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« Smoking guns get in their eyes | Main | Gaps in understanding »

June 02, 2005

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Let's face it. Whether many believe in something or believe in anything, they believe and are adamant that their belief is the right belief. People are too frightened to say "I don't know."

The true scientist never closes a line of enquiry or shuns a source that may appear reasonable.

The true scientific mind will work just as hard to prove his own theories wrong (falsification).

The true scientist doesn't reach for a law, or a gun, to promulgate ideas.

The true scientist uses "I don't know" more than any other expression.

Alas, we are but human. Hallelujah, we are human.

Without in any way defending impolite and rigid people on either side of this debate, I might make the following observation. The evangelicals in the United States seem obsessed with integrating the discipline of science with their religious faith. This is bizarre, because Christianity as a religion (as embodied in the Roman Church, for example) has for many centuries managed to reconcile science and faith without demanding that they be integrated into the same system. Indeed, there is an argument that Islam's failure to do this accounts for much of its decline vs. Christiandom since the 16th century. Christians post Inquisition learned that science and faith could operate in different spheres. The evangelicals seem bent on re-opening this old question, and I do not think it is to the advantage of their religion or our society.

We believe in God because of our faith. We do not have to torture scientific inquiry to reconcile the results of science to our faith. The theory of evolution does not make it impossible for believers in intelligent design to believe in it, just as the Big Bang theory does not make it impossible for religious people to believe the story of Genesis. The flip side is that we may not entirely understand evolution, but there is no scientific evidence for "intelligent design" other than gaps in the theory of evolution. Intelligent design is religion akin to the story of Genesis, and it is not science. The fact that it is not science does not make it any less true, but it does mean that it should not be taught in public schools.

The problem with the "two-spheres" model is that it leads to a double-standard: critics of theism are allowed to make scientific arguments (see e.g. Gould, Dawkins, and Hawking) whereas theists who make scientific arguments are immediately charged with abusing science. The upshot is that the scientific evidence can count against theism but never for it.

A much better model--the one tacitly implied by Darwin--is that the theory of evolution and the theory of creation (Darwin's term for creationism) are competitors. The main advantage of this is that they indeed *are* competitors: one says that God is the efficient (read: direct) cause of all life forms; the other says that all life forms descended by modification. So while the theory of evolution may be compatible with deism, it is not compatible with the view that God directly created the various taxons. Another advantage, at least for critics of creationism, is that this model allows them to make the most powerful argument possible against creationism: the theory of evolution explains certain facts better than the theory of creation. This is indeed Darwin's overall argument in the _Origin of Species_.

The problem with the "Inherit the Wind" approach to the issue, which amounts merely to making fun of creationism, is that it is out of touch with the history of modern biology. Biology as a scientific discipline existed before Darwin and was no less scientific for being under a creationist paradigm. When Darwin almost single-handedly changed the paradigm, the old one didn't turn into pseudo-science; rather, a good theory was replaced by a putatively better theory. So again, the best argument one can make against the theory of creation is that it had its day, but its day is done.

One more point. Darwin himself opened up the possibility for intelligent design theory by specifying the various ways in which the theory of evolution is falsifiable. For example, although he didn't use the term "irreducible complexity," he's the one who raised the possibility that irreducible complexity is a defeater for the theory of evolution.

One more time......

For Mr. Randall'S sake (since when did you start quoting hollywoodians to make your case--lets be consistent Sissy)...the issue of evolution is settled. Evolution can be shown, modeled, exhibited and re-created. It accounts for change within species over time. But that is all it accounts for.

Creation is not settled. It is still open to investigation, evidence, and interpretation of that evidence. Remember, lots of "scientists" warn us of man-made global warming citing all kinds of evidence. Lots of others say thats a crock, interpreting that same evidence.

BOTTOMLINE: we just don't know, and probably never will. Therefore, truly open minded people will keep their minds open until some truly irrefutable evidence appears to disprove a hypothesis.

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