One of the long-standing criticisms of Intelligent Design Creationists is their continuing effort to confuse the general public about modern evolutionary theory. Here's the latest effort by "johnnyb," just posted on Uncommon Descent [Responding to Merlin Part I – How Merlin’s Paper Validates Several Claims of the ID Movement].
The article discusses a recent paper by Francesca Merlin1 from the Department of Philosophy, University of Montréal, Québec, Canada [Evolutionary Chance Mutation: A Defense Of the Modern Synthesis’ Consensus View]. Note the title. She is defending the "Modern Synthesis' Consensus View." (The paper was published in an online, open access, journal called Philosophy & Theory in Biology. The link to the paper isn't working.)
Here's what johnnyb says,
Many people claim that ID’ers have made up the word “Darwinism” as a straw man which we can easily knock down. Nothing could be further from the truth. ID’ers use the word Darwinism, because it identifies, with technical specificity, what we are objecting to. Darwinism specifically means that the mutations which are selected are happenstance – they are not determined by the needs of the organism. This is specifically labelled as the “Darwinian” view by Merlin (see pg 3 of her paper).First, let's address the "Darwinism" strawman. We know exactly why the IDiots use the term "Darwinism" instead of "modern evolutionary theory." It's because "Darwinism" harkens back to the ideas of Charles Darwin in 1859. The IDiots want everyone to think that modern scientists are slaves to the ideas of a Victorian from the 1800's. They've tarred Charles Darwin with repeated attacks on his "racist" and "immoral" views and they want to stick most modern evolutionary biologists to that tar baby. Furthermore, they know full well that "social Darwinism" is evil—by using "Darwinism" to describe modern science they conjure up an association with that non-scientific viewpoint.
This is important because many ID’ers support many parts of evolutionary theory – myself included. However, most ID’ers think that one particular part of evolutionary theory is fundamentally flawed – the Darwinian view of mutations. Many ID’ers are basically neo-Lamarckians, believing that mutations (at least the biologically beneficial ones) tend to be goal-oriented rather than haphazard.
So it is important to note that the controversies spoken of by IDers which are happening in biology are real controversies. Merlin didn’t write this paper as a critique of a scientist to a non-scientist, but rather a controversy among scientists as to whether or not the Darwinian conception of mutations are valid. Therefore, from this we can conclude that (a) there is nothing wrong with Darwinism as a term for a specific type of evolution, (b) ID’ers use the term Darwinism in its correct, technical sense (in contrast to Lamarckianism), and (c) there is a genuine conflict happening among biologists. I have no doubt that Wright, Jablonka, and Lamb are in the minority. That neither invalidates their work nor the significance of the controversy.
Most IDiots don't understand modern evolutionary theory so they don't know the difference between it and "Darwinism." Some IDiots do know the difference, but they lie about it and continue to use "Darwinism" for its rhetorical value.
Enough of that. I'm more interested in the new version of Intelligent Design Creationism that johnnyb is describing. It seems to be very similar to what Ken Miller describes in his book Finding Darwin's God and it may not be very far from what Francis Collins writes in The Language of God. Does johnnyb have any scientific evidence that mutations are "goal-oriented" or is his version just the same-old, same-old, criticism of modern evolutionary theory? Does johnnyb have an explanation for how such "goal oriented" mutations arise? After all, that's the essence of a proper scientific theory. It's not sufficient to just criticize the consensus scientific view, you also have to provide a better explanation that accounts for the facts. How about it? Are there any IDiots out there who want to take a shot at explaining how "goal-oriented" mutations arise?
Incidentally, if you want to read what a real scientist has to say about mutations then go look at the series of postings by Arlin Stoltzfus on Mutationism. You can see the last posting at: The Mutationism Myth, VI: Back to the Future. It has links to all the others. Arlin explains what Darwin really meant when he talked about variation—Darwin didn't know about mutations or modern genetics.
1. Currently at L'Institut d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques at the Université de Paris.