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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm

Posted: May 25, 2010 02:43 PM

Coming straight from the arrogant piffle department, the creationists are back. After their attempts to foist Intelligent Design into our schools failed, they have been forced to find new locations to spread their non-theory. In this publication Dr. Karl Giberson recently proclaimed quite boldly that "Intelligent Design's Coffin Is Still Empty." I say 'boldly,' as I was quite surprised by the title. Intelligent Design not dead? It could not be. What had happened in science without my noticing that had given creationism merit? As it turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, Giberson had nothing new to say. Indeed his article was a rehash of several well-worn gripes that are often worked up to appear supportive of Intelligent Design.

As a quick aside, it is very appropriate to discuss Intelligent Design here in this place of religious dialogue. Intelligent Design, which is creationism, is a religious position. You will never meet a non-religious person who is a proponent of Intelligent Design. Religion does not preclude an understanding and acceptance of evolution, but non-religion does end one's chances of finding any truth in Intelligent Design. Do also note, as we move along, that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is untestable and unfalsifiable, therefore failing the definition of the word 'theory.' It is not an alternative theory, a competing theory, or anything of the sort. It is a poor conjecture created by religious charlatans to push an anti-science agenda.

Giberson's post had four main points as to why Intelligent Design is somehow in his view still alive (hence the empty casket). We shall take them on one at a time. His first claim is perhaps the most interesting, as science has proved him wrong in a new way since his article was published.

1. The complex designs of many natural structures that have not yet been explained by science. As long as there are ingenious devices and intricate phenomena in nature (origin of life, anyone?) that we cannot understand, there will be ID arguments.

Before I introduce our recent scientific breakthrough, we can dispense with this simply. This is an application of the "god of the gaps" theory, the idea that whatever science cannot explain, god must have done. You can see the fallacy of the idea quite simply. We know more today than yesterday, and thus either god became smaller or he was never there at all. When science was much more ignorant, this sort of idea held more weight.

With respect for the clock we shall move on to our next disagreement with Ginsberg's point, that of abiogenesis. The creation of life was just cracked by science. Not completely, and not well, and only in a laboratory, but we have finally created life out of a pile of matter. Impressive, and completely contradictory to what Ginsberg is attempting to say. He wants you to feel that either science knows everything, or god exists. It's a straw man argument, with the scarecrow being the need to have everything fully explained in this instant.

Science is working as quickly as it can to learn. History has shown it a very dangerous game to bet against discovery's progression. In short, Ginsberg says "Intelligent Design has some weight as it explains things that science cannot," to which we retort, "It actually explains nothing at all and is egregious pseudoscience."

2. The remarkable, finely-tuned structure of the cosmos in which the laws of physics collaborate to make life possible. Many agnostics have had their faith in unguided materialism shaken by this, most recently Anthony Flew.

Ah, the fine-tuning argument. It is impossible to even speak to a person with faith in creationism without their pointing up and saying, "See!" Here Ginsberg is attempting to connect things that do not cross, saying, "Look at the universe! Therefore, god." This is unimpressive to say the least.

I could direct you to a library of material on this matter from the best astrophysicists and theoretical physicists, but that would take time; arguments that show the literal emptiness of the claim are short enough to share here.

When one looks at the universe, and the Earth, and takes note of the machinations that are required to make their particular life possible, it can be quite impressive. "Look what the Lord has provided for me," you might proclaim. That the universe appears to be somewhat designed for you should come as no surprise; after all, you are here. Given that our species has arisen, certain conditions must have been true for several billions of years. The mistake that most people make at this point is to assume the existence of humans as fact, and then to mold the universe to that fact. That is wholly backwards. Humans could just as easily not have evolved. The fact that we are here is a tribute to the universe as it is. We are therefore only a product and component of it, not its culmination.

At this point we must discuss the ego of the living. "But we do exist," shout the creationists, "so there must have been a plan." It is sometimes phrased differently: "We are here, so there must be something more," and so forth. Fine, let us take it as fact just for a moment that there was a plan. To paraphrase several skeptics, if we are a plan, we are quite a bad one. We took an entire universe billions of years to eke out, our species almost died off in its infancy, and even now we fail to feed ourselves. Our single planet is mostly inhospitable to human life, and we find ourselves at the mercy of nature itself far too often. Even more, our planet is doomed. The sun will expand into a red giant soon enough, burning away all water on earth and thus killing off everything alive. Following, in a few more billion years we will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. If god's great grand plan was to bring forth a universe to allow him to craft a broken, generally warlike people on some small rock away from the Galactic core before smacking it with another galaxy, then good on that plan. Just don't expect any logical person to give you a moment of their time when you try and pitch it.

3. The widespread belief that God -- an intelligent agent -- created the universe. The claim that an intelligent God created an unintelligent universe seems peculiar, to say the least.

This is a reason why Intelligent Design is viable? This is merely an example of how uneducated people make mistakes when they are confronted with a discipline that they do not understand. This is not a reason for Intelligent Design to be treated with any sort of respect or dignity; it is merely an exhortation of our school system to improve itself to help prevent mass ignorance.

As to the intelligent god creating the unintelligent universe, he seems to be saying that as so many people believe in creationism, they cannot all be dolts, and as god would not want his creation to be foolish, god created the universe thus validating their view. Logical gymnastics aside, his core point is wrong. Deists believe in just that: that god kicked things into motion and then got out of the way.

4. The enthusiastic insistence by the New Atheists that evolution is incompatible with belief in God. Most people think more highly of their religion than their science. Imagine trying to get 100 million Americans to dress up for a science lecture every Sunday morning -- and then voluntarily pay for the privilege.

Ginsberg makes two points here, the first claiming that as the New Atheists insist that evolution and religion are incompatible, Intelligent Design will live on. He then states that as a country, we put much more emphasis and weight on religion than science; we respect it more.

Again Ginsberg gets his facts in a bunch. In fact we Americans do pay more for our science than our religion. Look at the national budgets for education, and for federally funded scientific research. Now add in private school and university education and research budgets. Finally tack on the expenses of private enterprises working to create scientific breakthroughs not just one day a week but seven. The totals are not even close.

Now are science and religion compatible? Personally, I don't think so. I never managed to pull off the feat when I was religious, but the scientists that I know best disagree with me. Perhaps it is best to say that science and religion can exist side by side. They cannot exist, however, on top of each other. They do not mix. No scientist that I know, or have known, has or will support Intelligent Design. Leave religion and science apart; when they mix, nonsense ensues.

Ginsberg closes by saying that science's attempts to quash Intelligent Design have been an "abysmal failure." Has science really failed? Or is it more the truth that was never any substance for science to crush, that Intelligent Design was always mere puff and fantasy? You know the answer.


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