Friday, August 12, 2005

How to Reframe the ID Debate

[Updated, Jan 23, 2006. Additional material is marked like this]
Intelligent Design: I am (surprise) no great fan of it.

And the creeping fundamentalism from the Culture of Lief continues: not only does George W let drop that he is (surprise) in favour of it being taught in schools 'so that children know what the debate is about', but Australian ministers are coming out of the closet to announce the same thing.

How long before it hits prime time?

But it's reasonable, isn't it? It could be that pan dimensional superbeings are tweaking the more complicated aspects of evolution.

Read the fine print: ID should have equal footing with natural selection? The latter has been knocked and battered for one and half centuries, whereas the former is being pushed as a palatable alternative by practitioners of 'ratchet' logic (rhymes with...).

But that's the nature of framing the argument: place constraints on the wording so that your opponent has no option but to reply in ways you select. Even if your opponent seeks to deny outright your propositions, it serves only to draw attention to them.

And a few more followers join the cause.

Meanwhile, that relentless ratchet: all take, no give.

You don't fight this head on. Instead you go with the flow, reframing the argument as you do so.

So, to anyone who find themselves having to present ID to impressionable young minds, ignore the above rant. Instead, consider these suggestions on how to make sure that said minds can, indeed, view both propositions impartially and form their own opinions:
  • since both propositions are presented as scientific principles, make sure that there is familiarity with the basics of scientific method: observe, hypothesize, prove.
  • introduce the concept of Occam's Razor
  • for good measure, introduce its counterpart: Crabtree's Bludgeon ('no set of data, however disparate, exists which cannot be accounted for in a coherent manner'). [wiki stub is mine]
  • discuss the above in relation to the biblical commandments: in particular the one about not taking the word of God in vain (commandment #2)
  • when discussing each hypothesis, ensure that the historical development of each is covered.
  • Consider how things that did not have an explanation now do (eg the structure of the eye)
  • [Investigate items that could be considered 'bad' design. Discuss why they might be considered bad, and consider ways they might be improved upon (New Scientist ran a competition on this topic, if you want some inspiration.)]
  • Once you have covered both topics, ask for reviews on how the proponents of each conjecture seek to advance them. [Copies of 'The Wedge Document' may be of interest here]
  • Ask which is more honest with the audience.
Openness: the light just keeps on shining through!


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