills in demolishing specious arguments.


Anonymous said...

?second life

one god vs many!
and i think inteligent cause or design is a definite blow to athiest every where

Glyn Moody said...

Well, thanks for that reasoned comment.

remit said...

Short description of our knowledge:
Inteligent design-kindergarten level
Evolution-teenagers level
Randomness-master level

Glyn Moody said...

Neat encapsulation.