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Last week we had a quick romp through some of the criticisms of the Theory of Evolution offered by proponents of Intelligent Design Theory, and through the responses made to those criticisms.
I'm no scientist. I cheerfully admit that I lack the expertise to say whether the criticisms of the Theory of Evolution are well-founded, or whether the responses are effective to rebut the criticisms.
But, apart from arguments about specific points, some offer a broader criticism of Intelligent Design Theory — a criticism which is partly scientific, and partly philosophical.
Is Intelligent Design science at all?
The first criticism offered is that Intelligent Design is not "good science"
For a theory or hypothesis to be considered scientific, it should be
But Intelligent Design is not parsimonious, it is said, because it postulates the existence of a designer to explain things which can be explained without a designer. (This assumes, of course, that the Theory of Evolution does provide a satisfactory explanation of the development of life, which of course is the very thing the proponents of Intelligent Design deny.)
Nor, more to the point, is it testable or falsifiable, if it proposes a designer who is, or may be, supernatural. A supernatural designer would lie beyond the realms of what can be observed or tested by science. And a theory which cannot be tested is not a scientific theory.
Consequently, in the view of many, Intelligent Design is simply not science, and to date the proponents of Intelligent Design movement have failed to have an article published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The scope of science…
The plain truth is that in the last four hundred years science, and our scientific knowledge and understanding, have made the most amazing leaps. We now have a scientific perspective on enormous questions which before could only be answered with the word "God".
Science can explain how all this happened or will happen. The universe is capable of developing as it has developed out of its own basic fabric of matter, energy and physical laws.
But this is where science stops. The ultimate meaning and reason for this amazing fruitfulness and self-sufficiency is beyond science; it is a topic which science does not even seek to address.
The proponents of Intelligent Design, it seems to me, have taken their eye off the ball. They seek to prove that the material universe is not intrinsically complete and self-sufficient, in order to create a space which can only be filled by God. But why is such a proof necessary, or why should it be even possible? Why cannot an omnipotent God have created a universe which is fruitful, complete and self-sufficient?
Signs of God…
It seems to me that we are more likely to find God by looking beyond the material universe than we are by looking at it.
Certainly, in the beauty and order of the universe we may see a reflection of the beauty and order of God. It may, indeed, be the beauty or order of the universe which impels us to seek God.
And many scientists who flatly reject Intelligent Design nevertheless find in the universe they observe, not facts which prove the necessity of God, but signs which point to the possibility of God.
One of these signs is the "anthropic principle", the demand that any account of the universe must address the fact, and the implications of the fact, that the universe contains intelligent observers — namely, ourselves.
Reflection on this principle has produced some striking observations: For instance
It has to be said that other scientists deride these "signs". Richard Dawkins, for instance, explains the apparent "intrinsic ordering" of the universe towards life by postulating the "multiverse"; an infinity of universes existing in parallel, each with its own unique set of physical laws and constants. If such a multiverse exists, then (at least) one of its component universes would sustain life, and it would appear to those living in such a universe that they were living in the only universe, and that it was intrinsically ordered towards life.
There is no evidence at all for the multiverse hypothesis; it is nothing but a speculation. And, since it does not appear to be capable of being tested or falsified, it may not even be a scientific speculation. Nevertheless it is logically consistent and coherent, and possible in principle. This makes it a viable alternative to theism.
In short, the "signs" that we see in the universe which we consider to point towards God fall short of being anything like scientific proof, or scientific evidence, of the existence of God. And we must accept that future advances in science may explain them away, just as Darwin's insights explained away the "watchmaker" analogy which was argued to show the existence of God.
Science is consistent with the first of these propositions to the extent that it proceeds on the assumption that the world does exist (and is not an illusion). And to a large extent science actually depends on the second proposition — what would be the point of studying the world if it were not assumed to make some kind of sense?
But science has nothing at all to say about the third and fourth propositions. Individual scientist may, and I would think mostly do, believe in values and morals, but they are not derived from science.
Many scientists are of course Christians, and so derive their values and morals from Christianity. There is no conflict between being a scientist and being a believer. The believing scientist can accept all that science reveals about the natural world and, without compromising his scientific integrity in any way, give credit to God for the ongoing creative force of evolution which sustains and develops the natural world.
What are your thoughts on this commentary? You can contribute to the discussion in our forum.