Flock of Dodos Meme

I went to see Flock of Dodos for its Darwin Day showing on Thursday.

At one point, Randy Olson, the filmmaker, points out that the Intelligent Design movement has lots of points that fit on a bumper sticker, such as “no transitionals” (or “not enough transitional fossils”), “teach the controversy”, and so forth, while proponents of evolution, especially scientists, can’t seem to express any point in less than a paragraph. And while this may indicate that scientists are careful to make well-thought-out, nuanced statements and avoid oversimplification, it makes for bad PR.

Later on, perhaps unintentionally, Olson does present an anti-ID slogan of his own: ID never rises above the level of intuition. For instance, as IDists like to point out, it’s obvious that Mt. Rushmore wasn’t carved by erosion and tectonic forces. Okay, fair enough. But that’s just the first step. Now they need to quantify this intuitive feeling, and come up with an objective metric of “designedness” or something, so that two people in different parts of the world, with different backgrounds can look at the same phenomenon and independently arrive at the same “designedness” number.

Likewise, creationists of all stripes are fond of saying that certain structures are too complex to have arisen by chance. Setting aside the obvious fact that natural selection is the very opposite of chance, one can still easily imagine a person to whom it’s intuitively obvious that human eyes are too complex to have arisen through the action of natural laws, without an intelligent guiding hand.

But again, that’s just a first step. How do you turn this intuition into something objective and quantifiable? I would expect someone to write a paper showing that natural laws can produce X amount of complexity in such-and-such amount of time, but that human eyes have X+100 complexity. X+100 > X, ergo human eyes are too complex to have arisen naturally.

The first step toward this would be to come up with a definition of complexity in biological systems, and a way of measuring it (and people like Bill Dembski do refer to the work of Shannon, Kolmogorov, and Chaitin in this area). The next would be to estimate the upper limit of complexity that natural processes can generate (which creationists have never done competently and honestly) and measure the amount of complexity in a biological structure (which, again, they’ve never done. Dembski has been asked several times to produce such a calculation, but has never done so, to my knowledge).

So when the Discovery Institute, trying to avoid getting sucked into the Dover trial, said that ID wasn’t ready to be taught in classrooms, they were right. ID has yet to rise above the level of intuition and gut feeling. And until it does, it has no right to be taken seriously as science.

Addendum: Another bumper-sticker-sized slogan for evolution I’ve run across is that we are risen apes, not fallen angels.

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One Response to Flock of Dodos Meme

  1. dzho says:

    How about
    “Born right the first time”


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