CFI (Centre for Inquiry) has shared a CSI (The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) presentation by Dr. Pennilyn (Penny) Higgins, a Research Associate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, called Can Science Support Creationism? The Use and Abuse of the Fossil Record. It’s well outlined and worth reading. Penny starts with outlining how the scientific method works in a simple flow diagram, then proceeds to expand on that further before addressing Creationism and Intelligent Design.
I’m sure many will enjoy this and it makes for good reference material.
I like the way Higgins treats intelligent design and “scientific creationism” (young earth creationism might be a better term) as hypotheses that need to be scientifically tested, but I don’t think she’s doing herself any favours by building the whole discussion around a fairly rigid and simplistic version of the scientific method.
Intelligent design, at least in its most generic form, is actually an example of an idea that’s hard to deal with in a classic hypothetico-deductive kind of way. If the claim is simply that there are some irreducibly complex structures and chemical cascades out there in the living world, such that the intervention of a designer would have been needed to produce them, then proponents never have too many eggs in any one basket. As soon as mainstream biologists demonstrate that a putatively irreducible structure came about by normal evolutionary mechanisms, intelligent design proponents can say “Well, I suppose we were wrong about that one” and go off to find another candidate for irreducible complexity. All that reality-based scientists can do in response, as far as I can see, is keep shooting down the clay pigeons.
On the bright side, it’s not such a bad thing to have a group of people actively seeking out biological structures that look as if they might be irreducibly complex, however dubious their motivations. The process of figuring out how those structures actually did come about is likely to be interesting and illuminating, so intelligent design advocates are basically feeding the biological community a whole string of interesting case studies.