Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Philosophy of Design

I think that some battles should be kept out of the courts.

In California, advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing a new way get into the public schools and preach their gospel while pretending to teach science. They have created a "Philosophy of Design" class (L.A. Times). Allegedly, its purpose is to teach the philosophical issues surrounding design theory. In fact, all but one video set for the class favors intelligent design, and one speaker assigned to defend evolution died in 2004. And the teacher is a soccer coach, with no training in either philosophy or science.

So, a number of parents in the school district have filed a lawsuit, saying that the class is unconstitutional.

I see lawsuits as a waste of time.

People should react to this class the same way that would react to news that the school was having a teacher tell students that 4,000 Jews were warned to stay away from work on 9/11, or the world is flat, or that they can't get AIDS if they have sex in the dark. We do not sue teachers who say these things. We fire them for incompetence.

The Problem with 'Intelligent Design'

Here are three major pillars of "intelligent design".

(1) Irreducibly complex things must be designed.

(2) The ultimate designer is irreducibly complex

(3) The ultimate designer was not designed.

This is a flat contradiction -- a piece of incoherent nonsense.

Will these "teachers" point this out to their students?

I suspect not. This is because their goal is not to teach, but to indoctrinate. They are going to hide the contradiction behind a smoke screen of confusion and scientific-sounding jargon.

If they do acknowledge this problem, I suspect that they will try to cover it up with some ad-hoc adjustments, such as

(1) Irreducibly complex things must be designed, except the ultimate designer.

Question: Why tack on this ad-hoc exception?

The intelligent design advocate under a truth serum would have to say, Because it is the only way to cover up the contradiction.

Question: Why 'except the ultimate designer'? Why not 'except life'?

Again, a dose of truth serum would force the intelligent design advocate to answer, Because I am trying to create an argument for the existence of God, and this is the only way to get the results I want.

The Cost of Intelligent Design

We cannot afford to have our public schools dedicated to the task of promoting ignorance. We need smart people with a sufficient grasp of reality to find real-world answers to our real-world problems.

We are under the threat of a pandemic and we need people to understand how living things work to best figure out how to protect us from this threat. Diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Promoting ignorance at this time will disarm us against these diseases, resulting in suffering and death.

We need people who are smart enough to keep America competitive in the global economy. If we promote ignorance in our schools, while other countries teach their children to understand the real world, those other nations will catch up to and pass the United States, ultimately leaving us in their economic dust. Companies will want employees who can think and reason, not employees whose minds have been clouded and confused in ways necessary to hide the contradictions inherent in 'intelligent design'.

In addition to bad science and bad reasoning skills, intelligent design theorists are teaching poor moral lessons as well. They are teaching these lessons by example.

They are teaching backwards reasoning. The lesson plan says, "Grab some arbitrary conclusion that you like. Now, if somebody says something that supports your conclusion, assume that it is true. If somebody else says something that contradicts your conclusion, reject it."

This is exactly the type of thinking that got us into this Iraq war. "If somebody says something that suggests Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, assume they are right and praise them as a patriot. If somebody shows us evidence that there are no such weapons, call them a traitor to humanity and disregard what he says."

The Problem with the Courts

Raising a generation of kids who cannot reason their way past a simple contradiction does not help anybody. For a nation to survive, it needs an educated population.

The problem with fighting the issue in courts is that, even when the good guys win, the people themselves are left just as ignorant. The only way to end this investation is to take the campaign to the people, and educate them to the point that they recognize and reject incoherent and self-contradictory views like 'intelligent design.'


Anonymous said...

I find it rather strange that you do not like Intellgent Design teaching it's philosophy because it is just preaching.

What does the Theory of evolution or philosophy of evolution do ? Does it not preach its own presuppositions. Its own little faith !!

You seem to think you are rational believing the impersonal produced the personal, which gives us our rational minds we have, well I dont think so,

Again athiests just want to be the measure of all things.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


You seem to be proving my point.

In my post, I presented an inconsistent triad; three propositions that, when taken together, contradict each other.

However much you may want to insult me, this is still in inconsistent triad. It will remain an inconsistent triad until the end up time.

Insulting me is only a tactic -- an attempt to change the subject so that people will not see the inconsistency. It is a magician's trick -- a destraction, whose purpose is to cause the audience to look at what the left hand is doing while the right hand hides the ball.

Here, the audience consists of my readers -- most of whom know better than to fall for these tactics.

In a 9th grade biology class, the victims are impressionable students, being tricked into accepting incoherence as truth, while also learning that insults and distractions make for "good arguments".

Where schools are supposed to be making 9th graders smarter, these tactics instead seduce them into stupidity. That leaves all of us worse off than we would otherwise be.

Ed Darrell said...

Court cases do have a tendency to get such lousy classes out of schools. Sure, the teachers may need to be fired for incompetence -- but of course, that doesn't work in the case of Dover, Pennsylvania, where it was the school board itself which advocated ID over the objections of the teachers.

Court cases may not be perfect solutions, but they offer a fair and unbiased forum where there are rules of evidence to keep the fight for truth fair.

Broadcast the trials. Get competent commentators. Get competent reporters. Those would help, too.

Having competent parents and competent citizens would also help.

We have to start somewhere. Why not go to court to fight this one, now?

Joshua Ballard said...

There is a bit of an issue there in your "3 pillars"

Dembski makes a case for the ultimate designer not being physical, and therefore not subject to the "irreducibly complex" argument. Certainly Christianity agrees, with the statement that "God is Spirit" and the eternally self-existent "I am".

Check out his book "The Design Revolution", It contains a bit more information than his older "The Design Inference". If you actually devote some time to actually reading the WHOLE thing instead of individual chapters, you develop an understanding of his argument as a whole.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Joshua Ballard

I am actually aware of a number of different ways to try to avoid this objection, and there will never be enough space to cover all of them.

However, if there is a substance that is immune to the "irreducibly complex" requirement, then there is no reason to infer design. It would be sufficient to assume that apparently irreducibly complex entities contain this substance that is immune to the "irreducibly complex" requirement. Whatever that is.