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Understanding The Difference Between Science and Philosophy…
Why is “Intelligent Design” (I.D.) so controversial? At an Australian National Press Club luncheon address (Wednesday August 10th 2005), the then Federal Minister for Education, Mr. Brendon Nelson, likened being asked a question about incorporating intelligent design into the national science curriculum as difficult a question as being asked about abortion!
THE ORIGINS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN
The formal beginnings of the Intelligent Design (I.D.) movement are attributed to Berkeley Law Professor, Phillip Johnson and his sensationally controversial book- DARWIN ON TRIAL. In this book he shatters the myth that Darwinian Evolution explains the origins of life itself. In fact, Johnson gives a pretty reasonable case for not only questioning Darwinism but the almost militant motivations of those who defend it. He argues that at some point these Science Professors cease being scientific and actually become philosophical. That is, rather than giving answers to scientific questions they attempt to guise their philosophy with science lingo to make it sound like science. Johnson argues that students need to become more sceptical and have the courage to ask harder questions of their science professors.
This led Phillip Johnson (pictured right) to write his next book, ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. In this book he details how he had been collaborating with various academics to develop his “wedge” strategy. He regards the quest to dethrone Darwinian Evolution from the Academic establishment as being like a ‘wedge’ which can get into the granite of ignorance and crack it open to expose it for what it truly is: an untestable theory. He suggests that this is best done by encouraging the asking of the right questions rather than initially attempting to answer all questions. He argues that unless we first know what questions to ask, we will never arrive at even reasonable answers to some of these most basic questions about life and its origins.
THE BASIC IDEAS BEHIND INTELLIGENT DESIGN
1. Nature’s Design: As the name suggests, Intelligent Design is the argument that there is enough evidence from nature to believe that life and nature is the result of an extremely fine-tuned design. Rather than merely being the result of adaptation, nature may well be suggesting that it is the result primarily of design. There appears to be evidence for design in nature from environmental symbiosis (things within nature survive through interdependence) to the human genome code (which has “irreducible complexity” in its programming language).
2. Life’s Origins: Fundamental to I.D. is the question of life’s origins. Put simply, there is no testable scientific theory about how life itself began! There actually is no such thing as a ‘simple life form‘. This is what is meant by “irreducible complexity” because in order for any form of life to be possible there is a very complex genome code that is needed. Despite the attraction of the theory of evolution, it fails to explain how life began. Darwinian Evolutionary Theory is faced with the illogical and insurmountable obstacle of proposing that life derived from non-life. Intelligent Design is then prepared to suggest the only plausible origin for life must be from an existing Life Form.
3. Irreducible Complexity: Professor Antony Flew, (pictured left) formerly the world’s most renowned Atheist, cited the first two aspects of I.D., but especially this one, as his reasons for renouncing Atheism. When the human genome code was discovered and ‘decoded’ and announced to the world by President Clinton as “the language of the Creator”, Antony Flew acknowledged that this was too compelling to be ignored by Atheistic biases. The Human Genome Code essentially revealed the near impossibility of life originating randomly. In his book, THERE IS A GOD, Prof. Flew cites anthropic theorist, John Leslie, from his book INFINITE MINDS–
“If, then, there were aspects of nature’s workings that appeared very fortunate and also entirely fundamental, then these might well be seen as evidence specially favouring belief in God.”
Infinite Minds, Oxford, Clarendon, 2001:33
The I.D. Movement is working to influence academics, students, politicians and the media to ask the right questions about what science claims it can answer. It encourages people to question the metaphysical answers given by hard scientists. It encourages people to distinguish hard science from philosophy. When a scientist says that the I.D. Movement should be dismissed as religious and not scientific, he has made a philosophical statement, not a scientific one. When he says that the idea of an Intelligent Designer is a ridiculous notion, he has made an unscientific statement. When a scientist says that evolution explains how life began, he is making a philosophic statement, not a scientific one.
Interestingly, when Brendan Nelson was asked by the Melbourne Age journalist about whether I.D. should be incorporated into the national science curriculum, he stated that evolution was science, but I.D. was not. Even more interesting is that the question and answer does not appear in the transcript of Mr. Nelson’s interview on his media website! What Intelligent Design seeks to promote is a tighter definition of what constitutes ‘science’. Darwinian Evolutionary Theory does not explain the origin of life. It is not testable. It is therefore not convincing science. It should therefore be considered as a philosophy instead. Likewise, I.D. currently cannot be considered “science” because it currently proposes no scientific model for the origin of life which can be “falsifiable”. Falsifiability is an essential element in what constitutes ‘science’. In one respect, Darwinian Evolution is immediately falsifiable because its fundamental claim – that all life came from non-life, is not provable, but is falsifiable.
Should I.D. be incorporated into the Public School science curriculum? No, not yet. Although Drs Hugh Ross and Fuzz Rana (reasons.org) are currently nearing the completion of their I.D. model which will fit the scientific demands of falsifiability and testability. But, some serious questions need to be asked of what has thus far constituted as “science” in the guise of Darwinian Evolution. Despite what some scientists claim, it doesn’t add up.
Of course, if it can be argued that a reasonable case can be made for I.D. then it logically leads to some serious moral implications for how life should be lived. For if there is an Intelligent Designer, He may well have designed life to be lived within His rules. It could also lead to the question, has the Intelligent Designer revealed Himself in any way? Once we start asking these questions, we are in the words of Prof. Phillip Johnson, “asking the right questions.”
© Dr. Andrew Corbett, 11th August 2005