Thursday, December 29, 2005

Intelligent Design and the PA Ruling at ChicagoBoyz

James Rummel at ChicagoBoyz has a post about the Pennsylvania ruling on intelligent design titled "Science in the Classroom". He begins by describing his efforts at breeding golden retrievers, which leads him to the success of selective breeding in producing the many dog breeds we see today. He continues:

That is pretty much at the heart of evolution. Some sort of environmental cause either reduces the chance for organisms with a certain inherited trait from breeding, or it increases the chances for individuals from the same species with a different trait. Undesired traits are bred out of the species while those that increase the chance of hooking up become commonplace. This is, in fact, the basis for just about all of our modern biological science.

The key phrase here is "some sort of environmental cause". While human-directed animal husbandry in all its useful forms makes a dandy illustration of the power of genetics and heredity, it represent precisely the opposite sort of environmental cause to what naturalistic evolution calls for. Naturalistic evolution (as opposed to something like theistic evolution) is predicated upon the notion that the all the environmental causes that bear upon the origin of the species and their traits are strictly ateleological, that is, without any goal, purpose, or intention whatsoever. Yet the actions of dog breeders like James are nothing if not goal-directed and purposeful--that is to say, teleological to their very core. Human-directed animal husbandry is the opposite of Dawkin's blind watchmaker (unless perhaps you are an eliminative materialist), and therefore it provides no confirmation at all for natural selection taken as a strictly ateleological process.

In this post James also says:

If the judge had ruled the other way, then graduates from PA universities would have had a real problem finding positions in the medical and biological fields. It¿s true that higher education has little to do with what is taught in public grade school, but they probably would have been tarred by the same brush.

If James is correct about this, then it speaks quite poorly for the medical and biological fields. Are the practitioners of those fields really so blinded by prejudice that they think that anyone who has been exposed to ID is necessarily an intellectual reprobate? Is the situation of such high school graduates so hopeless that one needn't bother to evaluate their actual merits? Surely scientists would demand actual empirical evidence of taint before consigning whole groups of people to the trash heap--at least one well-designed study demonstrating a statistically significant correlation between exposure to ID in high school and the inability to do good science or medicine later.

I also entered the fray in the comments: one, two, and three.