Ah, the Great State of Kansas is at it again. Advocates of "intelligent design," a nontheory as to the origin of the universe and of human beings, have forced inclusion of statements to the effect that the theory of evolution has been "challenged" into science curriculums:
The new standards contend that several aspects of evolution that most scientists believe are settled fact, such as the concept that all living things are biologically related, have been "challenged." They also redefine science to allow for other than natural explanations of events. [See the Title link.]This provides a back door for the introduction of "intelligent design" in the curriculum of those counties/cities in Kansas that want to do so since if there ever was a theory that cannot meet the empirical standards scientists burden their theories with it is the nontheory of "intelligent design." We have an extraordinary irony here: the empirical falures of evolutionary biology are taken as a sign of a defect but the fact that the theory of "intelligent design" has NO empirical consequences is considered as okay. This is a sign of incredibly ignorant and possibly very stupid people at work.
The reason that advocates of "intelligent design" want to allow for nonnatural explanations of events is simple: they know that the nontheory of "intelligent design" has no testable empirical consequences. In every scientific domain the standard of "goodness" of a theory is its capacity to provide testable empirical consequences and then to pass these tests. Advocates of the theory of "intelligent design" know that they cannot provide empirical tests proving the existence of an intelligent designer who created the universe and swooped down and posited adults full grown in the Garden of Eden. Being unable to provide such empirical tests, advocates of "intelligent design" want a free pass.
The claim of the Kansas school board that the theory of evolution has been "challenged" would be funny if it weren't for the fact that it will have implications for how children will be taught. What it really deserves is a resounding, "Duh!!" Of course the theory of evolution has been challenged. There is scarcely a scientific theory in existence that hasn't been challenged. Newtonian mechanics was challenged. I suspect that advocates of "intelligent design," were there any at the time, would have pointed out failures in Newtonian mechanics as evidence that, to use the Big Argument of advocates of "intelligent design" that the universe is too complex not to have had a designer, who, of course, would be intelligent (though you wouldn't know it from some of the human creations he gets credit for). Should I capitalize "Intelligent Designer" to pay proper respect to God? I notice that advocates of an "intelligent designer" don't because that would give away that this is just a religious theory masquerading as science.
Newtonian mechanics was replaced. Relativity theory emerged and physics went forward. But even now contemporary theories of physics are being challenged. In my blog on Incomprehensible Language I described my experience reading a dissertation in astrophysics at Ohio State and serving as an outside observer/examiner. I didn't understand a damn thing. Should I have taken my ignorance as evidence that the physical world is too complex for there not to have been an "Intelligent Designer." It was sure as hell too complex for my wee brain. Afterward I asked the advisor of the Ph. D. candidate if he expected further revolutions in physics and he said, "Yes," and went on to say that the hypothesized phenomena of dark matter and dark energy, once understood, could very well lead to a new model in physics. So, clearly, the universe is too complex, perhaps, for him to fully understand it.
Meanwhile our busy "intelligent design" advocates seem to be hard at work exploiting the current ignorance of physicists by claiming
The majority of dark matter, however, is the cold dark matter which might be the spirit matter.Finally, at long last, the Holy Spirit has found some work to do. The question I ask now is that given that we know what the Holy Spirit is and where it is (scattered all over the universe), can we now ask where Heaven is? And, for that matter, where Hell is. I don't need the full directions -- just point to them. Actually, I can tell you where Hell is: it is in the United States where we have to cope not just with real problems like the deficit, a stupid war in Iraq, terrorists who want to blow our heads off, racial and ethnic inequities, rising energy costs, etc., but we also have to deal with the nitwits who think that Human Ignorance is Proof of the Existence of God (Intelligent Designer), for certainly it is human ignorance that leads to our inability to provide unassailable scientific theories. In the case at hand, the human ignorance in question is that of evolutionary biologists who have not yet come up with an unassailable theory. News Flash to Creationists: The theory of evolution will never be unassailable. It is of the nature of science that it will fail to provide complete accounts of the phenomena being studied and that is true not just of the theories of evolutionary biologists, but also theories of linguists, physicists, and the rest. I will explain why science is this way in the next blog, assuming my blog is not blown up by angry Creationists.