Sunday, April 20, 2008

Intelligent Design and the Pursuit of Science

Intelligent Design and the Pursuit of Science

I had a friendly and thought-provoking conversation with a reader, an economist, who seems to misunderstand the reason why there are scientists asking the questions that are called "Intelligent Design."

Yes, Newton was a religious man, and yes, he noticed there were flaws in the current naturalistic explanations in astronomy. What was his response? Did he say perhaps we should look for nonnaturalistic explanations? That we should look for theistic causes beyond the natural ones (such as God purposely intervening in the motion of the planets to cause them to behave differently than they should have naturally). Thank God (and I mean that literally) that he did not. What a disaster for science if he had. Understand what theistic science means in the context of intelligent design theory. It is not a belief that the natural laws that govern biology were created by God. It is a belief that natural laws do not explain biology, so the idea of natural laws is to be dumped in favor of explaining the details by appeal to a supernatural agency. This bears no resemblence to the working philosophy of Newton and Boyle.

My response is this. If intelligent design advocates were saying, "Don't bother trying to understand anything--it's all God's handiwork, and we have no reason to try" he would have a valid point. But looking over the list of scholarly papers published by people like Michael Behe and Scott Minnich suggests that they have hardly abandoned the pursuit of science in an orthodox manner. They are merely saying, "You know, some of what we are seeing is unlikely to be a blind process. Let's keep that possibility open for discussion--especially since there are some serious problems figuring out how some of these components got here by the blind evolutionary process that we have all been assuming up to now."

Intelligent Design is not a return to medievalism. It is saying that the current theory, built on methodological naturalism, has some significant holes in it. As I mentioned a few weeks back, even orthodox biologists seem to be aware that the current theory has some significant flaws. As I also mentioned a few weeks back, the time available from sterilizing heat to the first surviving microfossils is somewhere between 300 and 500 million years--short enough that a blind, random process for the formation of life from inorganic materials seems implausibly short.

No comments:

Post a Comment