Sunday, December 24, 2006

Intelligent comment on intelligent design

Taken from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Magazine & Journal Reader column, which reprinted it from the May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer, common sense and intelligent design:

"Scientists should not be so shocked by the popularity of the notion of intelligent design, says Scott O. Lilienfield, an associate professor of psychology at Emory University. After all, he says, when it comes to common sense, intelligent design is a much more believable concept that Darwin's theory of evolution--and scientists have done little to counter the popular preference for easy explanations.
"Indeed, from the vantage point of commonplace intuition, it is far more plausible to believe that complex biological structures like the peacock's tail and elephant's trunk were shaped by a teleological force than by purposeless processes of mutation and natural selection operating over millions of years," he writes. The issue this presents is not a dearth of common sense, writes Mr. Lilienfeld, but "the public's erroneous belief that common sense is a dependable guide to evaluating the natural world." He notes how natural science alone is replete with hundreds of examples demonstrating the unreliability of commons sense--such as how "the world seems flat rather than round," or how "the sun seems to revolve around the Earth rather than vice-versa." Mr. Lilienfeld says scientists "have forgotten that the popularity of intelligent design is merely one example of a far broader problem, namely the American public's embrace of pseudoscience in its myriad incarnations." But rather than confront the problem of pseudoscience as a whole, he says, scientists have opted to fight one claim at a time. This approach helps explain why scientists are losing the broader battle against pseudoscience, he adds.

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