Sorry for the delay! I was procrastinating all week by doing real work, but I’ve finally put my foot down and resolved that blogging must come first.
I lost a lot of respect for Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams after flipping through this compilation, which offers a tedious and redundant explanation for every cartoon. But, not content to rest on his laurels, Adams has recently come out as “undecided” on the question of Darwinism versus ID.
Whenever I encounter an online mudfight about this issue, I’m struck by how few commenters — even the ones on “our” side — really grasp the crucial point: that ID is scientifically worthless, not because it’s religiously-motivated, or unfalsifiable, or even necessarily wrong, but rather because it’s boring.
Among elephant seals, 4% of the males account for 88% of the copulations. The other 96%, the ones without harems, almost never get laid. This is puzzling: why do the seals bother to produce all those males who tax the community’s food supply, yet who are destined to become the seal equivalents of computer science grad students?
The answer is that a 50-50 sex ratio is the only evolutionarily stable strategy. Think about it: if every child gets half its genes from a mother and half from a father, then males and females must pass on the same total number of genes, even if the variance is higher for males. So if you’re a female elephant seal, then you can either play it safe by having a daughter, or shoot for the genetic jackpot by having a son. In expectation, both strategies will do equally well. But if there were more girls than guys in the population, then the expected number of grandchildren per son would become greater than the expected number of grandchildren per daughter. So the advantage would shift in favor of having a son, and would continue to do so until a 50-50 equilibrium was reestablished. Mystery solved. (The example comes from Dawkins, one of the few writers who consistently presents Darwinism as a way to actually explain things. The explanation itself comes from Fisher.)
On the airplane of science, nontrivial explanations are not the beverage cart or the in-flight movie — they’re the wings. If you think something was designed, but can’t explain why the designer chose to make it one way rather than some other way, then it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not: you don’t have a result. There’s no STOC/FOCS paper.
This, I suspect, is what underlies the disconnect between scientists and almost everyone else on this issue. The business of judging ideas by their explanatory power, and rejecting the ones that don’t have any, is remarkably new in human history. Even in the hard sciences, it wasn’t until Galileo that it really caught on. So maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, in K-12 science education, it’s still a bizarre and heretical idea.
Why do things fall? Because gravity makes them fall.
How does a car work? By using energy.
Why do we need to sleep? To rest ourselves.
Who designed us? A designer did.