The discussion on Intelligent Design continues at Evolution News & Views, where Jonathan Witt takes on John Derbyshire of The Corner at NRO in the first of a planned series of posts, defending ID from Derbyshire's rather complacent swats and swipes.
Witt, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, which, as far as I can tell at first glance, is a forward-looking conservative think tank (that's NOT a contradiction in terms) focusing on the nexus of culture, science, technology, free enterprise, and bioethics -- where they coincide, where they contradict each other, how to protect liberty without loosing "anarchic license" (in the words of fellow Wesley J. Smith, from whom I just learned the spooky news that a scientist at Stanford is trying to create a mouse with a human brain). Discovery's website, listing a dizzying wealth of articles, gives me that breathless "So many links, so little time!" feeling. Evolution News & Views, however, focuses specifically on the evolution controversy from an intelligent (small i) Intelligent Design perspective, on the premise that "much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in several cases, overtly biased."
Witt's first contra-Derbyshire post just sums up the same examples IDers always put forth -- without the details that make them provocative -- of phenomena they say cast doubt on evolution, and evolutionists insist do not ("Does too!" "Do not!"): "irreducibly complex devices like the mammalian eye, the bacterial flagellum, and blood clotting, the sudden appearance of numerous animal phyla in the Cambrian Explosion, the lack of any examples of macroevolution." But it will hopefully go deeper, and get wilder. Witt promises arguments on "observability and testability," and in an e-mail to me, adds that one post, by biologist Jonathan Wells, "will include an incisive critique of the computer simulated evolution covered by the recent Discover Magazine article," which this blog has covered here and here. I'll link to these posts as they appear.
UPDATE: I do feel as if I'm wading into a very weird world here. A Christian creationists' website posts the following warning about Jonathan Wells:
Dr. Wells has impressive scientific credentials. He is recognized as one of the leading proponents of Intelligent Design. . . . Intelligent Design science is very consistent with the the Bible's Genesis account of creation. However, Dr. Wells is a long time member of the Unification church, which is also known as the Moonies.
Witt also has a lovely personal blog, WittingShire, with his wife -- thoughtful, literary, Christian, Lord of the Rings-themed. My commenter and tutor in these matters, Michael, will be interested to note that he identifies "The Ring" as "Philosophical Materialism (the belief that the physical is all that exists)." (In case you hadn't noticed, although Jewish by kin and spiritual-nomad by kind, I am drawn to thoughtful Christians. But, if I have learned to be skeptical of dogmatic Philosophical Materialists, it will be a cold day in hell when I overcome my mistrust of Moonies -- or, for that matter, of Hollywood Scientologists.)
UPDATE: Yes, Witt's rejoinder to Derbyshire does get exponentially more interesting (if also more technical). Part II deals with the question of whether and why the gaps in the fossil record create serious problems for the neo-Darwinian "branching tree of life" model of the evolution of life-forms. Part III provides a concise introduction (with links leading deeper) to why the "Cambrian explosion" of life-forms presents an even more serious challenge to neo-Darwinism:
The problem gets even uglier when Darwinists try to explain away the fossil record leading up to the Cambrian Explosion. What story do these strata tell? Animals didn't exist; and then they did--not just dozens of species but dozens of phyla. If you want some idea of how large a category phyla is, consider that sharks, mice, humans and otters are all members of the same phylum.
If natural selection working on random genetic mutation built this menagerie of animals, it had to do it one extraordinarily tiny, functional improvement at a time, one generation at a time, over tens and even hundreds of millions of years. If we had even a tiny fraction of a fraction of the Precambrian life forms, we would have so many transitional forms we would be hard-pressed to draw the line between one phylum and another, so thoroughly would they bleed one form into the other. But we find no such fossil pattern in the Precambrian.
UPDATE II: Less technical, more satirical: biologist Jonathan Wells finds Avida, the computer simulation of evolution, laughable: "Darwinists Prove Computers Work!" It's something of an inside joke; this critique is more convincing.