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Wikipedia and the Myth of Falsifiability

Incomparably more influential than any science textbook, Wikipedia with its seen-as-if-through-a-funhouse-mirror rendering of intelligent design passes along with its distortions directly into the bloodstream of popular consciousness. If you're ever looking for a way to kill time, counting errors per sentence in any Wikipedia article that touches on ID will soak up plenty. This of course is a way to really kill time -- not to use it effectively by somehow correcting the errors. No class of people on the planet has more time on their hands than the guys who edit Wikipedia articles. As part of what seems to be a 24/7 unpaid job, they stand ready at a moment's notice to change any attempted correction back to its original erroneous version.

Along with other falsehoods, the ranks of Wikipedia errors include a group of myths, comprising a Darwinian Mythos of superstitious, credulous, fallacious and legendary beliefs about intelligent design. Among these, the myth as to falsifiability or testability ranks high on the Wikipedia Scale. The latter is a rough measure of how important a particular mythic theme is to the overarching conception of Darwinism as unquestionable "fact," gauged by how insistent the Wikipedia editors are in emphasizing it.

Regarding the mythic idea that intelligent design can't be tested or falsified and is therefore unscientific, the Wikipedia editors quote the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. They cite the distinguished scientist and philosopher Judge John E. Jones. They cite blogger PZ Myers on "Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence." They quote philosopher Elliott Sober: "Defenders of ID always have a way out. This is not the hallmark of a falsifiable theory."

Yet isn't it funny that the Darwinist faithful are often perfectly happy to launch attempts to clobber intelligent design on factual and scientific grounds -- just as if ID were genuine science -- only to retreat immediately behind the barricade of the Falsifiability Myth? If they had confidence either in the myth or in the attack, presumably they would choose one and stick with it.

By way of illustration, the new year starts off with a series of articles based on a symposium back in June of the 1st International Society of Protistologists (North American Section), now published in a primary research journal, The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. The January/February issue collects essays on how "Horizontal Gene Transfer and Phylogenetic Evolution Debunk Intelligent Design." Biologists from Roger Williams University, the University of Georgia, the New York State Department of Health, the University at Albany (SUNY), and the University of Massachusetts contributed attempts to "Uncover Faulty Logic in Intelligent Design" or "Dispel the Myths of Intelligent Design," as two article titles put it.

Dispel? Uncover? Debunk? That sounds very much like falsifying. Whether the dispelling, uncovering and debunking succeed is a different question but there can be no doubt that at least when they were composing their presentations, treatments of no little empirical depth and detail, the authors took it for granted that intelligent design can be tested, that ID advocates cannot simply slip out of any refutation. Otherwise, what in the world could be the purpose of the symposium? One assumes the participating biologists do not enjoy endless free time to spin their wheels. They are not unemployed obsessive compulsives, like the Wikipedia editors. Or maybe I'm naïve about academic life.

It reminds me of the old Peanuts cartoon series, where Lucy had a stand dispensing "PSYCHIATRIC HELP 5¢." Underneath the window where she sat was the additional hand-printed information, "THE DOCTOR IS" and then a little placard that could be turned up or down, "IN" or "OUT."

Sometimes the doctor was "IN." Sometimes "OUT." Sometimes intelligent design IS testable or falsifiable. Sometimes it IS NOT. If the question seemed to depend on which doctor, or which Wikipedia editor, is IN or OUT, you could ascribe the confusion to a candid difference of opinion among evolutionists. But that seems not to be the case. I'm not aware of an established opinion among them that consistently, honestly concedes that intelligent design is science but that it is science that has been tested and found to be false. In the Darwin debate, if either party really "always has a way out," it's not the defenders of ID but those of Darwinism.