The Intelligent Design Movement: Real Science or Political Science?
I'm constantly amazed (but rarely amused) at the number of people who argue that science is not giving intelligent design a fair hearing. At the very heart of this complaint is a major misunderstanding of how science works. Science is not fair. Science is not democratic. Let me try to explain why this is the case. Participation in scientific discovery is fair and democratic. Anyone with the desire to explore and experiment is welcome to participate in the scientific process. The key is that not every experiment works and not every scientific argument is equal. In order to have your science accepted, you must be willing to argue your case in front of other scientists. This means attending scientific meetings and presenting your data to other knowledgeable (and critical) scientists. It means preparing and carefully documenting your data and then submitting it for publication to a scientific journal. A paper, when submitted, is usually sent out to 2-3 reviewers (sometimes more) who take time to evaluate your data and your arguments. These reviewers are trying to find errors in your logic and in your arguments. It's tough to get a paper published in a scientific journal. If your paper is deemed worthy of publication, then others will read your paper with a critical eye. Some will develop methods by which they can test your hypothesis. Good ideas will be able to withstand the tests and the criticism and will gain acceptance by the scientific community. Science is a competitive enterprise and not for those with a fragile ego. If you conduct scientific research, it is likely you will be criticized far more often than you are praised!
So what about Intelligent Design/Creationism? Is it true that science is not being fair to these ideas? Yes, it is true. Science is skeptical about the claims of intelligent design and young earth creationism. Why? Science is skeptical about everything. Science is particularly skeptical about 'ideas' that circumvent critical review. The intelligent design movement (and its bigger sister, young earth creationism) are political movements. They hide behind the guise of 'science', but they don't behave like science. Intelligent design advocates write popular books. Intelligent design advocates lobby school boards. Intelligent design advocates take their fight to the courts. Intelligent design advocates take out advertisements in newspapers and purchase billboard space. Intelligent design advocates rarely attend scientific conferences to present science. Intelligent design advocates rarely publish their ideas in scientific journals. Intelligent design advocates react to real science instead of doing real science.
Good science finds its way into the classroom by surviving the critical onslaught of scientists. Einstein did not take out an advertisement in the New York times stating "We the undersigned disagree with certain aspects of Newtonian physics" (intelligent design did take out an ad stating 'we the undersigned disagree with Darwinian evolution). Einstein did not lobby local school boards to have E=mc^2 put in the textbooks ahead of scientific publication. Einstein did not lobby the court to demand equal time for relativity and Newtonian physics. Relativity earned its way into the textbooks. Einstein lobbied his fellow scientists. Einstein submitted his work to his colleagues for criticism and improvement. Einstein made predictions that were tested by other scientists. When relativity proved to be an effective scientific concept, it was adopted into textbooks and taught in mainstream physics classes.
If intelligent design/creationism wants to be heard, then it must behave like a real science. Show us where intelligent design works better than evolution. Intelligent design advocates need to get off their political lobby behinds and start doing some science. Right now, intelligent design is no more scientific than homeopathy. Intelligent design gets no respect from the scientific community because it has not earned its respect.