Monday, November 07, 2005

The ID Heresy

Since I get accused of being an anti-Catholic bigot from time to time, I'd like to highlight this story from Mark Kleiman:
1. The fact of evolution -- species change over time -- had been established by paleontology and was common currency when Darwin wrote. His contribution was natural selection as an explanation for evolution...

3. Paley's book deserved its place in the canon. It contains the best summary of turn-of-the-nineteenth-century biology. Contemporary "intelligent design" essays are just bad plagiarisms of Paley. He made the "irreducible complexity" argument (which he called "relation") much better than current ID proponents, because he knew more biology than they do.

4. But "irreducible complexity" is simply wrong, as illustrated by the step-by-step development of the complex eye in marine invertebrates, leading from a simple layer of photosensitive cells in the limpet up to the human-like eye of the octopus...

7. If organisms were the design product of engineers, the engineers ought to be fired for, e.g., making the human birth canal too small for the human newborn head. Intelligent Design would therefore be, to a large extent, Incompetent Design.

8. As a result, if the Intelligent Designer is identified with the Christian God, ID is blasphemous, though its authors intend it as pious. Darwin, by removing from God the direct responsibility for the enormous cruelties that natural selection creates, was actually a disguised friend of religion, as some theologians of his own period recognized...

11. But American folk-Catholicism has absorbed an anti-evolution flavor from the surrounding evangelical Protestant culture. When he taught introductory biology at UCI, Ayala had Catholic students as well as Protestants coming to him to say, "I'll write the answer you want on the exam, but my faith forbids me to believe what you teach." To the Catholics, Ayala would simply say, "Ask your parish priest," with consistently satisfactory results.
Who is responsible for this impiety? Would you believe, Francisco Ayala, Dominican priest and evolutionary biologist at UC Irvine.


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