Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Darwinism vs Intelligent Design

....when I was talking with a mate last night the subject of ID v Darwinism came up. As a science teacher, she is obviously against ID as it is belief and not science. But she mentioned that Darwinism also requires leaps of faith as the actual links, say between a fish in the water and then a breathing fish, are next to impossible to prove and therefore if the ID people were to use their brains rather than their blind faith they could very easily pick holes in it. Does this fit in with your knowledge of the facts and the debate?

Disclaimer; I did my degree under Richard Dawkins, Robert Scotland and Tom Kemp, so I am heavily steeped in cladistic, palaeontological Darwinism.

Darwinism remains the best and only verifiable explanation of why things are the way they are. Without it, nothing makes sense. Why would a God who created all species uniquely do it with such similar physiologies? If I do not share an ancestpr with chimps, why do I share 98% opf my functional AND non-functional DNA with them? If I am the creation of a perfect God, why is my back (and feet for that matter) so badly designed for bipedalism? Darwinism explains so much, so powerfully. ID just creates more and more and more questions.

Darwinism makes very few assumptions. All it requires is a self replicating system (tick) which makes the odd error (tick, see first law of thermodynamics) which competes with other systems for limited resources (tick), and a long enough time to act (tick - 3.8 billion years is the current best guess. Each revision of that date has pushed it back.)

ID requires the assumption of an omnipotent creator. I leave you to weigh that one up.

Big leaps (and coming on to land is a good example) do require a little thought. Evidence for how such things functionally happened generally depends on fossils and fossilisation is a very very rare event (the chemistry to turn a biomaterial into stone is non-trivial). However, in the case of terrestrialisation, we do have some lovely fossils: ichthyostegids like Acanthostega and Ichtyostega, all with fin-like protolimbs and modified gills which can breathe air (providing they are kept damp, just like our lungs, really.) We will never have a complete fossil record. Just because we lack a few pieces of the puzzle is no excuse to throw the whole puzzle away.

Every time God-botherers point out a hole in the fossil record, it generally gets filled by professionals who know where to look. Archaeopteryx, for example. Debate is ongoing as the nature and speed of major biological change - Goulds punctuated equilibria vs Dawkins' gradualism - but that is the point, we debate and we modifgy and we refine our theories. I would love to see an ID proponent try explain the evolution of antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus. God hates penicillin, maybe?

ID believers are welcome to continue trying to shoehorn the evidence into their presumptions of a God. That is their fundamental problem - each time more evidence comes to light they have to somehow shoehorn it into their assumptions, instead of letting the evidence change the theory around it (as DNA evidence is constantly changing our assumptions about what is related to what and when it all diverged). I know of no killer piece of evidence that knocks old Charlie off his perch.

Meanwhile, he rest of us will continue to marvel at nature in all its incredible diversity and astonishing unity, as it is.

I could go on as crushing ID is just far too much fun.


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