Saturday, December 03, 2005

new book

Tom Bethel, a contributer to NRO, has written a new book, The Policially Incorrect Guide to Science. I may actually go look this one up and buy it.

Here is an NRO article that Bethel wrote. (thanks to Back of the Envelope for the link).

Bethel mentions that George Will and Charles Krauthammer have spoken disparagingly of Intelligent Design. Donald at Back of the Envelope mentions that John Derbyshire has done the same thing. So has Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. There are a class of conservatives who are embarrassed by fellow conservatives who don't believe in evolution. They think such conservatives are primitive, irrational, unscientific.

But how would they know? None of these four is a biologist. I venture that none of them could write a convincing scientific argument in favor of evolution. These four, along with the large majority of conservatives who are embarrassed, are simply relying on the scientific community. They are appealing to authority, just as they so often accuse Creationists of doing. And the authority they are appealing too is clearly infested with people who are philosophically and politically opposed to Christianity. So I also think that none of these three could explain why the scientific community should be trusted in this area.

Too many people think of Science as a single edifice. We get TVs and computers and airplanes and atom bombs from Science, so Science must be really good at understanding nature. But this isn't the case. Science isn't an algorithm. You don't teach grad students a few rules and then send them out to Do Research. Scientific investigation is an art and individual scientists vary dramatically in skill level.

Furthermore, each science has different criteria for success, different goals that the scientists strive to fulfill. In no field related to evolution is there any drive to produce actual inventions or other practical results. The theory of evolution could be proved entirely 100% wrong tomorrow and it would have no effect whatsoever outside of classrooms and museums.

It is reckless to take the success of physics and engineering and from it to presume any special quality in the evolutionary sciences. There is virtually no overlap with the hard sciences, either in personnel or methods. There is not much more overlap with the biological and medical sciences that have produced practical results. These sciences did not begin producing substantial results until after the field of biology had become very specialized and the evolutionary fields had branched off.

The evolutionary sciences are isolated branches of study. They have no track record of practical results, no history of predictions made and fulfilled, nothing to qualify them as especially reliable sciences; nothing but a tenuous historical relationship and a name they claim in common with the more respectable sciences. But George Will finds these weak sibling fields so respectable that he considers any critics of the fields to be "the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people".

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