Monday, August 14, 2006

The Intelligent Dinosaur

(more redstate rerelease - I want to make sure everyone can access)

I think to myself, Carlos, why would you want to heat up the apparently destructive debate on ID (Intelligent Design)? What can be gained by dividing the ranks of the conservative masses? And why would I want to cower under a pile of hot coals? But, alas, sensibility is not my strongest point, and I personally think dogmatic alignment with ones religious teachings are dangerous, no matter how 'right' you personal religion is. God gave you a mind and a soul. You are to use your mind to evaluate and be critical. Then exercises your will and decide. And for those who the fire has alighted, there is a additional promoting in your conscience on the decisions you make. Most likely your faith will be strengthened in the process.

For those who are now asking "Is Carlos going to get preachy?" I can assure you, I will focus the dialectic towards the conservative hermeneutic. (At the same time using obscure words with religious connotations, dope.) In other words, if you care not for the condition of your soul, but yearn for the days of Reagan, you will still find something here. And I will refrain from overt proselytizing, its my solemn promise and vow. Is that all the boilerplate cleared up? Apart from stating that no actual dinosaurs were made extinct in the creation of this exposition.The term science seems to mean many things to many people in this ID debate. Science is just a word meaning knowledge. The inference is to that which is knowable, things that can be seen, constructions that can be observed, processes that can be replicated. It also has the implication that observers can come to agreement on the description or labeling of known things. Here we face the first misunderstood aspect of modern science among those whose exposure is predominantly lay media. Known things in science are peer reviewed. This does not mean infallibility, or establish absolute truth. It simply means that the description is acceptable. It means when scientists communicate, they agree on the validity of the communication. In the process, obvious flaws are identified, and many theories that are easily disproved are avoided in the 'open' published discussion.

Lets comment briefly then on Darwin's theory. He made observations, proposed a explanation for those observations, and communicated that to the world. Modern science is not so much interested in proving the absolute 'origin' of life. It is interested in making connections between observations. So the first problem is solved. Yes there may be many misguided secularist in the scientific community who want to promote some ultimate origin apart from God as a curricula in public schools. But that is not science either. And there are many more non-scientific secularists who would go right along. This a political stance based on a philosophy, where the subject is comparative mythology more than science. Conversely, creating a paradigm that obfuscates the incredible body of evidence in support of mutogenesis and genetic phylogeny is equally not science.

Which brings us to the first argument. Many organisms evolve on a time scale that is easily observable during the human lifetime. Viruses and bacteria are a good example. Is it Gods hand mutating the genes of such? Or are they operating in a system designed by God? Either of these questions are fine, yet not the realm of science. What is the scientific aspect of this in regards to ID? Do I make a test out of bacterial strains and suddenly proclaim hidden intelligence is at work? First, it is not a provable test, as you would need to uncover the connections to the hidden intelligence. Second, the actual test of observing the changes in these organisms has been a part of the testable world of knowledge for decades, mutogenesis seems to explain things each time.

If you want to argue that mutogenesis is the connection to the Designer, that is just as well, yet still not the realm of science. It is a perfectly valid philosophical debate, and one that should be a part of public education. The origins of modern scientific thought were the classic minds, many of whom partook in the philosophical debate surrounding faith, and the awareness of that historic, and continuing conversation is not well represented in modern American curricula. We have strayed from our Enlightenment roots, and do not lay the groundwork for critical thinking in any systematic way within the public education system.

Before we stray into the intended territory I would ask this question of the reader: "As a conservative, what does science mean to you?" As you ponder, think for a moment what the scientist does. If he/she is good at their particular branch of science, they pursue primary research. This is the real experimentation and observation. They publish results, and promote theories to be investigated and validated by others. Some of these theories are unproven, and can not be validated until more information is gained. Here is another area of confusion. For instance, the theory of Global Warming is a hot political issue. Some people believe that we as a society can prevent further damage to the Earth by changing our lifestyles and cultures. Yet, the theory is not validated, the definition of damage is unclear, and there is no evidence we can control human impact, either socially or physically, in a global sense.

