Intelligent Design

I have been reading with interest the ongoing debates within the scientific community on the topic of intelligent design.

Michael Behe, William Dembski and Jonathan Wells are scientists that argue for intelligent design.

Intelligent design looks at the underlying complexity of nature, life and the universe and concludes that there is a world of meaning and purpose consistent with a divine intelligence. Evolution implies the opposite: the underlying complexity of nature, life and the universe evolved by random chance, without specific meaning or purpose and without divine intervention.

Ultimately the discussion on intelligent design becomes a philosphical discussion.

Here is an excerpt on intelligent design as well as a link to some interesting debates on the topic. The Discovery Institute and the Center for Science and Culture are the main proponents of intelligent design.

The idea that an organism’s complexity is evidence for the existence of a cosmic designer was advanced centuries before Charles Darwin was born. Its best-known exponent was English theologian William Paley, creator of the famous watchmaker analogy. If we find a pocket watch in a field, Paley wrote in 1802, we immediately infer that it was produced not by natural processes acting blindly but by a designing human intellect. Likewise, he reasoned, the natural world contains abundant evidence of a supernatural creator. The argument from design, as it is known, prevailed as an explanation of the natural world until the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. The weight of the evidence that Darwin had patiently gathered swiftly convinced scientists that evolution by natural selection better explained life’s complexity and diversity. “I cannot possibly believe,” wrote Darwin in 1868, “that a false theory would explain so many classes of facts.”

ID proponents accept that some species do change and that Earth is much more than 6,000 years old but reject that evolution accounts for the array of species. In some circles, however, opposition to the concept of evolution has persisted to the present. The argument from design has recently been revived by a number of academics with scientific credentials, who maintain that their version of the idea (unlike Paley’s) is soundly supported by both microbiology and mathematics. These antievolutionists differ from fundamentalist creationists in that they accept that some species do change (but not much) and that Earth is much more than 6,000 years old. Like their predecessors, however, they reject the idea that evolution accounts for the array of species we see today, and they seek to have their concept — known as intelligent design — included in the science curriculum of schools. ID is getting a hearing in some political and educational circles.


Your Genetic Journey

The National Geographic Society and IBM launched a research initiative to trace the migratory history of humans.

The Genographic Project will use laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people to map how the Earth was populated.

You can learn more about the Genographic Project here.

Scientific evidence suggests that the human species ultimately traces back to Africa. But other questions remain. For example, how did we migrate and populate the world? The Genographic Project aims to uncover some of these mysteries and discover the details of how we journeyed around the world.

What a fascinating project.

One-Tonne Challenge

Have you taken the one-tonne challenge?

From the government of Canada’s website on climate change:

The ScienceThe international scientific community has concluded that there is compelling evidence that human activity, particularly activities associated with energy use and deforestation, is accelerating the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. There is general agreement that the global community faces the likelihood of increases in the earth”™s average surface temperature ranging from 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, with serious implications for global food and freshwater supplies, as well as many other implications.

In Canada we are already feeling the effects of climate change, in the form of

  • Increasing number and intensity of heat waves and related health problems
  • Declining water levels in the Great Lakes
  • Changes in fish migration and melting of the polar ice cap
  • Insect infestations in British Columbia”™s forests
  • Hotter summers and higher levels of smog in major urban centres
  • More extreme weather events such as droughts on the prairies, ice storms in eastern Canada, flooding in Manitoba and Quebec.

As climate change-related events such as these become more frequent, they will have an increasingly profound effect on our economy, our health and our quality of life.

The science that the government is using to build its case is really a theory. And a controversial one at that. Here is one counterpoint from Climate Search:

In the eight years since the Kyoto Protocol was first introduced, there has been a revolution in climate change science. This is not surprising given that the industrial world, including Canada, has spent around $30 billion on climate research over the period.

What we have learned is that many of the scientific assumptions underlying Kyoto are false. Climate is not naturally constant and global warming is not evidence of human interference. Climate is just like weather, only bigger. It changes all the time, on all scales–over decades, centuries, millennia and more.

The Government of Canada should recognize this scientific revolution and act accordingly. Climate change is natural so it cannot be stopped by car-pooling or turning down the thermostat.

The science is, at best, inconclusive. And, the more I read about the issue, the less certain I am about the merits of pursuing objectives like Kyoto. And, of course, there was also last summer. Global warming skipped a year in our area of the world.