Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Evolution vs Intelligent Design

There is considerable controversy at the present time between the competing “theories” of natural selection and intelligent design. This disagreement has several roots, but I believe one of the most important ones has to do with a misunderstanding of what it is that scientists do. Even many scientists seem to have forgotten.
        When a scientist is doing science, he is testing a theory and reporting his observations. For example, he may have a theory that if he mixes vinegar and baking soda, he will observe that oxygen will be formed. To his dismay he finds that when he actually performs the experiment carbon dioxide appears instead. He must retest and update his theory under all conceivable conditions.
        But when he issues a report of his findings to other scientists, he will not say that carbon dioxide is “caused” by mixing vinegar and baking soda; he will report that mixing the two is followed by the appearance of carbon dioxide. In short, he will say what he observes as a result of his experiment, but he will not hazard a guess as to why. The so-called laws of nature do not state what nature must do; they describe what nature consistently does do. Science is descriptive, not prescriptive.
        If an Eskimo and a central African are placed in a room in which the temperature is 40 degrees, they will probably disagree on whether it is too hot or too cold, but both can read a thermometer and agree that it is recording a temperature of 40 degrees. They can agree on what they observe objectively, but may have widely divergent opinions on what they think subjectively. For this reason science advances on the basis of observations and not opinions.
        This is not to say that a scientist may not have an opinion as to why things appear as they are. He may very well believe that God designed the earth and guides its daily activities. However, the scientist will also realize that this is his opinion, not an observation, and thus outside the purview of science. It is as out of place in a Science class as algebra would be in a Sunday School class.
        He may disseminate his opinion in conversing with friends, in his Sunday school class, or anywhere else he cares to, but not in the Science class that he teaches part time at the high school or university. Why? Because as an opinion rather than as a theory, it cannot be tested.
        There is no reason intelligent design could not be discussed in a class on Comparative Religion, History, or most appropriately in today’s climate, Political Science.
My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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