Is the “Intelligent Design” (ID) movement “real science?” Its critics, rather than trying to refute its actual data or analysis, often accuse it of not being real science because its results are “unfalsifiable.” Will it succeed in ever being taken seriously by the scientific community? What gives it a chance to do so is the fact (never mentioned by its critics!) that its main goal is to try to identify specific markers that can be shown to be reliable indicators of design.
The most important one it offers is “specified complexity.” This is the kind of complexity that is possessed by a linguistic code. If you are walking on the beach and see sea shells spelling out the message “Beware of Shark,” you are not going to think that they just washed up that way by unguided, random wave action. Why? Because the ocean waves do not know either the lexicon of the English language, nor its grammatical system, nor its phonetic system, nor the English alphabet as a way of representing those phonemes. That is four separate coded systems, each of which is completely independent of the others. (For example, there is nothing about English phonemes that demands they be spelled by the Latin alphabet as opposed to runes, the Greek alphabet, or the International Phonetic Alphabet, etc.)
Now, to randomly reproduce any one of those codes by random unguided processes (say, to have the sea shells in the form of any letters at all, even if they don’t spell anything intelligible) would be statistically well nigh impossible. To produce the whole intelligible sentence by unguided random processes would mean multiplying that already nearly impossible probability by three other such already near to vanishing numbers, which gives you a number practically indistinguishable from zero. That is why it is correct to conclude that some intelligent agent arranged the sea shells. Even Dawkins and Hitchens would have to conclude so, and they would be scientifically justified in doing it.
Now, the point made by Francis Collins et al is that DNA is precisely such a code; however imperfect, it manifests genuine specified complexity. The “imperfections” in that code often mentioned by the critics as evidence against design would be like having one of the words slightly misspelled. If you found “Beware of Sharck” instead of “Beware of Shark,” you would still be justified in using caution about going into the water. In other words, the message would still “work”–even as DNA does, since the biosphere seems to be going on quite nicely in spite of these “imperfections.”
Bottom line: there is real falsifiable work being done by ID advocates that is methodologically rigorous. They are asking what happens when you apply information theory to biological systems. Whether it will finally stand up remains to be seen. But those who criticize it as not being real science (including, ironically, Collins himself) just aren’t paying attention–in most cases because they do not want it to be real science, for no other reason than the fact that it potentially challenges the reigning Neo-Darwinian Orthodoxy.
See Dr. Williams’ books at http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/! Stars Through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2011), Reflections on Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lantern Hollow, 2012), and Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd ed. (Lantern Hollow, 2012). Each is $15.00 + shipping.