A friend of mine has an overly strong commitment to things she learned when she was growing up. “Doctors say you need to drink eight glasses of water a day” is one. I ran across a repot in which a leading researcher in this field told of his attempts to track down the source of that belief. He found no medical evidence for it. Apparently it just showed up one day in some magazine, and grew. He said there was no truth to it whatever. My friend’s response: “I don’t believe it.” She wouldn’t look at the source material; she already had her facts.
There is research out this week casting doubt on the belief that stretching before sports activities reduces injuries. I’m not going to bother telling my friend. She won’t read the report, and she wouldn’t believe me if I said. She knows we should all drink eight glasses of water a day, and that stretching before exercise reduces injuries. She knows it because that’s what she has always heard.
I expect similar reactions from evolutionists to Mike Gene’s The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues. Everyone in the pro-evolution, anti-Intelligent Design crowd knows that:
- ID is thinly disguised creationism
- ID is just negative science (nothing but picking points against evolution)
- ID has no positive research program
- ID makes no predictions
- ID relies on a “God of the gaps” approach to knowledge
- ID presents no testable hypotheses
- ID is dogmatically driven by people with a theological/philosophical agenda
Everybody knows these things. Mike Gene shows that none of them are true. The evolutionists, I fear, are not going to read it; they’re just going to say, “I don’t believe it.” Like my friend, they will stick with what’s always been “true” for them in the past.
The author uses a pseudonym, obviously, and as far as I know no one has cracked his real identity (or if they have, they’re not telling). He says in the intro to the book that he remains anonymous so that his ideas can be evaluated for themselves, without regard for who has presented them. It seems likely he’s also carrying out some career protection, too. If he’s working in a university biology department (and yes, he does know his science), it could obviously risky for him to “come out” as an ID supporter. (See his Design Matrix website for more.)
The way that he supports ID is refreshingly unique, however. He doesn’t argue for a conclusion of Intelligent Design at all. He argues more modestly, for a suspicion of Intelligent Design. He would have a beef with dogmatists on either side of the issue. Quite helpfully he distinguishes between the strong evidence required for conviction by a court of law, and evidence required by an investigating detective. A detective arrives on the scene with nothing but questions. His first objective is to move toward reasonable suspicions. A little hint there, a vague clue there: these things can move him toward a theory of a crime; and from there he can begin to look for more definite signs. Eventually, much further down the road, proof may come. Mike Gene believes we should recognize ID is in the developing suspicion stage: there is no hard scientific proof of design, but there are hints and clues that raise a most reasonable suspicion, and which can lead to a search for more definite signs.
These hints and clues he summarizes into his “Design Matrix,” four relatively independent factors to test for in nature:
- Analogy with known instances of design
- Discontinuity with observed or means by which evolution works
- Rationality apparent in the design of the natural feature
- Foresight apparent in the design of the natural feature
These are defined such that they can all lead to testable research hypotheses. We’re not talking about black/white, unambiguous research results, however (“Evolution never could have done this!” or “Evolution absolutely could have done this, it’s easy!”). Natural phenomena can be scored on a continuum, Mike Gene says; we’re still in the detective stage, not the judge and jury stage. We’re looking for suspicions of ID, so we should be open to gradations on the scales of the Design Matrix. Only one of them, by the way (Discontinuity), bears any relationship to the tired stereotype that ID is nothing but a negative science that resorts to god-of-the-gaps thinking.
Mike Gene wrote this book with a sense of humor. (Thank God for an evolution/ID-related book with a sense of humor!) The book wraps around a theme of the Rabbit and the Duck. It’s a metaphor about our preconceptions, and the way they can color our perceptions. I won’t try to replay it for you; I’ll just quote the book’s final paragraph, and leave it to you to read the book and chase down the metaphor for yourself:
So as we begin our journey, these lessons, coupled with all the lessons in these chapters, must be kept in mind. We are not engaging in a Duck Hunt; we are going to chase the Rabbit. So, do you see that rabbit hole over your shoulder? Yeah, that one. Wanna have some fun? Well, grab your Design Matrix, and follow that Rabbit.
(There’s much more Rabbit fun on the Telic Thoughts blog, where Mike Gene writes frequently.)
Some of you reading this “know” that ID is nothing but negative science, it’s just god-of-the-gaps, and it’s a mere religious ploy. You won’t read the book; you won’t accept that ID-related thinking can lead to genuine research questions; you’ll just say, “I don’t believe it.” I strongly urge you to get your hands on a copy of this uniquely creative approach to Intelligent Design, and find out where the Rabbit leads you.
The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues by Mike Gene. No City: Arbor Vitae Press, 2007. 291 pages plus index. Amazon Price US$16.47.