Saturday, September 24, 2005


Proponents of ID are often accused of facile argument along the lines of: "How did such and such happen? Easy! ID! Poof!" The actual process set out by ID proponents is a process whereby the presence of a phenomenon can be provisionally (because new explanatory mechanisms may become apparent) but reliably (because of the improbability of something arising through alternative mechanisms of chance or regularity) categorised as having been designed. In other words, an inference of design is the opposite of a "Poof!" argument.

On the other hand, evolution by and large works using "Poof!" arguments. Take this quotation selected from the first website I navigated to having Googled "Evolution feathers."
Many characteristics that typify birds were present in the theropods before birds evolved, including hollow bones, a wishbone, a backward-pointing pelvis, and a three-toed foot. In the course of theropod evolution, the forelimbs and hands became progressively longer. In some theropods, the bones of the wrist took on a shape that allowed the joint to flex sideways. This would have allowed these animals to whip their long hands forward in a swift snatching motion, perhaps to catch prey.

Notice the use of "Poof!" arguments here - "the forelimbs and hands became progressively longer" - "the bones of the wrist took on a shape that allowed the joint to flex sideways." Are these scientific arguments? No, they are just guesses about large-scale physiological changes. What changes to genes, or new genes, would this have required in evolutionary terms? What would have been the selective advantage of small modifications? At what point was the differentiation been sufficient to constitute a speciation event from progeny in which the gradual modification had not occurred? Who knows? It's just - "Poof!"

Evolutionists argue that creationists and ID'ists use "Poof!" arguments in the field of philosophy and theology as well. "Who designed the designer?" "If God is good, why is there evil in the world?" - the creationist/theist/ID response, they assert is little more than "Poof!"

And yet it struck me that, whereas the presence of evil is explainable in a theistic framework (read about "Theodicy" - here is a link to get started with), it actually constitutes a significant problem to people who have an atheistic framework.

Take the holocaust, or the Killing Fields of Cambodia - or any of the many other human atrocities of the last century. How could God allow that to happen? This is a serious question, and certainly there isn't an easy answer. But Christians throughout the ages have struggled with these questions and come up with responses that are intellectually coherent.

But imagine now that there is no God. We are just as Dawkins or any of the other darwinian fundamentalists are - just the product of time and change - gene machines. What difference does it make if one gene machine decides to destroy millions of others? In objective terms, none at all. In fact, darwinism rationalises behaviour like this all the time - see here for example. People will talk about the evolutionary advantage of society, co-operation and philanthropy - but the bottom line is that these are completely arbitrary - they are made up to explain observations, with little scientific basis. In other words, they are "Poof!" arguments.

Creationists and ID'ists have little to fear from charges of "Poof!" argumentation. But darwinists need to seriously think about getting their own house in order.