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Entry 353, on 2006-06-20 at 13:08:20 (Rating 4, Religion)
A mini controversy has blown up here at the University of Otago regarding Intelligent Design. An opinion piece, which dismissed ID as pseudo-science, was published in our staff bulletin in February and a local supporter of ID replied more recently defending it, and claiming that ID really is science. Because this person is a colleague of mine, I emailed him and the whole thing turned into an animated discussion over the weekend, involving about 20 emails flying backwards and forwards.
I've been involved in debating these sorts of science vs religion issues a lot over the last few years and I'm getting quite good at it. Debating through email or on-line discussion forums is actually quite productive because there is time between a claim and a reply to it, for some research and careful consideration of the message before clicking "Send". Also, there is an exact record of everything that has been said on both sides. I find this results in a more reasoned, logical debate.
Of course its very hard to defend ID and remain reasonable. There is simply no good, unbiased evidence to support it. My opponent tended to quote mis-leading propaganda from the Discovery Institute while my information came from unbiased, mainstream sources, such as Wikipedia. Need I mention that no matter how much evidence I presented it didn't seem to make a lot of difference? Religious people are used to defending their views (often to themselves) with little or no favourable evidence so they are easy prey to organisations with a hidden religious agenda, like the Discovery Institute.
I have found that most religious people desperately want to believe their religious views have scientific support (no matter how much they say faith is enough, they know it isn't) so they really want to believe the ID dogma. If someone wants to believe something enough, they will ignore the glaring holes in whatever information they are presented with.
Next time I debate this subject I should establish some ground rules. Maybe I should say something like: you show me the 5 best arguments against evolution (because the debate is always against evolution, not for ID) and I'll show you that they are wrong. If I can do that you have to admit ID is probably invalid. If I can't then I will admit evolution is genuinely a weak theory.
At this point they drag out the same old things: no intermediate fossils have been found (they are wrong, there are hundreds); mutations are never beneficial (they are wrong, some have been documented in both nature and the lab); mutations never produce new information (again wrong, we know this is common); complex designs can't evolve by chance (that's right, but natural selection isn't simple chance); evolution is a theory in crisis (wrong, a huge majority of biologists support it, its one of the most widely accepted theories in science).
I can source this evidence from a large number of mainstream sources. They can show mis-leading quotes, discredited research, and nonsense in creationist/ID material. I'm not saying its impossible that there is an intelligent designer, god, whatever, but there is no scientific evidence to support one in ID!
Link at: http://owen2.otago.ac.nz/owen/XuOtherPhilosophy/ReligionEvolution.html
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