I see from Amanda that Pharyngula wanted some more info about the Sahotra Sarkar-Paul Nelson debate on Intelligent Design here at Texas. Amanda gives good general coverage in the opening of her post. Just a few points I wanted to add / emphasize. (We left after the first hour, so we missed Q&A.)
- Paul Nelson was willing to concede that ID wasn't sufficiently developed to be taught in high school textbooks. He seemed to be reaching out to any young biologists who were sympathetic to ID, asking them to someday build his theory for him, and half-acknowledging that he didn't really have a theory yet.
- I was really happy with the way Sahotra started the debate. He spent ~2 of his first 15 minutes emphasizing that the reason we're here talking about ID isn't that it's actually a scientific viewpoint anyone seriously respects. He likened IDers to flat-earthers and Raelians, saying the only reason we were debating ID was that more political power had gotten behind that view than the other crazy views. He specifically mentioned the ID movement's funding from Howard Ahmanson, who apparently wants to turn America into a theocracy.
- Sahotra was willing to grant Nelson the philosophically controversial claim that (I may not have this precisely right here) non-natural explanations shouldn't be ruled out a priori. (Similarly, we don't rule out a priori that the earth is flat. We rule it out a posteriori.) I don't have a well-developed view on this issue, but this seems right to me. The challenge for the IDer is to show that his theory can provide better explanations than evolution can. That's where I think the battle is properly fought. The evolution side gets to bring out their truckload of anti-ID evidence -- problem of evil, anybody? -- and show what a disastrously bad explanatory theory ID would be.
- At one point, Sahotra listed a whole bunch of technical stuff (not being a biologist I don't remember it very well) that evolutionary theory explains, and challenged Nelson to provide explanations of all of it. Nelson basically did his "no, we don't really have a theory" thing at that point, and begged the ID biologists of the future to someday make explanations for him.
- I managed to find Sahotra a picture of a whale with hip bones, and he used it! I was so proud!
Better story, harder philosophy
3 hours ago