Monday, December 05, 2005

"Where is the ID research?"

Intelligent Design (ID) is fundamentally a worldview, rather than something that is scientifically provable or disprovable in its own right. For that matter, so is philosophical naturalism (PN). So research can be interpreted in the light of ID - or PN - but because it is a metanarrative, in a sense it lies outside the realm of "provability". It is therefore no more valid to raise the question, "Where is the research that proves ID?" than to ask "Where is the research that proves PN?"

To somebody who has an ID worldview, evidence of the irreducibly complex nature of biochemical systems supports their opinions. For people who have a PN perspective, they KNOW that there must be a naturalistic explanation, so evidence that doesn't support their worldview must be flawed. What happens is that, as more evidence comes in, people have to decide whether the worldview that they have continues to provide an adequate explanation of the evidence. Eventually, if they don't believe their worldview is tenable any longer, they may change it. However, people have a great deal invested in their worldviews - it is not easy psychologically to change - and (for example in the case of phlogiston, the earth-centred cosmology, Newtonian vs Relativistic physics) may take something pretty convincing. One of the interesting phenomena about ID is that most of the people who subscribe to it don't seem to have arrived there from an originally creationist perspective, but because they have become convinced that evolutionary explanations aren't adequate.

I could work through a stack of papers, reinterpreting the research and writing new conclusions specifically on the basis of an ID worldview, or a naturalistic worldview, or a Young Earth Creationist worldview, or whatever. Not many papers have been written with conclusions that have a specifically ID perspective. The reasons for this are several. Firstly, ID faces opposition from the scientific mainstream, and so people who don't believe in PN may tend to shy away from research in areas where their beliefs will bring them into conflict with the rest of the department - particularly biology. A higher proportion of physicists aren't PN than biologists, and I think this is because biology as a discipline is so strongly committed to PN. The fact that many biologists don't have such a strong mathematical and statistical grounding as physicists may also have a bearing! Secondly, there is no reason why a scientist should court controversy and rejection by explicitly stating that he doesn't subscribe to PN in a paper if there's nothing in his research that is built on it - and except in evolutionary biology and cosmology, this is probably normally the case. I imagine that the hundreds of scientists who dissent from darwinism have papers to their names, but ID opponents would doubtless say that their research "doesn't support ID", because the conclusions of their papers don't make reference to ID.