Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Harvard to probe origin of life

From Reuters:
Harvard University is planning a scientific study of how life emerged on Earth, thrusting one of America's most prestigious universities into the growing, politically charged debate over an alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Opponents of evolution theory said that Harvard's research project is proof that science has yet to disprove alternative theories, including the idea of "intelligent design," which is popular with America's religious conservatives.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that nature is so complex it could not have occurred by random natural selection, as held by Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution, and so must be the work of an unnamed "intelligent cause."

President George W. Bush entered the fray earlier this month when he said he believed intelligent design should be taught in schools along with evolution theory so people can better understand the argument.

At Harvard, the "Origins of Life in the Universe" study will cross various disciplines of biology, chemistry and astronomy to seek scientific answers to longtime questions about evolution, a Harvard official said on Monday. [...]
Here is the reaction of the ID crowd; I can almost pick up the crowing here in Switzerland:

But opponents of evolution theory say the project seems to indicate that science has yet to fully prove Darwin's theory.

"This is ... a stunning admission that the current theories do not explain it, and it has not refuted the idea that things are the product of intelligent cause," said John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank that backs intelligent design theory.

The Discovery Institute advocates that schools teach scientific criticisms of Darwin's theories.

The Harvard project, still in its early stages, will receive some initial funding from the university and also raise money from other organizations.

Harvard declined to comment on how much it planned to pay for the project, but the Boston Globe newspaper reported it would spend $1 million annually over the next few years.

David Liu, a chemistry professor at Harvard, said in the newspaper that while living systems are complex, science should provide the answers.

"My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," Liu was quoted as saying.

Get used to it, along with "teach the controversy", the leitmotif of ID proponents is "ID hasn't been disproved". These fellows are so slick, it brings tears to Clinton's eyes. They know they have a theory which cannot be disproved because it makes no verifiable claims and more importantly is incapable of being falsified through experimentation or observation. Moreover, they cleverly conflate evolution and origin of life at every opportunity, allowing themselves to claim even more controversy exists (even Reuters makes this mistake; this article is titled: Harvard enters debate on evolution) .

I have no expectations that Harvard will come up with anything other than some hypotheses as to how life could have originated, but without a doubt no matter what Harvard comes up with in the future, IDers will claim their theory is just as viable as no proof to the contrary exists.

They may not have much success in the realm of science, but the ID folks do very well in the media wars. Of course, it helps to have a scientific numbskull in the White House.