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 Wednesday, 16 November 2005
Wednesday, 16 November 2005 21:45:21 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

I frequently find BeliefNet quite interesting. Of course many people’s writings are posted there, some more cogent than others.


Take this article on ID for instance. The author sounds quite reasonable and intelligent, but he really misses the point.


I totally agree that there could be an intelligent designer – in fact I’m quite convinced there is one or more of them. Whether it be Mother Nature, the god of Abraham or the universe trying to understand itself, I believe there’s something going on.


But that’s the issue: I believe. Not I know and certainly not I can prove. Not even I can test.


And its that last one that is the sticking point with teaching Intelligent Design alongside evolution. Because it is testability that makes science … science.


Science has hard-and-fast rules. It isn't a marketplace of random ideas - it is a marketplace of ideas that fit within a pre-defined set of rules. Most notably science only allows ideas that are testable.


Evolution can be tested. It started as a hypothesis and over a very long time many tests of that hypothesis have been borne out. The result is that evolution is now considered a theory. Like any good theory, it continues to be tested at the same time it is used as the basis for other scientific exploration.


That’s the cool thing about a theory: while it isn’t fact, we can “pretend” that it is a fact in order to extrapolate other hypotheses and theories. But even that extrapolation is a form of continued testing of the theory, since if the extrapolation fails it can cause questioning of the theory itself.


Intelligent Design on the other hand, isn’t testable. And thus it isn’t science. ID bases its arguments on correlation. By examining past and present circumstances and comparing it to what an unknown intelligence might or might not do, ID proponents show that it only makes sense that there’s a designer.


This logic applies equally well to astrology. Just a couple days ago I was reading about how all the disasters (political, economic, natural) over the past few weeks have been because the Moon is in some square between some planets or something. That’s easy to say by looking at past and present circumstances and comparing it to some astrological charts.


But if either ID or astrology were science it would be possible to test these beliefs. It would be possible to say something like “if the Moon moves near Saturn the number of disasters worldwide will decrease”. And then by observing the location of the Moon relative to Saturn one could plot past, current and future disasters.


The past and current could show a correlation, but only if future occurrences trigger the same effect. And even then the most you’d have is a hypothesis – a far cry from a theory.


I don’t even know what test you’d come up with for ID. The creators of ID were quite clever in that they’ve couched it in terms that make it impossible to define objective tests.


But without the ability to define objective tests it isn’t science. It can’t move from belief to hypothesis – much less theory.


Personally I believe there is a designer (or designers) of some sort. But it isn’t science and thus can not be taught alongside evolution in a science class.


It can most certainly be taught alongside evolution in a philosophy, history or theology class. In those contexts the ideas of evolution, ID and astrology have equal footing because those disciplines aren’t governed by the rather strict laws of science.

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