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No Spin on ID
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I was heading back home from orientation yesterday and listened to a bit of Bill O'Reilly's radio show. John Gibson was filling in, and he had one of these yahoos from the Discovery Institute shilling for intelligent design. Specifically they were talking about the case of Richard Sternberg, the editor of a journal called Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, which published a paper by Stephen C. Meyer entitled "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories", which is apparently just a retread of Paley's watch argument in journal article format.

Gibson said he didn't want religious people to call in. He wanted secularists and scientists to call. I wish I had. The people who did call in were pretty lame.

Gibson said the usual stuff like "What we have here is arrogance, people. The people in white coats from up high telling all the munchkins below that they just don't get it." Yes, he used the word "munchkins". He said he wanted to know why scientists were afraid to even talk about this stuff. He wanted to know what was wrong with giving it equal time. He directly challenged two of the callers as to whether or not scientists could create life in a laboratory, and when they said no, he gave a triumphant "Aha!", as if that proved his point. He said, "What we have here is a case where the scientists don't have it figured out, and here comes along somebody with a possible explanation, and they run him out of town on a rail."

Same old tired shit.

If I had called in I would have brought up disease. There is no serious person working in disease prevention that will tell you we've got it all figured out. AIDS? Yeah, we've got that one all figured out, right? Just like cancer and malaria and all the dozens of other diseases that kill people every single day. Do scientists know exactly how cancer forms, spreads, and kills? No? Then they've got no credibility, right?

What if some fellow came along and offered the following explanation: Some diseases are so complex and bewildering to scientists that they can't have naturalistic explanations. Some intelligent force...some malevolent intelligent force must be behind some of our worst diseases. Let's call this theory the Malevolent Intelligent Design of Disease theory. We're not saying it's satan, per se. It could be the malevolent spirits of some other religion, like Muslims or Hindus.

Why isn't this reasonable? Let me ask a question: Would any of you donate money to a foundation that was carrying out research along this line of thought, rather than say, a medical center with trained scientists who assumed that diseases have a naturalistic basis and are studying boring shit like cell replication and molecular biology?

If a guy wrote a paper ascribing the origins of disease to evil forces, should he get space in peer-reviewed journals? Should teachers give such ideas equal time in the classroom?

There's a reason scientists assume a naturalist underpinning for phenomenon and proceed to try to unravel what it is, rather than assume a supernaturalistic explanation.

1) Because it works a whole hell of a lot better.
2) Because the assumption of supernaturalistic causes for phenomenon is the end of naturalistic exploration.

Once you've decided that it's satan, or faeries, or a giant purple unicorn that causes [the origin of life, disease, earthquakes, thunderstorms, whatever], then you're down that path, not looking into naturalistic explanations anymore. And that means the search for a real answer is stunted. It means we're going backwards.

In the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History they have a skull from a pre-modern human. It's got a hole in the crown, and paleontologists think that it's the result of someone else chiseling it there, probably the equivalent of a witch doctor. They hypothesize that the owner of the skull was the subject of a medical procedure intent on opening a hole in his head so evil spirits could be freed to cure him of whatever condition he had.

That's the kind of shit we need to leave buried in humanity's past.

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