I would like to thank the Kansas Board of Education. Thanks to the clowns at the center of the country's reigning "Intelligent Design" controversy, I have a new standard conversation patter here in the United Kingdom.
Instead of everyone telling me what a wanker the president, George W. Bush is (as was the number one comment I got from strangers last year) people over here are now amazed that one of our states could be so backward as to want to question evolution. Actually, we had a really good conversation over dinner the other night on this very topic. Unfortunately, much of the discussion was spend discussing semantically what the problem in Kansas actually is.
The link above will take you to the Berkeley website that discusses the currently reigning Evolutionary Theory. The confusion springs from the fact that the controversial scientific theory has the same name as the non-controversial scientific fact. To be put another way, the noun (which is under debate) is the same as the verb (which most people accept as fact) and thus there is confusion.
The noun is The Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Evolution is just that. It is a theory. It is, more importantly, a scientific theory. It makes definite predictions, provides some means of these predictions and has repeatedly stood-up to scientific scrutiny. The Theory of Evolution has its roots in Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection and with the intervening decades of research, study and additional scientific discoveries, the Theory of Evolution is a well accepted theory that is constantly being bolstered by the evidence. The theory explains the mechanism by which the changes are brought about.
The verb is evolution. The act of evolving. Anyone not convinced of this simple fact of life is woefully unobservant. New strains of viruses are appearing all the time. There is a new strain of influenza every year. The viruses that cause such diseases as strep and staph evolve constantly into tougher and more resistant strains. This is an indisputable fact of life. Note, this change is independent of whatever mechanism is responsible for the change.
I have never heard that the "Intelligent Design" crowd question the fact that things evolve. I am sure that they will state that the mechanism is something supernatural rather than stating the obvious conclusion that Occam's Razor dictates. Basically the problem is that there are two ways of looking at evolution.
We know that there is something called DNA. We know that it has something to do with the characteristics that we have when we are born. (Babies tend to look something like one or both of their parents.) We know that the DNA can undergo changes as time progresses and that these changes can be either beneficial or baneful. Tomatoes can be bred to be bigger, tastier, and easier to grow. The only thing that we need to assume when considering the Theory of Evolution is that there is a possibility that given time random chance can produce changes that lead to speciation.
On the other hand, Intelligent Design demands that we assume that things are too complex to have ever evolved by chance. We further must assume that there is an intelligent designer who, therefore was necessary to design the complex systems that are all around the place. We further have to assume (since we're on that path) that this designer must be of some higher order than the order of complexity that he/she/it designed.
That's an awful lot of assumptions to make. Occam's Razor tells us that when there are two or more choices, use the one that has the fewest assumptions. Don't needlessly multiply reliance on unexplainable phenomenon. So we can either assume that a mechanism we can see and manipulate is responsible for behaving in a way we know it to do or we can believe that some supernatural agent behaves in ways inexplicable to us for reasons unfathomable according to some divine plan that we will never be able to grasp.
You may as well attribute the sound of Thunder the an Angelic Bowling Alley. Sure, I know that it could be the sound caused by air masses suddenly expanding and collapsing caused be electronic heating when lightning strikes, but why take the simple answer? Angels must bowl.
Well, at least there is something for me to try and explain to the people I work with over here that does not involve what a tosser the president is. I am not sure which is better. Explaining that most of the country knows that the president is a moron or explaining that most of the country knows that the Kansas School Board are clowns. It's a toss-up!
I hope that you have a great day doing whatever you are doing today!
Don Bergquist - 11-January-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom