Sober explains what is wrong with "intelligent design"


Writing in the Quarterly Review of Biology (March 2007, vol. 82, no. 1, pp. 3-8), Elliott Sober answers the question, "What is wrong with intelligent design?" in a particularly clear and informative way. Sober focuses on what he calls "mini-ID": the claim "that the complex adaptations that organisms display (e.g., the vertebrate eye) were crafted by an intelligent designer." After discussing problems with two standard criticisms -- that it is unfalsifiable and that it is refuted by the many imperfect adaptations found in nature -- Sober argues that mini-ID cannot be tested against evolutionary explanations of adaptations, writing, "When scientific theories compete with each other, the usual pattern is that independently attested auxiliary propositions allow the theories to make predictions that disagree with each other. No such auxiliary propositions allow mini-ID to do this." Sober concludes, "It is easy enough to construct a version of ID that accommodates a set of observations already known, but it also is easy to construct a version of ID that conflicts with what we have already observed. Neither undertaking results in substantive science, nor is there any point in constructing a version of ID that is so minimalistic that it fails to say much of anything about what we observe. In all its forms, ID fails to constitute a serious alternative to evolutionary theory." A Supporter of NCSE, Sober is Hans Reichenbach Professor and Henry Vilas Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.