Thursday, December 22, 2005

Global Design and Intelligent Warming

Regular vistors of L3 would probably have noticed my reservations when it comes to accepting the theory of global warming, or more specifically, that humans are the cause. With the recent decision about intelligent design, it might seem odd that I side with the scientists on this one.

Consider the similarities. Both theories are nearly universally accepted in scientific circles. Both ideas are seeped in politics. Both relate to dynamic systems. Both have huge bodies of evidence but neither can be "proven" in the lab.

But there are solid differences.

1) Politics played against evolution when the theory first appeared. Global warming scares are modern tools of politicians. The consistency lies in disbelieving what the government tells you.

2) Evolution describes a dynamic system. GW makes causal claims of a dynamic system.

3) Evolutionary theory became more sophisticated as technology developed (using DNA to demonstrate how species are connected, for example). GW theory has certainly become more complicated as computer technology improved, but its reliance on modeling the unknown does not make it more sophisticated in any useful sense.

4) The most important difference is that evolution is the best scientific theory we have that explains the origin of life. But there are far better origins of causation for changing climate (ie that it's natural and the virtue of this theory is, like evolution, it has historic evidence).

The judge was absolutely correct when he said ID is nothing more than creationism with a scientific-sounding name. When opponents perversly argued that evolution is its own dogma, they were equally, absolutely wrong. By definition science cannot be dogma. But that doesn't mean scientists are never dogmatic.


Anonymous said...

I want to point out some errors you made about evolution.

1) There is a difference between theory and fact that has been ignored in the evolution debate. To use a parrelel to gravity. The FACT of gravity is that one mass exerts a force on every other mass in the universe. The THEORY of gravity is force equals the product of the masses divided by the gravitational constant times the distance between them (I'm not going to dig out my physics textbook so the formula may be wrong). The possibility of the theory being wrong (ie the gravitational constant is off by a few percentage points) does not disprove the fact.

The fact of evolution is that life changes to thrive. The theory of evolution goes into DNA, genetics, and so on. Technically the theory of evolution could include ID by having God ... I mean their designer, mutate life from behind the curtain. But that's like claiming magic is behind gravity.

2) Evolution HAS been proven in the lab by observing bacteria mutate and that their DNA has changed. We have seen it in Africa as drug resistant malaria appeared. Bush II even admitted evolution is real when he talked about the bird flu virus could mutate so it affects humans. That is evolution in action.

3) Evolution does NOT explain where life came from. That's the Hetrotrophic Hypothesis. Evolution starts WITH life, not before, explaining how life got to be how it is today AFTER it started.

Sorry to nitpick, but the misinformation about evolution has really started to bug me.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention about the dogma. Scientists aren't being dogmatic by rejecting ID any more than police officers are being dogmatic when they deny the existance of pink elephants the local drunk sees.


David said...

Of course, theory doesn't equate with doubt, either. The earth going around the sun is a theory too, but we never hear folks challenge that (not yet anyway).

While researching for this article, I did stumble upon the fact that evolution has been observed but I left it out of the article for two reasons. One is that it hasn't been observed for humans (something IDers like to point out, though the significance of that is clearly overplayed) and two is that if the reality of observation was immaterial to my claim; I would buy evolution even if we haven't yet seen it in labs.

I suppose it would have been better if I had said "origin of species" instead of "origin of life." Note taken. (But I would agrue that any viable origin of life would have to include at least principles of evolution.

Finally, let me make this clear. I didn't mean to suggest that scientists were dogmatic when they shout down ID. In fact I think I was lucid that I acknowledge evolution as genuine science. My dogma reference was in regards to global warming, which does not share scientific bedrock evolution does (at least on the causation part).

Anonymous said...

Considering the technology needed to trace human evolution, to the degree IDers demand is impossible. (Of course they don't apply the same demands to their own theory.) It's an ever-increasing standard of proof. Seems like every time science satisfies the current "requirement" for evolution, it just gets ratcheted up a notch or two. If one says "show me three steps between modern whales and land animals" and you do, they'll demand steps between those steps. It's like a game of "connect the dots" where you have to keep adding more and more dots to make them happy.

I feel that part of the problem is the word "theory" in that the defination used in science is different than how the layman uses it. People tend to read a bit too much into labels and names, especially if they don't like, or don't understand, the theory. Big bang, global warming, evolution, life, they all can mean different things. I don't know how many times I heard someone say, "it's cold outside, global warming must be a myth" ignoring how global warming refers to a change in climate leading to more extreme varients in weather.

Life is a toughie. Life itself is hard to define. I don't mean human life, which is also hard in a different way, but life itself. Should a virus be considered alive? Some protien structures are able to reproduce themselves sort of like how a crystal grows. Are they alive? The worst part is, people take the uncertainty, contraversy, and gaps to mean the theory itself is shaky and shouldn't be taught. On many editorial pages, the IDers are quick to point out the flaws in evolution. Even the pro-evolution people, like myself, admit the theory isn't 100% done yet. However I haven't heard of any IDer admitting ID has bigger gaps and problems.

There is also concern about how science is being treated. Many people are OK with science provided it doesn't conflict with their dogma. But we're getting more and more into areas dogma claims as its own. We're seeing massive cuts in basic research partially because it has no immediate practical applications but also because it's probing areas that make the dogma people uncomfortable. This basic research does often lead to innovation, but it can take years. For example we can see the limits of hard drives for computers. If we're going to expand past a terrabyte (1000 gigs), we'll need something radically different. But we won't have that without basic research. There's a difference between refining existing inventions and advancing to the next level. Compare plasma screens to traditional TVs and you'll see what I mean.

You said "But that doesn't mean scientists are never dogmatic." I disagree. Dogmatic means believing without proof. Scientists can be religious since not all sciences conflict with religion. Also scientists can be dogmatic about their own theories.

Global warming has a unique problem. If it's right, we don't have much time to correct it or even prove it. And the consequences we face if it is right is devastating. So do you want to take the chance?