The new face of Creationism.

CNN ran a story yesterday on the Intelligent Design Network’s proposed revisions to the science standards set by the Kansas School Board. It should come as a surprise to no one that this is happening in Kansas, where evolution was dropped as a required part of the curriculum in 1999, resulting in widespread ridicule. However, contrary to what was implied at the time, the teaching of evolution wasn’t banned in Kansas, it was simply removed from the mandated, state-wide curriculum. On a local level, any school could continue to teach evolution if they wanted to. The intent was to open up evolution to broader scientific enquiry, which wasn’t possible if it was required learning in all schools, or some crap like that.

Which brings us to today. Evolution is still off the curriculum, and now they want to put Intelligent Design on the curriculum. First off, don’t be fooled by the jargon — Intelligent Design = creationism, just like vertically challenged = short. Second, don’t think that because they’ve got people with Ph.D.’s supporting this, then there must be something to it. Just as historians, medical doctors, and politicians can be quacks, so too can scientists.

More codes deciphered … “objective inquiry” is shorthand for saying “evolution cannot be rigourously proven, therefore, it is time to consider some alternatives”. The existence of G-d can’t be rigourously proven either, but of course you never hear them talk about that. Also, the whole “theory” = “just a guess” misnomer rears its ugly head, i.e. the usual attempt to fool people into thinking that evolution was concocted on a whim. “Theory” doesn’t mean the same thing in science as it does in colloquial conversation. My dictionary defines it as “a closely reasoned set of propositions, derived from and supported by established evidence and intended to serve as an explanation for a group of phenomena”. That’s not exactly what one means when one says “I have a theory as to who drank the last beer that was in the fridge”.

In one of their publications (browse the site), they claim that “the most important, defining characteristic of Darwinian evolution is that it is an unguided, unplanned, and purposeless process”. I couldn’t agree more. It’s the next step in their reasoning which is problematic.

Let’s boil down their arguments by considering everyone’s favourite example: flipping a coin. Suppose you flip a coin one hundred times, and record the sequence of heads and tails you get while doing so, i.e. “HHTHTTH …” (you can even think of it as a simplified DNA sequence if you wish, in fact, that would probably help). The total number of possible sequences is 2100. Therefore, the probability of getting any particular sequence is 1/2100.

If you actually do this experiment, the sequence you wind up with is achieved randomly. Nobody has any trouble believing this. However, it is also true that the probability of getting that exact sequence is 1/2100. Just because the sequence is highly unlikely doesn’t make its generation any less random. So if you did the experiment and showed me the sequence that resulted from it, then it would be proposterous to criticize you by saying “there’s a miniscule 1-in-2100 chance that you could have gotten that sequence … that couldn’t POSSIBLY have happened in a random manner, an INTELLIGENT DESIGN must have produced that sequence for you!”.