Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Intelligent Design, Part 2

When I wrote yesterday that I do not consider Intelligent Design science, I recognized that I would need to qualify that at some time, as well as write a follow up on why I personally believe that it is important to demonstrate that Darwinism is false.

Until the late medieval period, science and philosophy were not strictly separated. With the rise of the scientific method, a greater measure of precision and objectivity entered scientific investigation. A key criterion of what constitutes a scientific theory is its falsifiability. Practically speaking, this means that all scientific theories remain theories; they can never be proven.

The advantage to the scientific method is that it limits the intrusion of subjective factors. The disadvantage is that it can only describe phenomena that occur in the natural world and can be observed, measured and verified by subsequent experiments.

Michael Behe and William Dembski, two prominent scientists who are proponents of ID, would apparently hold that my definition of science is too restrictive and would prefer a broader definition such as what held from the time of Pythagoras until St. Albert the Great. Thus, when confronted with the fact (I think it's a fact) that Darwinism does not explain the origin of species (nor, in Behe's argument, the origin of complex systems such as our immune system), the thoughtful person should conclude that some sort of intelligent creator is necessary. That is my conclusion, but I believe that this conclusion needs to rely on science.

So why can't we just say that science can't answer this (in contrast to, say, insisting that Genesis 1-2 are literally true)? Some people can't precisely because they are committed materialists and atheists. Darwinism is a hugely important plank in their argument. Indeed, I propose that the vehemence with which ID is met proves its veracity precisely because the materialists absolutely need Darwinsim or something like it for their own beliefs to perdure, not unlike the manner in which fundamentalist Christians insist on the literal truth of all Scripture.

The problem with all of this is that we have been spoon-fed the notion that matter spontaneously evolves into complex life forms. This has all kinds of bad ramifications for morality: the idea that complex or advanced is better (the Nazi argument); the idea that weak or 'useless' specimens ought to die out (the eugencist and euthanasia argument); the loss of a sense of common morality founded in natural law (if there is no purpose to our existence given it by a Designer, one action can't be argued better than another). Very few people argue these things explicitly, but because of Darwin, I suggest, they are part of the cultural air that we breathe.

But what if Darwin is way off? As Pope John Paul II pointed out, we take most of our scientific knowledge on someone else's word: no one has the time or talent to run every experiment over again to figure out from scratch how electricity works. We must trust someone else. What if it turns out that the people we have trusted on evolution have had an anti-Christian agenda all along that has caused them to overlook evidence that clearly refutes Darwin? Could something like that really happen? Hey, lots of people thought that child sacrifice was good once upon a time and a few prophets and Christians here and there turned out to be right against the long-standing majority (that just happened to have a stake in the perpetuation of this inhumanity).

If you want one good argument on this, I recommend Behe's Darwin's Black Box. But keep in mind that his are not the only ones!

I give you thanks, O God, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
Blessed be Jesus Christ, our merciful God, forever and ever.

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