Follow evidence wherever it leads

Jonathan Witt
York Daily Record
January 16, 2005
Print ArticleHow can guardians of the status quo protect Darwinism from competition in the classroom? One way is to play a definitional game, arguing that intelligent design isn’t science. They do this by claiming that when a scientist argues that something in nature was designed, she does so only because we’re ignorant about the details of how it arose naturally. Opponents of intelligent design call this an eliminative argument from ignorance, one that should be banned from science classrooms.

But when we examine Stonehenge, we infer design. Is this an eliminative argument from ignorance? No. It’s a reasonable inference to the best explanation, based on what we know about the features of designed things.

Consider the simplest self-producing organism, a world of intricate circuits, miniaturized motors, and enough digital code to fill an encyclopedia; or the bacterial flagellum, a sophisticated outboard motor that needs all of its parts in place to function at all.

These are to Stonehenge what a gothic cathedral is to a Lego house. Design theorists study the explanations for these engineering marvels and choose the explanation that best accounts for the data — intelligent design.

Let’s set aside definitional games and bogus appeals to scientific consensus meant to shut down debate. In “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” historian of science Thomas Kuhn shows that these are standard tactics for a dominant scientific paradigm in crisis.

Instead of being distracted by such tactics, let’s allow teachers and students to follow the evidence wherever it leads. At the beginning of the 21st century, that’s where the real scientific adventure lies.