Saturday, October 15, 2005

Unscientific Design

The recent court case involving the inclusion of Intelligent Design in Dover, PA science classes is yet another attempt to masquerade religion as science. While it may be suitable to discuss these issues in a philosophy or religion class, it is not appropriate for a science class. Intelligent Design is not science. It’s not even bad science. In fact, the basic premise of Intelligent Design is anti-scientific in nature.

Science attempts to explain the world through the rigorous analysis of observational data, peer review, and repetition of experiments. If experiments or new data prove that the original hypothesis is incorrect, theories are refined, adjusted, or perhaps discarded altogether. The process is not flawless. A rare few, either intentionally or through willful ignorance, will falsify, withhold, or otherwise fudge information. The process of science, however, eventually weeds these individuals out and reevaluates the results. The relentless pursuit of the truth marches on.

Unfortunately, it is only with rare exception(Buddhism being the prime example), that religion is as open minded. In general, religion is based on established, inalterable, supposedly infallible dogma. The practioners and proclaimers are more concerned about the propagation of propaganda than the pursuit of the truth. It is assumed that the Truth is already known. Such is the case with Intelligent Design.

Science and religion, although they view the world from different perspectives, should have the same goal of discovering the truth. Sometimes the search for scientific explanations must be put on hold while new techniques or technology catch up to the needs of the researcher, but the inexorable quest for the truth continues.

Intelligent Design starts its exploration of the truth by giving up. It assumes that the universe is simply too complex to have occurred without the help of a creator. It doesn’t attempt to use any form of scientific investigation. It simply assumes that humanity lacks the creative capacity to understand how the universe and life came to be and that we will always be in the dark about the matter. What if we had applied this approach to other issues of the past? We all would have been taught that the world is flat and that the Earth is the center of the universe. All of the knowledge gained through the efforts of explorers of the truth such as Curie, Pasteur, Newton, Einstein, and a myriad of others less well known would never have made its way into our classrooms. What kind of science is based on holding to the status quo?

Nothing called science deserves the name unless it is open to truth and willing to change in the face of new information. Likewise, religion should be open to truth and willing to change when information contrary to established doctrine is uncovered. Any religion unwilling to do so is unworthy of following. Intelligent Design fails on both counts, scientific and religious.