Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Are You Ready? It's amazing what you can find in a football column. Today we have one of the best defenses for Intelligent Design that also appropriately skewers its biggest proponents. For those who don't know about Gregg Easterbrook, he's a science writer and devout Catholic who is also a rabid football fan and has his own sports column called "Tuesday Morning Quarterback". He peppers the column with other factoids and commentary. Here's his take.

No Higher Power Is Guiding "Intelligent Design" Politics: Yours truly thinks the "intelligent design" idea is being given the short shrift by the mainstream media. Yes, some intelligent design advocates want to use I.D. as a Trojan horse to put religious doctrine into public schools -- forbidden by the First Amendment, and wisely so in the opinion of this churchgoer. And some intelligent design advocates believe young Earth creationism, a nutty idea for which there isn't one iota of scientific evidence. But as they mock the notion of intelligent design, the mainstream media are systematically avoiding a substantial question mark in evolutionary theory: it does not explain the origin of life. That organisms evolve in response to changes in their environment is well-established -- anyone who doubts this doesn't know what he or she is talking about. But why are there living things in the first place? Darwin said he had no idea, and to this day science has little beyond wild guesses about the origin of life. Maybe life had a natural origin that one day will be discovered. Until such time, higher powers or the divine cannot be ruled out. Exactly because I think intelligent design is a more important concept than the mainstream media will admit, I really wish right-wing screwballs would stop advocating I.D. -- they're giving the idea a bad name! First, it's common to hear them say evolution can be disregarded because it's "just a theory."

This is ill-informed. In everyday usage, "theory" can mean a conjectural or unlikely claim. ("See, I have this theory why Maria Sharapova would go out with me.") In science, a theory is an idea that has well-accepted supporting principles, has been tested successfully and that no one has falsified; in science the word theory conveys high standing. For instance, first relativity was an analytical idea, then a hypothesis, then after many years of testing was acknowledged as a theory. When in 1996 Pope John Paul II called Darwinianism "more than a hypothesis," he was choosing words precisely. Many on today's anti-science right appear ignorant of such basic precepts as the definition of the word theory.

The screwball fringe keeps proposing I.D.-related legislation that shows it doesn't even understand the limits of evolutionary theory. Two years ago some science illiterates in Cobb County, Ga., got the local Board of Education to mandate stickers on biology textbooks reading, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things." Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of living things. The core quandary of Darwinian logic is that we can imagine how living things evolve but cannot imagine how they came into existence in the first place. Now a know-nothing Utah state representative has proposed this bill that "requires the State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements and policies that stress that not all scientists agree on which theory regarding the origins of life … is correct." Hey, Utah state legislature, there are no theories on the origin of life. A few biologists have made wild guesses involving RNA, clay or hot ocean vents, but no scientist has offered anything nothing remotely near the level of a testable theory. Given the presence of life is so mysterious, a creator God may be why we are here. But please, science illiterates, stop attempting to enact rules about intelligent design; you are ruining the idea.
In addition, here's a comprehensive article from the Washington Post Magazine.

I'm not religious, but I don't rule out the possible existence of God. Science and religion don't have to be at odds. Science is just the investigation of the tools God keeps in His work shed. There are many things unknown, that science has not yet proven. That doesn't mean God is the only answer for those gaps in scientific theory. But both sides need to look for the answers with an open mind.


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