Monday, September 26, 2005

Burden of Proof

The link is to a good post in the Prospect concerning burden of proof and the ID movement. They link to this Washington Post article on recent discoveries that support evolution. The cite on burden of proof is on page two where we find the following

Asked to provide examples of non-obvious, testable predictions made by the theory of Intelligent Design, John West, an associate director of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based ID think tank, offered one: In 1998, he said, an ID theorist, reckoning that an intelligent designer would not fill animals' genomes with DNA that had no use, predicted that much of the "junk" DNA in animals' genomes -- long seen as the detritus of evolutionary processes -- will someday be found to have a function.

(In fact, some "junk" DNA has indeed been found to be functional in recent years, though more than 90 percent of human DNA still appears to be the flotsam of biological history.) In any case, West said, it is up to Darwinists to prove ID wrong.

Science proceeds by recognizing uncertainty and seeking ways to reduce it. In doing science we recognize that we start out ignorant and that we will never achieve absolute certainty. Through the process of verification with experiment and observation we can archive ever greater confidence that we know the answer to some question, but absolute certainty is unachievable. Because of this, to any true/false type question there are always three answers, 1) the evidence indicates true, 2) the evidence indicates false and 3) the evidence is insufficient to tell. The burden of proof then falls on whoever claims to be able to answer the question. Failing to provide that burden of proof then leaves the question undecided unless some other scientist can offer evidence supporting another answer. So, for example, for the early Copernicans claiming to know that planets move in elliptical orbits about the sun, they needed to provide evidence supporting this claim, and they did.

Now apply this to ID and evolution. Those of us presenting the conclusions of mainstream science need to provide evidence that organisms share a common ancestor and that natural selection can account for observed variation. And that we can do (see for example the extensive archives at Talk Origins via the links to the right). If the ID theorists want to claim that there exists an intelligent designer, they need to provide evidence of his existence, not, as John West does above, claim that it is the obligation of the scientists to prove the ID assertions wrong.

Furthermore, on the subject of Junk DNA see this article on Talk Origins. Significant evidence indicates that it is indeed "junk".

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