The analogous implication for ID is this: the theory of ID is not validated, the definition of organized complexity is unclear, and there is no evidence of direct involvement in the evolution of any species. Most will not fight with me over the first and third issues, so lets have fun with the second. Here is when we bring in the dinosaur. Complex higher order creatures. We even have a few remnants of that age with us today. Alligators and crocodiles have many similarities to some dinosaurs of yesteryear. Were they intelligently designed? I mean, most dinosaurs are extinct. A complex higher order being, that just didn't have what it took to survive. Or maybe the designer got tired of them? Is success and true complexity simply defined by brain tissue, or survivability? Is that the measure of organized complexity?

Presumably the designer in ID is God. Yet this is not inherent in the justification of ID, and we don't need to equate the two. But if it is my God, he doesn't make mistakes. And there is the real problem. ID in some ways attempts to judge what is more or less valuable, as if it is foreknown what the conclusion should look like. That is not a perfect designer. Unless your definition of ID is that of a Supreme Creator of the Universe. And that creating includes everything we can observe and learn about. Things like light from galaxies 13 billion years old, rocks billions of years old from the formation of the planet, and ancient dinosaurs. Its a whole creation full of amazing and wonderful things to discover. That is the platform into which man is placed, with the tools and desire to investigate it.

The ability to pursue science, the knowledge of the creation, the communication of that knowledge, is one of God's great gifts to man. Science predates the fall of man in Genesis 2:19,20:

"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. "

In fact, science was Adams first pursuit before Eve, if only he had stayed on the straight and narrow. Or, as the contrarian would say, "Science is a poor substitute for love." And yes, personally I would ditch my field to keep my wife, however, not all of my dweebish colleagues have done that. Ah, we have strayed off topic slightly, the more important illumination is within our political debate among conservatives. A large loyal core of conservatives are Christians, some with varying degrees of 'fundamentalism'. Within this religious viewpoint are many healthy values that also define modern conservatism. Unfortunately, some baggage comes with the various doctrines. Faith brings freedom and understanding. But there is no necessity to suspend reason at the same time.

Likewise, for the atheist, who is not interested in science, the same can be said. There is no need for awe and fear at the apparent unknown complexity of scientific pursuit. Just develop healthy criticism of popularized 'science' and it relation to political topics. Simply being critical regarding 99% of what is reported in mass media about science will get you a long way towards comfortable understanding when it is necessary to make a decision. The real advances in science will integrate into society by the inherent success of the application, not by the politicization of the theory. Which leaves us with ID. It has not endured open criticism, and is far too recent a suggestion to begin developing primary school curricula around. And if you are simply headed for the comparative philosophy argument of divine origin vs primordial chaos, just back up a bit, and see that we would have great benefit from that topic in the curricula, but it is not the area of science.

Furthermore for the concerned conservative Christian, you can not purge modern science of liberals and atheist, who represent a majority in scientific academia. However, that is a result of the education systems forty year failure to promote critical thinking, not some inherent secular nature of science. Our political efforts, and debate, would be well served by continued illumination of the root causes of this problem. Openly debating certain fundamentalist regarding the existence of dinosaurs for example, is rightly so, a distracting and divisive waste for our community. But promoting the extreme benefit of critical thought, and separating science from the culture of modern academic Scientists, is a very positive and worth wile pursuit.

If you feel strongly about the secularization of our schools, you should be even more concerned with the removal of the foundations that construct a critical mind. As a Christian and a scientist, I could stomach the secular nature of public schools and their woefully inadequate scientific curricula, but I can not accept the removal of philosophic debate, and the apparent turning away from the superior nature of exposure to classic educational principals. If a child learns to think, when it comes time to decide on the real matters in life, he/she will be prepared. If a child simply learns pacifism and how to make sure everyone feels good, they may go far in science, business, or literature with natural talent, but they are not prepared to think critically. My intelligent Designer intends for each and every person to find fulfillment, and socialized liberalism in our education system is a poor substitute.

For the end, I leave you with this crackpot rumination. We are different from the beasts, and we have access to a amazing source of life. The real intelligence in the design is that access. The primary concern is finding life, promoting life, and preserving life. Science is a huge gift to man, yet it is God's afterthought in comparison to the overriding design. A designer without limitation of time, and unconstrained by physical laws, could create anything imaginable, yet the real intent is the ability to connect to perfection. To see free will choose life. To see perfect life grow and flourish. Hence, there is no intelligent dinosaur, simply not part of the plan.

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